Missourians go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to approve or reject Proposition B, a controversial initiative measure imposing new restrictions on Missouri dog breeders.
The proposed state law was originated by initiative petitions circulated by animal rights groups headed by Missourians for the Protection of Dogs.
Circulators collected an estimated 190,000 signatures on the initiative petitions and Secy. of State Robin Carnahan certified them on Aug. 3. She placed the issue on the Nov. 2 general election ballot as Proposition B.
Many Missouri farm organizations and their Callaway County members are strongly opposed to Proposition B,
The proposed law would prohibit any breeder from having more than 50 breeding dogs if it is the intention to sell puppies as pets. It also would increase the size of living spaces for dogs and require commercial breeders to have their dogs examined each year by a veterinarian.
Supporters include the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society of Missouri, the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Opponents include the American Kennel Club, the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association, the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners, the Missouri Farm Family Agricultural Alliance, Missouri Farm Bureau, and the Missouri Pork Producers Association.
Supporters of the proposed law have raised $4.4 million. Campaign finance reports reveal that more than 80 percent of the money and in-kind contributions in support of Proposition B came from outside of Missouri. Donations have come from animal rights supporters in California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C.
Ed Sayres, president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said "this joint effort and ballot initiative is a crucial step in combating the horrific cruelty perpetuated by many commercial breeders."
Opponents charge the proposed law limiting the number of breeding dogs is designed to make it more difficult for legal dog breeders who take care of their dogs to stay in business. They say the measure would have no effect on dog breeders who do not comply with current laws banning animal abuse.
Charles Kruse, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said "We don't need out-of-state interests setting public policy here in Missouri. We already have Missouri laws on the books regulating dog breeders. Proposition B will do absolutely nothing to shut down unlawful dog breeders and will instead cause reputable and lawful dog breeders to close their businesses."
"If Proposition B passes, these radical animal rights organizations and individuals won't stop there. As experienced in other states, they will work to further regulate Missouri farmers, driving them out of business as well and driving up food costs," Kruse said.
In an open letter to animal and pet lovers, the Missouri Farm Bureau said the Humane Society of the United States "has an annual budget of more than $130 million and spends less than 1 percent of its funds on actual care of pets. Instead, they use our human emotions and attachments to pets to raise millions of dollars annually to finance their campaigns against farmers and animal agriculture. HSUS and its president, Wayne Pacelle, have an agenda to not only eliminate animal agriculture but also pet ownership."
Kruse said "the Humane Society of the United States has sport hunting and fishing in their sights, as evidenced by their opposition to Arizona Proposition 109 that is on the Nov. 2 ballot. Kruse said the Humane Society of the United States has given more than $250,000 to defeat the proposition that would give a constitutional protection to the right to hunt and fish in Arizona."
In a letter to the editor, Edie Maxey, a member of the Callaway County Humane Society, said "Some say Prop B is a conspiracy in conjunction with the Humane Society of the United States to attack our food supply. The truth is Prop B will only affect the food supply of those folks who eat puppies." She said "the only hunters affected by Prop B would be those who plan to skulk around our back yards hunting puppies. All other hunters can relax."
Jim Zerr of Williamsburg, a member of the board of directors of the Callaway County Farm Bureau, said many members of local Humane Societies genuinely care about dogs and other pets. "But the Humane Society of the United States has an agenda against farmers," Zeer said.
Zerr said some local humane societies have or are considering changing their names because they don't go along with the radical views of the Humane Society of the United States.
He said the national organization used its political action arm "to destroy what little swine industry they had in Florida. They also destroyed the poultry industry in California."
Zerr said farmers and dog breeders who don't take care of their animals will lose money. He said setting the number of breeding dogs at 50 will force many dog breeders complying with the law out of business and won't affect those who are not complying with current law.
Kruse said the Humane Society of the United States, based in Washington, D.C., has contributed $2.12 million in behalf of Proposition B. He said the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, based in New York, contributed $511,119 to Proposition B.
Cartoonist Patrick McDonnell, who creates the MUTTS cartoon strip, is a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society of the United States.
"By voting Yes on Prop B and encouraging their friends and family to do the same, my Missouri readers can show the world that the way we treat our animals matters," McDonnell said.
McDonnell is running a full week of comic strips urging people to save puppy mill dogs. His strip also has addressed the issues of seal slaughter in Canada, whale hunting and saving endangered tigers.
The American Kennel Club opposes the measure because it "will do absolutely nothing to improve the well-being of animals; instead, it would add excessive expenses to responsible breeders who strive to produce well-bred family pets." The organization recommends enforcement of the current state law.
The Missouri Veterinary Medical Association has a similar view on Proposition B. On its Web site, www.mvma.us, the Missouri veterinarian group offers a side-by-side comparison of the current Missouri law outlawing animal dog breeding abuse and the language of Proposition B.
The Missouri Pork Producers Association says Proposition B "is a backdoor attempt at targeting confined animal feeding operations in Missouri."