Puppy Mill Bill: Proponents speak about the bill


By Kathy Sweeney - bio | email

This story details the views of those in favor of putting the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act on the Missouri ballot in November.

UNIVERSITY CITY, MO (KFVS) - Catching busy people running in and out of the post office isn't always easy, but in University City, a volunteer with clipboard in hand has little trouble getting people to stop.

"Would you be willing to sign?" she asks a man. "Sure," he replies.

Each time pen hits paper, animal advocacy groups grow closer to taking the country's first ever ballot initiative against so-called puppy mills to Missouri voters.

"Most Missourians are aware of the problem we have with puppy mills," said Barbara Schmitz.

Schmitz serves as the campaign manager for *Missourians for the Protection of Dogs.* The group, which formed last November, is made up of members from four separate advocacy groups, including the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society of Missouri. Their goal is to take the *Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act* to Missouri voters this fall.

"We are specifically focusing on large-scale breeding facilities," Schmitz explained. "And in order to fall within the perimeters of what we're trying to enact, you would need to have at least ten breeding female dogs. That's a large facility."

The act would amend Missouri law to require large-scale breeders to provide their dogs with an indoor enclosure that has a solid floor, one that can be regulated between 45 and 85 degrees, and has enough room to turn and stretch freely.

"Right now in Missouri, it's perfectly legal to have a dog that's used for breeding at a commercial facility kept in a tiny, wire-floored cage for her entire life," Schmitz said.

About an hour away from the signature drive, we meet Lil, a small black dog rescued from a puppy mill in Marshall, Missouri.  Lil stays at a rescue shelter in Washington County.  She shakes and pulls away as we try to pet her.

"We got Lil July of 2008.  We've had her two years," a shelter worker said.

"Well, it's pretty sad," said Carole Pitzer of her condition.

Pitzer runs the Coalition for Animal Rescue and Education on a stretch of property near Potosi. She says it's easy to tell which dogs come from bad breeders.

"They're extremely timid. They're frightened. They're terrified," Pitzer said. "They've been in a cage all of their life. They have never been socialized. Whenever a hand has touched them, it's normally in a very violent way."

Pitzer heard about the puppy mill bill through her rescue connections.

"At all of our adoption events, our trivia games, any of our fundraisers, we have been trying to get signatures," she said.

"I think most people here in Missouri understand what a puppy mill is," said Barbara Schmitz.

Schmitz's group feels that knowledge will easily lead to enough signatures to get the puppy mill bill on the November ballot.  Some of the people who stop to sign on this day say they support tougher laws against inhumane breeders.

"We need to stop this. There's no reason for this," one woman said.

Others, admittedly, are not as passionate.

"Well, I don't particularly care for animals, but I signed this petition to get it on the ballot, for sure," one man said.

Another man shrugs his shoulders and said, "Didn't seem like it was gonna hurt nothing."

"We encourage people to go ahead and sign and if they want to decide in November, that's fine," Schmitz said.

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