Missouri’s anti-puppy mill proposition — and the breeder who opposes it

The Humane Society of Missouri, HSUS, the ASPCA, and one hundred other anti-cruelty organizations are banding together to support Missouri’s Proposition B – a campaign to require the humane treatment of animals bred for sale. According to HSUS: “Prop B will stop puppy mill abuses by establishing common sense standards for the proper care of dogs.”

I learned of Prop B via an email that also asked me for a donation. I don’t live in Missouri, but funds are needed from across the country to combat the intense opposition to the widely popular Prop.

I scratched my head. Opposition? What argument against the humane treatment of dogs could possibly generate any momentum? I decided to do a little research and soon came across this letter to the Columbia Missourian. It  calls Prop B cruel.

The letter comes from Stacy Farley, a breeder in Lancaster, MO. Stacy is infuriated by a portion of the Proposition because it requires that a dog have “unfettered access to the outside.” (In other words, a dog should be able to relieve himself in a place other than where he eats and sleeps.)

Stacy feels that instead of ensuring that a dog experiences a bit of life outside a cramped kennel, this “open door” policy would actually encourage new canine mothers to abandon their puppies outdoors in freezing temperatures. Stacy is very concerned that the state of Missouri would use the law to imprison folks who keep newborn puppies indoors during cold weather as opposed to going after puppy millers keeping their dogs in fecal-saturated cages.

But that’s not Stacy’s only gripe. She’s also incensed that the Prop mandates providing fresh drinking water to animals, a stipulation which she says is “already” on the books. She argues:

“Also, Prop B states the words ‘domesticated animals.’ If you look up the definition of this it also includes sheep, goats, horses and cattle. What do you think will happen next if they are allowed to manipulate the public into what they want them to think to further their efforts at controlling much more than what seems to be the topic here.”

I’m not sure I follow every twist and turn of that last sentence, but there seems to be some aversion to supplying fresh drinking water to sheep, goats, horses, and cattle. Stacy sounds like a real animal lover.

What really struck me, however, about Stacy’s letter was her indignation at being judged as anything less than a “reputable breeder.” She claimed that breeding her dogs every six months prevented more health problems than it caused. I checked with my own vet and several other DVMs: Two suggested breeding once a year and two advised breeding every other year. None of them recommended twice a year.

Stacy is also willing to ship puppies across the United States to buyers she’s never met. I don’t know any “reputable breeder” who sells dogs over the internetto any ol’ Joe with a Paypal account (just as I don’t know any parent willing to send a child to Iowa to spend the summer with a guy who claims to have a swing set and a shiny bicycle). And I don’t know any person truly taking animal welfare seriously who would send a 3-month-old puppy as cargo on a cross-country plane flight.

So Missourians and other Americans, as you make your decision this November, consider this: Three months ago the Humane Society of Missouri (HSMO), a supporter of Prop B, rescued nearly 100 dogs suffering severe medical problems from a Miller County property. HSMO nursed the dogs back to health and is now in the process of finding them loving homes. Stacy Farley, who opposes Prop B, makes a living breeding and selling animals to people she’s never met.

I do agree with one point Stacy makes: “Just because my dog wants to play in the street, that doesn’t mean I should let him.”

And just because my fellow American wants to contribute to the population of animals in need of homes, well, that doesn’t mean I should let her either.