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Friday, October 15, 2010

Prop B Opponents Barking in the Wrong Direction

Many reputable dog breeders wholeheartedly support cracking down on large-scale puppy mills, cruel mass-breeding facilities that draw funds and attention away from good breeders and give the business a black eye. Good breeders know that stronger humane regulations can only lead to happier and healthier generations of dogs.

A-7-fields-dirty-dozen But over the past several weeks, a number of people claiming to be responsible breeders have lashed out with heated rhetoric against Proposition B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, on Missouri’s statewide ballot this November. Why would good breeders with nothing to hide oppose basic protections for man’s best friend? We dug a little deeper, and found that some of their stories don’t quite add up.

Some of these voices opposing the measure may have quite a bit to hide. In September, Stacy Farley of K-9 Canyon Kennel in Lancaster, Mo., wrote a letter to the Columbia Missourian declaring Prop B was “cruel.”

“I am licensed, I follow the regulations and am inspected,” Farley wrote. Yet Farley’s kennel was cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2009 for several Animal Welfare Act violations, including five dogs housed outside with only round plastic barrels for shelter and five puppies kept in tiny cages that had only about half of the required minimum space.

In an October 2008 inspection, USDA inspectors found Farley supplying some of her dogs with “large clumps of contaminated, moldy food” and water buckets with “green scum” in them. Another water receptacle had “a dead mouse floating in the offered water,” according to the USDA inspector, and the outdoor runs had “an excessive amount of fecal waste.” Considering she is apparently unable or unwilling to abide by even the weak standards already in place, it’s not hard to understand why Farley says she is “infuriated” by the animal care standards of Prop B.

Corgi breeder Jon Kimes told KMOX radio that Prop B would adversely affect his small home kennel and cost him $40,000 in retrofitting expenses. He made similar claims in a July column in the Columbia Missourian. But, our researchers could not find any breeder by the name of "Kimes" on a list of licensed kennels received from the Missouri Department of Agriculture. If Jon Kimes’ small hobby kennel is not even licensed in Missouri, this means he is either breeding ten or fewer female dogs (any more requires a license), or currently operating without the required license—a class A crime.

Unless Mr. Kimes is saying he is a criminal, Prop B won’t affect him at all because it does not apply to breeders with ten or fewer intact female dogs. Small breeders who are currently exempt will stay exempt under Prop B.

The same is true of Janice Swofford, treasurer of the Southwest Chapter of the Missouri Pet Breeders Association. Swofford told a Neosho Daily News reporter that she would have to “give up” her breeding kennel if Proposition B passes because her kennel is indoors and does not have outside runs. Yet, according to the same list of licensed Missouri kennels, no breeder by the name of "Swofford" holds a current state kennel license. This indicates that she is either an illegally unlicensed breeder or has ten or fewer breeding females. If she is exempt from current licensing requirements, she would be exempt from Prop B as well.

Considering how well-placed Kimes and Swofford are in the professional pet industry, they should know the rules. Therefore it’s difficult not to become suspicious of their motives when they falsely claim Prop B will put them out of business or affect them in any way. 
 
Kara Crass, the owner of K-Jacs Kennel in Jenkins, Mo., told the Columbia Missourian that only “responsible breeders that go out of their way to follow the laws we already have” would be affected by Prop B. Unlike Kimes’ and Swofford’s operations, however, Crass’ kennel is no small business. According to USDA inventory records, Crass’ kennel held a whopping 260 dogs at its last inspection (180 of them adults). Crass reported to the Missouri Department of Agriculture that she sold 200 puppies last year, which could easily produce an income of up to $100,000, more than twice the median household income of most Missourians.

Yet Crass’ dogs don’t seem to be enjoying the basic standards of care that such a financial yield should allow them. The USDA cited Crass in March 2010 for having filthy feeders filled with “dust, gunk and dirt” in them, and evidence of rodent contamination. In March 2009 she was cited for portions of housing being in disrepair and excessive feces in an enclosure with a mother dog and eight puppies.

In the end, it seems that many of those claiming to be responsible breeders spewing falsehoods against Prop B either will not be affected by it at all, or are opposed to putting teeth into the state’s dog welfare standards mainly because they are already failing to meet the weak standards provided by current law.

Good breeders who are already abiding by humane standards of care have nothing to fear from Prop B. The measure will not apply to hobby breeders with fewer than ten female dogs, and will not affect farming or hunting in any way.

Missouri is home to approximately 3,000 puppy mills—30% of all puppy mills in the country—and some of most appalling operations in the state are still licensed as of this year. Missouri voters can join the many responsible breeders, veterinarians and vet clinics across the state, and others who are working to turn around the state’s reputation as the puppy mill capital of America, by voting YES! on Prop B.

Paid for by Missourians for the Protection of Dogs/YES! on Prop B, Judy Peil, Treasurer.

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