Saturday, January 15, 2011

Separating Myths & Facts Regarding Prop B

GUEST COMMENTARY: Separating myths and facts regarding Prop B
Friday, January 14, 2011
BY Shelley Powers
Fact: Proposition B was voted into law in November.

Myth: The election is over, and we no longer have to discuss Prop B
Bills submitted in both the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives seek to either repeal or modify Proposition B. The new activity has retriggered the contentious debate associated with Proposition B, giving fresh life to the many myths and misunderstandings surrounding the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. Here, I will attempt to address several of the more persistent.

Myth: There is no definition of "puppy mill."

Fact: The Missouri Federation of Animal Owners sued the state of Missouri regarding the text for Proposition B, specifically the creation of the misdemeanor crime of "puppy mill cruelty." Judge Jon Beetem upheld the language of the ballot initiative, ruling that it was neither "insufficient nor unfair."

In addition, the term "puppy mill" was defined in the case of Avenson v. Zegart, 577 F. Supp. 958, 960 (D. Minn. 1984): "A 'puppy mill' is a dog breeding operation in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits."

Summary: The term "puppy mill" has been legally defined. In addition, a judge ruled on both the fairness and sufficiency of the Proposition B language prior to the November election.

Myth: The voters were uninformed; the vote was unfair because it was skewed; the election was bought by outside interests.

Fact: Proposition B was probably the most discussed topic before the election, barring some of the political races. Both sides had a chance to state their opinions frequently, and in numerous publications. The Missourian had at least 33 separate publications on Proposition B that I could find. There are probably more.

It is a fact that the majority of counties voted against Proposition B (103 of 114 counties voted No). However, what counts in state legislation isn't the number of counties that voted for a bill, but the number of people. Proposition B passed, 51.6 percent to 48.4 percent. According to my estimates, Proposition B also passed in the majority of Missouri Senate and House of Representative districts.

A rural vote does not mean less than an urban vote, but a rural vote is also not worth more than an urban vote — yes, even when the vote is about dogs.

It is true that a majority of funding for the Proposition B campaign came from sources outside the state. However, only Missourians signed the petition to place Proposition B on the ballot (more than 190,000 signatures), and only Missourians voted to pass this bill.

If outside funding is an issue with Proposition B, it must also be an issue with other races in the last election. If we question Proposition B results because of outside campaign funding, we must also question the results of other races.

Summary: The majority of voters in Missouri voted for Proposition B. Both sides had sufficient time and space to air their views. The vote for Proposition B was legal and proper.


Myth: Proposition B will kill puppies

One of the more commonly repeated myths about Proposition B is that it will kill puppies. It's based on the section that requires ambient temperature for indoor kennels of between 45 and 85 degrees. Because puppies in their first few weeks of life require temperatures in excess of 85, Proposition B will "kill puppies."

Fact: The relevant sections of Proposition B are the following:

3. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person having custody or ownership of more than ten female covered dogs for the purpose of breeding those animals and selling any offspring for use as a pet shall provide each covered dog:


(1) "Covered dog" means any individual of the species of the domestic dog, Canis lupus familiaris, or resultant hybrids, that is over the age of six months and has intact sexual organs.

The temperature requirements outlined for indoor kennels in Proposition B are specifically targeted at adult dogs, not newborn puppies. These temperatures are necessary for the health of the adult dogs.

Puppies typically are kept warm by their mother when they're first born. If their mother isn't sufficient, breeders are free to use heat lamps, heating pads or puppy incubators, and they won't be in violation of Proposition B requirements.

Summary: Proposition B does not kill puppies.


Myth: There are no provisions to fund Proposition B

Fact: Proposition B is an amendment to Chapter 273 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. When enacted, it will be labeled as section 273.345. An existing Chapter 273 section, section 273.357, reads:

273.357. All fees collected by the director from licenses issued under sections 273.325 to 273.357 shall be used to administer the provisions of sections 273.325 to 273.357, and shall be deposited in the state treasury to the credit of the "Animal Care Reserve Fund," which is hereby created. All moneys deposited in the animal care reserve fund shall be subject to appropriation for the use and benefit of the department of agriculture to administer the provisions of sections 273.325 to 273.357. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 33.080 to the contrary, moneys in the animal care reserve fund shall not be transferred to the general revenue fund at the end of the biennium.

