Missourians approve tougher rules for dog breeders

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During the Nov. 2 election, Missourians narrowly approved a ballot initiative, Proposition B, that creates tougher rules for dog breeders with more than 10 breeding dogs—including a provision that limits facilities to 50 breeding dogs.

The Missouri VMA had opposed the measure, citing a need for enforcement of the existing state regulations that cover dog breeding facilities as well as other animal care facilities (see JAVMA, Oct. 1, 2010).

The AVMA did not take an active advocacy role on the measure, although an Association policy states that the AVMA supports the use of expert bodies instead of ballot initiatives to establish public policy on animal welfare. Earlier in the year, the Association also released its Model Bill and Regulations to Assure Appropriate Care for Dogs Intended for Use as Pets, which would not limit the number of dogs in a facility.

Following passage of the Missouri ballot initiative on dog breeding facilities, the AVMA issued a video statement promoting its model legislation that addresses care for dogs in multiple types of facilities, including animal shelters and retail pet stores.

"Unfortunately, Proposition B doesn't do much to actually provide for the care of animals but only sets limits on the number of animals that can be kept," at dog breeding facilities, said Dr. Ron DeHaven, the Association's chief executive officer.

A coalition of animal welfare organizations, Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, campaigned for Proposition B as a way to crack down on puppy mills. A group of opponents, the Alliance for Truth, portrayed the ballot initiative as part of a secret agenda to destroy animal agriculture.

The measure passed with 51.6 percent of the vote. The "no" vote led in almost every rural county, while the "yes" vote led in counties in the St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas.

The new Missouri statute, which will become effective in November 2011, prohibits any dog breeding facility in the state from keeping more than 50 breeding dogs for the purpose of selling their puppies as pets. The new law also makes changes in certain standards for dog breeding facilities.

Current state regulations cover multiple types of animal care facilities. Among other requirements, housing must provide "sufficient space to allow each animal to turn about freely, to stand, sit and lie in a comfortable, normal position and to walk in a normal manner" and provide a solid resting surface. The temperature must not fall below 50°F for animals not acclimated to lower temperatures. The attending veterinarian decides on exercise frequency, method, and duration, except facilities do not have to provide exercise if housing provides a certain amount of floor space per dog.

The new statute specifically covers dog breeding facilities. Dog breeders will have to provide additional space per dog and an enclosure that has a solid floor. The new law prohibits stacking of housing, temperatures falling below 45°F, and breeding of dogs to produce more than two litters in 18 months. Dog breeders will have to provide dogs with constant access to an outdoor exercise area that provides at least twice the indoor floor space.

The new law also establishes "puppy mill cruelty" as a misdemeanor for violations of the statute.