Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • Proposition B: Measure would halt animal cruelty

  • Current laws on the books are too vague and unenforceable, a member of the Humane Society of the United States explains.

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  • Current laws on the books are too vague and unenforceable, a member of the Humane Society of the United States explains.
    That’s why Proposition B is needed, stated Dale Bartlett, deputy manager of public policy for the HSUS’ puppy mill / animal cruelty campaign.
    Voters will head to the polls Nov. 2 to consider this and other measures. Bartlett said the proposal concerns only dogs and dog breeder operations: other livestock such as cows and pigs and pets such as cats will not be affected.
    “It’s a broken system,” he said. “Existing laws are weak and, in many cases, too vague and confusing to be readily enforced. As a result, dogs suffer.”
    The measure calls for those with custody of ownership of more than 10 female covered dogs for the purpose of breeding and selling any offspring to use as a pet shall provide for each the following:
    • Sufficient food and clean water;
    • Necessary veterinary care;
    • Sufficient housing, including protection from the elements;
    • Sufficient space to turn and stretch freely, lie down and fully extend his or her limbs;
    • Regular exercise, and;
    • Adequate rest between breeding cycles.
    Under the measure, no producer may have more than 50 covered dogs for the purpose of breeding those animals and selling the offspring for use as a pet. A “covered dog” is any dog that is more than six months of age and has intact sexual organs (has not been spayed or neutered).
    The proposal also outlines several other terms, including “sufficient food and water” as being access to appropriate nutritious food at least once a day that is sufficient to maintain good health and continuous access to water free from food, feces or other debris, algae and other contaminants and is not frozen.
    “I’m a dog guy,” Bartlett said. “I think a dog needs more than adequate food and water without poop in it. If you have 50 dogs and you give each of them 20 minutes of care a day, that’s a 16-hour day.”
    Under “necessary veterinary care,” the measure says a minimum of at least one annual veterinary visit is required, as is prompt treatment of any illness or injury by a licensed veterinarian and, where needed, humane euthanasia by a licensed vet using lawful techniques deemed “acceptable” by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
    “Dogs should be looked at by a licensed vet every year and if a dog is ill or suffering, they require treatment,” Bartlett said. “Our original intent is to require that dogs be kept in livable standards.”
    The law outlines as “sufficient housing” as constant and unfettered access to an indoor enclosure that has a solid floor, is not stacked or otherwise placed on top of or below another animal’s enclosure, is cleaned of waste at least once a day while the dog is outside the enclosure, and does not fall below 45 degrees nor rise above 85 degrees.
    Page 2 of 3 - “Sufficient space to turn and stretch freely, lie down and fully extend his or her limbs,” under the proposal, means having sufficient indoor space for each dog to turn in a complete circle without any impediment (including a tether), enough indoor space for each dog to lie down and fully extend his or her limbs and stretch freely without touching the side of an enclosure or another dog, at least a foot of headroom above the head of the tallest dog in the enclosure, and at least 12 square feet of indoor space per dog up to 25 inches long, at least 20 square feet for dogs between 25 and 35 inches long, and at least 30 square feet of space for dogs 35 inches or longer. The length of a dog is measured from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.
    “Regular exercise,” according to the ballot measure, mean constant and unfettered access to an outdoor exercise area that is composed of a solid, ground level surface with adequate drainage, provides some protection against sun, wind, rain and snow, and provides each dog at least twice the square footage of the indoor floor space provided to that dog.
    The phrase outlines “adequate rest between breeding cycles” as ensuring dogs are not bred to produce more than two litters in any 18-month period.
    “There is no regulation in the current law that sets any resting period between heat cycles,” said Bartlett. “We’ve seen instances where the female’s teats are on the ground, or their teeth have fallen out because they aren’t getting enough nutritional requirements because they’re pregnant all of the time.”
    To knowingly violate any provision under the proposed measure is to commit puppy mill cruelty, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 15 days in jail on the first offense. Subsequent offenses are a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. And provisions under the law are in addition to currently existing laws.
    Should voters approve the measure, all provisions become active a year from now.
    “One of the arguments we’ve heard is that we don’t need better laws, we need adequate enforcement of existing laws,” Bartlett said. “We’ve also heard that this targets the good guy, not the unlicensed ones. What we’re finding, though, are horrific situations occur at licensed facilities. If you’re making money and sell puppies to the public, you’re obligated to put money back in it.”
    Bartlett said about 30 percent of all puppies supplied to pet stores nationwide are bred in Missouri.
    “Part of that is existing regulations are so lax, so fraught with ambiguity, the large scale corner cutters find a way to set up shop in Missouri,” he said. “I know we can do better.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Bartlett said some 2,000 Missourians have contributed money to his group’s effort to get Proposition B passed into law, while the Humane Society of the United States has 300,000 members in the state.
    “Read what the measure says,” he encouraged. “And ask yourself, do you agree that dogs need to have space to lie down, should they not live their entire lives in a wire cage.”
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