National Animal Advocates Unhappy With Deal on Crackdown of Missouri's Puppy Mills

A hard-fought compromise over a crackdown on Missouri's infamous puppy mills has satisfied both sides in the state but national animal advocates are still howling over the events that preceded the deal, which they say lacks teeth.

In November, Missouri voters approved a ballot measure called Proposition B that imposed strict dog breeding regulations in a state known as the puppy mill capital of the world. But lawmakers overturned the legislation after many of Missouri's roughly 1,300 licensed dog breeders complained it would close down an industry that generates an estimated $1 billion annually in the state. They opposed the limits on the number of dogs they could own and the requirements for costly housing upgrades.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon replaced the measure with a compromise bill that was negotiated by dog breeders and local animal welfare groups. Both sides declared victory. But the D.C.-based Humane Society of United States doesn't approve of the compromise.

"Our view is it's far short of what the voters approved," Michael Markarian, the chief operating officer of the organization, told "It makes some progress from the status quo but it eliminated many of the core provisions of the ballot measure."

Markarian pointed to a 50-dog cap on breeders which was among the provisions eliminated in the compromise.

But the Humane Society of Missouri, which is not affiliated at all with the Humane Society of the United States, praised the compromise for requiring an annual veterinarian examination of each dog and mandating access to nutritious food at least twice a day and continuous access to clean, unfrozen water.

"We agree it's the best thing for the animals," Jeane Jae, a spokeswoman for the group, told "Our position is that the Missouri Legislature had repealed the entire Proposition B and lacking a compromise, we would be back to worse than where we were before the compromise. This forged a great relationship with internal Missouri groups that we think will bode well for Missouri animals in the future."

In addition to the compromise, Nixon has proposed adding $1.1 million to the budget for more inspectors and veterinarians to ensure breeders are complying with the new law.

Markarian said his group will monitor whether the new regulations improves the welfare of dogs. But he warned that there will be another ballot measure next year if conditions don't improve and he said his group is supporting a campaign to require that Missouri get three fourths of the vote from the legislature to repeal a voter-approved ballot measure instead of a simple majority.

But Karen Strange, president of the Missouri Federal of Animal Owners, which also helped negotiate the compromise, said the Humane Society of the United States needs to keep its paws out of her state.

"Who left them in charge of our state?" she said, estimating that 80 percent of the funding for the ballot measure came from out of the state. Strange said lawmakers have a "sworn duty to protect the minority from the majority of mob rule."

"When something is put in place that is wrong or unconstitutional, it is the sworn duty of our elected representatives and senators to make the necessary changes to those provisions," she said, adding that the Proposition B was "unenforceable, unfunded and unconstitutional."

She also claimed that the 50-dog cap in Proposition B would have caused the death of 1,000 dogs because breeders would have been required to get rid of the other animals.

Strange said the true agenda of the Humane Society of the United States isn't animal welfare.

"It's about the elimination of an industry," she said.

But Markarian says that the voters were responsible for the ballot measure after lawmakers failed to address the issue for 20 years.

"That's why citizens took it upon themselves to draft a measure and put it on the ballot," he said. "Only then did the legislature think it worthwhile to try and make some improvement in this area that they have ignored for two decades."