Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • Breeders rally against Prop B

  • Dog breeders are afraid that a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot will put them out of business.

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  • Dog breeders are afraid that a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot will put them out of business.
    Proposition B dictates new care requirements for dog-breeding operations and restricts them to a 50-dog limit. The measure also establishes a misdemeanor crime of “puppy mill cruelty,” but breeders say the care requirements are excessive.
    “We’re the good kennels, we’re not the bad kennels,” said Kelsea Vane. “We get inspected by the AKC, USDA and the state. We’re trying not to be the bad guys.”
    Owners and dogs showed up to a Southwest Chapter of the Missouri Pet Breeders Association rally outside Neosho on Saturday. The group is opposed to Proposition B.
    There was a good crowd, said Janice Swofford, Southwest chapter treasurer. Bill Reibolt, Republican candidate for 130th district state representative, addressed the group and they had a cookout, bake sale, face painting and bounce house Saturday afternoon.  
    Swofford’s border collie is a therapy dog and she also shows dogs, but if Proposition B passes, she says she will have to give it up. The new regulations would require “unfettered” outdoor access, twice the square footage of the indoor requirements of 12-square-feet for small dog under 25-inches, 20-square feet for dogs 25-35-inches and 30-square-feet for dogs 35-inches or longer.
    Hers is an indoor facility. She lets the dogs out, but does not have a way to put in doggie-doors and runs for everyone.
    “I try to do everything right,” Swofford said. “I did this indoor kennel so in the rain and mud and snow and ice they did not have to go out.”
    Another provision asks dogs have “continuous access to potable water that is not frozen and is free of debris, feces, algae and other contaminants.” With such a broad definition breeders worry that dog food in a water bowl could set them up for a misdemeanor puppy mill cruelty charge.
    “They still call me a puppy mill even though I do what they say I have to do,” Swofford lamented.  
    Group members compare themselves to other agriculture endeavors across the state and contend they already have sufficient regulations. Missouri established a regulatory program for dog breeders in 1992. Another state program, Operation Bark Alert, has a tip hotline and cracks down on unlicensed breeders. Last year six warrants were issued to breeding kennels with substandard conditions, 164 breeders were shut down from more than 200 tips and 3,000 dogs were seized. That program, said Chris Fleming, general manager of Mid-America Pet, is something he can get behind. His business acts as a clearinghouse bringing puppies in, getting them checked by a veterinarian and transported to stores, but if the measure passes he would be out of business.
    “These are people that take care of their animals day in and day out,” Fleming said. “This is their livelihood. This Proposition B would have a detrimental impact on it. It would make it impossible for them to make a living off of it.”
    Page 2 of 3 - The biggest problem, Fleming said, is the 50-count limit on the number of dogs, driving down profitability for people who breed. New veterinary rules will also up breeding costs.
    Rally attendees worried that Proposition B would be a stepping stone to regulate other forms of agriculture, limiting the number of sheep, pigs or head of cattle.
    “These farmers are next and if people aren’t vegetarians they need to vote no on Proposition B,” said Desiree Ford.
    “We’re not against regulation,” Fleming said. “What we are against is the limitation of what a person can have. Let’s make a law that addresses illegal kennels.”
    Unregulated kennels are easier to operate than ever with direct sales from the Internet, Fleming said, additional funding for regulating agencies to track down people operating outside existing guidelines would help. Cracking down on legal operations, he said, could open the door to those who already fly under the radar.
    “Proposition B does not address illegal kennels,” he said. “It only addresses these folks who are all licensed and abide by the rules of the license. Effectively, the people who are doing it illegal will continue to illegally raise puppies in inhumane conditions.”
    It’s about small businesses, said Jean Lafferty, of Shady Acres Kennel and publicity chair for the Southwest chapter treasurer.
    Veterinarians, dog food suppliers, airlines used to ship the dogs, even ground shipment of supplies will all be affected if her Exeter operation had to downsize. Right now they have around 85 dogs owned by five different families at one central location. She is worried that next year she will have to find homes for 35 dogs. Frightened that they will be euthanized, she said she will not give them to a shelter, but would try to place each one herself
     “I am so close to our dogs,” she said.
    Breeders, she said, have tried to work with the community, offering bulletproof vests and vehicle heat monitoring for canine units.
    “I don’t understand why they want to hurt us so bad,” she said. “We care about animals.”
    The ballot language says the amendment will “require large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with sufficient food, clean water, housing and space; necessary veterinary care; regular exercise and adequate rest between breeding cycles” language that Lafferty disagrees with. She and other breeders at the rally say they already do all that.
    “The way that the proposition reads on the ballot,” Lafferty said. “It’s not fair.”
    Fleming says that in addition to inspections by the USDA, AKC and state, his business inspects breeders for proper puppy socialization and humane conditions before purchasing animals. Keeping the dogs healthy and happy is crucial to running a good kennel, he said.
    Page 3 of 3 - “It’s basic business practices,” Fleming said. “If they do a poor job and produce a bad puppy or bad business product, they’re not going to be able to sell it … and if they can’t sell it they can’t put food on the table or food in their kennel.”
    “All we’re trying to do is support our family,” said Daniel Ford of Triple-D.