Puppy Mill Bill: Opponents speak about the bill

By Kathy Sweeney - bio | email

This story details the position of those against the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.

WAYNE AND CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTIES (KFVS) - Longtime breeder Joy Hicks is worried.

"If they get this passed and they do away with the licensed breeder, it's going to take away your right to the pure bred puppy of your choice," Hicks said.

Hicks, President of the Southeast chapter of the Missouri Pet Breeders Association, sat me down with two other local breeders to talk about their opposition to the Puppy Mill Bill.  Terry Cozart hesitated before showing me pictures of his kennel in Neelyville.

"This right here is one of three exercise pens I have.  It's got concrete on the bottom," Cozart explained as he showed me.

"Does it make you nervous to show me this?" I asked.

"Oh it certainly does," Cozart said. "It does because I live right on the highway and I built my kennel on the highway for the fact I wanted people to see my kennel.  But now, because the Humane Society of the United States and Missouri are working like they are, I'm afraid they will come in and cause me problems."

Hicks showed us two of her puppies, but would not let us get video inside her kennel.

"The reason I'm afraid to show you that is because no matter what you go out there and see, the Humane Society and the HSUS is gonna see a dog in a pen. That's not what they want," Hicks said.

Rex Hopkins breeds Pomeranians for show, keeping them on pea gravel he says to help shape their feet.

"So, when this act is passed and I have to put these dogs on concrete, I can no longer give them normal feet. I have to give them splay feet," Hopkins said.

It's clear these breeders see the puppy mill bill as an extension of their long battle against the Humane Society of the United States.

"My kennel is attacked the same way theirs is," Hopkins said.

"We make money off of animal welfare, not animal suffering. The Humane Society makes money off of animal suffering," Hicks added.

"I'm going to have to now, after this interview, spent $3000 building a privacy fence up so this cannot be seen from the highway," Cozart said

You've got to make a few turns off the main highway to check out John Schoen's dairy operation in Cape Girardeau County.  We came out here to find out why a dairy farmer like Schoen worries about a measure targeting dog breeders.

"We really don't need more regulations because this is just gonna be the tip of the iceberg to what they'd like to do," Schoen said.

Schoen is joined by fellow members of the Missouri Farm Bureau in staunch opposition to the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.

"If they get this legislation passed with dog breeders, where's it going to go next? Is it going to go to the livestock industry or where's it going to go?" Cape County Farm Bureau President Dale Steffens said.

"Their purpose is to abolish animal agriculture," added board member Kenny Spooler, speaking about the Humane Society of the United States.

"It could be hog producers, it could be chicken, anything that's in confinement I think is what these people are after. They're just using the puppy mill thing as a confinement issue," Spooler said.

These local farmers and breeders ask the same questions.  Who will enforce the new set of rules and who will end up paying for them?

"Unfortunately, we can't control animal suffering. But we can control the animal welfare in our kennels and we do. Otherwise, we could not stay in business," said Joy Hicks.

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