Proposition B is added as 273.345, including it within the range given above. Therefore Proposition B's funding is already mandated by law.

If existing funding is inadequate for Proposition B, it is inadequate for the existing regulations without Proposition B. Proposition B refines existing inspection criteria; it doesn't add to the criteria. If anything, Proposition B should lessen the burden on inspectors as it sets an upper limit for breeding dogs, requiring less of the inspector's time. In addition, we should see a decrease in bad breeders, who take up the majority of inspector time.

Summary: Funding for Proposition B is already covered by existing laws.


Myth: Proposition B does nothing about unlicensed breeders.

Fact: The requirements for Proposition B apply whether the breeder is licensed or not. Proposition B is also an amendment to an existing law, not a replacement, and existing regulations in the law provide additional provisions regarding breeder licensing and penalties for breeders who are not licensed.

Summary: Proposition B, in conjunction with existing, unmodified regulations, does apply to unlicensed breeders.


Myth: In no other industry does Missouri limit the number of products. No other industry is economically impacted by business regulations established by the Missouri legislature.

Fact: Proposition B does not limit the "product" a breeder has — a breeder can breed an infinite number of puppies because the breeder's "product" is puppies. That the bill places other restrictions on the business is neither new nor outside of the boundaries of state law.

Missouri does regulate any number of businesses in Missouri, and sometimes these regulations can have economic impact on the business. A Case in point: in 2010, the Missouri state legislature approved HCS SS SCS SBs 586 & 617, otherwise known as the Adult Entertainment Law.

This law mandated new restrictions governing adult entertainment venues. Several adult entertainment businesses have filed suit, claiming the new law violates their constitutional rights to free speech. In addition, these same owners have recently stated that the bill has "decimated" the industry-specific businesses, and that many have been forced to close their doors and lay off workers.

Therefore, Missouri does regulate businesses and such regulations may have economic consequences to the business.

Proposition B does place a restriction on the number of covered dogs a breeder has and how often the dogs are bred. However, Proposition B should also go far in removing the perception that Missouri is the "puppy mill capital of the US." This can have positive economic impact on breeders, some of whom have been forced to post disclaimers that they are not puppy mills at their websites.

Summary: Proposition B does not restrict the number of breeder products (puppies). In addition, Missouri has the right and has evoked the right in the past to regulate business in Missouri, even if such regulation has an economic impact on a specific industry.

Myth: Proposition B is about more than dogs. Proposition B is a threat to agriculture.

Fact: Proposition B is an amendment to Chapter 273 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, a chapter labeled "Dogs-Cats." The title of the bill ballot was "Statutory Amendment to Chapter 273, Relating to Dog Breeders." The word "dog" is referenced 33 times in the bill. The new law is to be cited as the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act".

No other animal is referenced in Proposition B.

The rumors about Proposition B being some slippery slope into restrictions on cows, hogs and chickens seem to arise from the following:

(9) "Pet" means any domesticated animal normally maintained in or near the household of the owner thereof.

This section of the bill includes definitions of all terms used as part of the regulations in the bill, such as the use of "pet" in the following:

3. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person having custody or ownership of more than ten female covered dogs for the purpose of breeding those animals and selling any offspring for use as a pet shall provide each covered dog ...

The other seeming concern about Proposition B as it relates to other types of animals is that it is seen as some form of "slippery slope" that will open the doors to a floodgate of new animal legislation.

The fight for Proposition B was long and arduous and had to overcome both court challenges and an aggressive counter campaign — much of it based on many of the same myths and misunderstandings covered here. Even now, Proposition B is being challenged in both the Senate and House of Representatives, as we once again have to take up the battle in its defense.

This, even though Proposition B is against something the vast majority of us don't like (puppy mills), in order to refute a title that embarrasses the people of this state ("puppy mill capital of the US"), in favor of the type of animal most of us love and have in our own homes (dogs).

I find it unlikely that any future bill related to animals will find the way paved to easier passage because of what has happened with Proposition B.

Summary: Proposition B is not about any animal other than dogs. Proposition B is not a threat to other forms of livestock or to agriculture.

Shelley Powers is a self-employed software developer and technical writer currently living in St. Louis. She is not employed, directly or indirectly, by any animal welfare or animal rights organization in Missouri, the United States or elsewhere. Shelley's only interest in Proposition B is that of a concerned citizen.

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