Missouri demonstrators on the issue of Prop B, the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act,” passed by voters but then replaced by Gov. Jay Nixon with a less stringent law / Photo: Missouri Farm Bureau and TruffleMedia

By Katerina Lorenzatos Makris ~

In this year’s election season, lobbyist firms who helped in the push for a law to regulate dog breeding in Missouri—condemned by animal protection groups as the “puppy mill capital of America”—might get punished.

“Those guys will be paying the price for doing that,” said Kelly Smith of the Missouri Farm Bureau (MFB). “There are several of those guys [lobbyists] that run rural state rep and state senate campaigns that will not be doing that in the future.”

During the 2010 campaign for Proposition B, the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act” The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other groups spent about $4.6 in their pitched battle against breeding and farming interests, said Smith, and hired political experts to get the measure passed.

“I guess our lobbyists in Missouri will do anything for a buck, because they [animal welfare groups] hired about four significant lobbying firms in Missouri that stood by them during this campaign during our state legislative session,” Smith told attendees of the Animal Agriculture Alliance “United We Eat” Summit in 2011.

However those lobbyists’ efforts did not end up succeeding. During his presentation titled “Protecting & Growing Agriculture Amidst the Activist Conflict – A Missouri Experience,” Smith detailed the process by which his organization, dog breeders, and other animal farmers managed to get Prop B heavily altered—some say gutted. In 2010 voters approved the law, but under pressure from agriculture interests Gov. Jay Nixon later replaced it with a far less stringent version.

Animal Issues Reporter’s Katerina Lorenzatos Makris, who covered the AAA Summit, presents Smith’s version of the Prop B tale below in this installment of her multi-part series:

“Lessons learned in the ‘puppy mill capital of America’: The rise, fall and legacy of Missouri’s Prop B”

(For previous articles in this series, Parts 1 – 5, please see find links below.)

Speech by Kelly Smith, Missouri Farm Bureau (Part 6)

When our legislature came back into session, they were faced with four billboards that were on every one of the main roads coming into Missouri.  And, basically, you can see…

[Points to a screen with a photograph of a billboard that reads:  “Why are the 997, 870 Missouri voters who supported Prop B being ignored?"]

They knew there was going to be a big battle

…I guess our lobbyists in Missouri will do anything for a buck, because they [animal welfare groups] hired about four significant lobbying firms into Missouri that stood by them during this campaign during our state legislative session.

I can tell you that the ag [agriculture] community will not—  Well, those guys will be paying the price for doing that. There are several of those guys [lobbyists] that run rural state rep and state senate campaigns that will not be doing that in the future.

Governor had to decide which fifty percent of Missouri voters to ‘piss off’

Several bills were filed in January, all the way from repealing Prop B to modifying Prop B [SS/SCS/SBS 113 and 95]. So what, finally, what we call Senate Bill 113 was settled on, which, basically, did not repeal Prop B as the papers like to report out to the people. We like to say it “enhanced” Prop B.

It kept the voters’ intent by having stricter regulations for dog breeders. It provided a funding mechanism in there for enforcement and inspection. But it kept our breeders in business, those that wanted to stay in business it would keep them in business with that.

When 113 was passed, our governor was faced with a huge problem. Was he going to sign the bill or was he not going to sign the bill? During his three, two-and-a-half years as governor, he had not upset probably one person… Our governor is very good about staying right in the middle and not going anywhere else.

Well, he was just getting ready to piss off fifty percent of the people in Missouri if he signed it or he didn’t sign it. You know, big election next year in 2012, so he was in a big dilemma. What was he going to do?

As I said earlier, our Department of Agriculture and he had stayed out of the fray of this thing on the sidelines. Our governor had to come up with some type of plan to save himself with this, so he basically asked our director of agriculture in Missouri to sit down with our dog breeders and the Missouri Humane Society, not HSUS but Missouri Humane Society, and try to come up with something, we won’t use the word “compromise,” we like to use “agreement” with that, and so that happened.

‘Prop B would have put dog breeders out of business’

I think the dog breeders came to the table and they gave some things up. What they gave up they felt like was insignificant, I mean not insignificant but it was probably going to happen to them eventually anyway, so they gave them up earlier, basically in return for an emergency clause they would put into this piece of legislation and put 113 into enforcement the day it was signed by the governor. Because HSUS was proposing to come back at us with what we call a citizens’ initiative. In other words, they would put Senate Bill 113 on the ballot in 2012.

They held a big rally to force the governor to sign Proposition [sic] 113 before our General Assembly would pick up what we call the “Missouri Solution” [HCB/SB 161], and that Missouri Solution basically would only ask the Missouri Humane Society— basically split the Missouri Humane Society off from HSUS.

So it would stop 113 from going into law. But the problem with that was if we stopped 113 from going into law and the citizens’ initiative worked, Prop B would go into effect in November of this year and put our dog breeders out of business before the people could vote on that. So with the emergency clause that was put in there, basically, dog breeders got to stay in business.

Coming up soon in this series:

  • How to defeat an animal protection law—Tea Party might help

  • Is Missouri’s Operation Bark Alert really working? 5,500 dogs seized from puppy mills, but what about those who aren’t?

More AIR on this topic:

Part 1: Missouri breeds 30% of puppies sold in U.S. pet stores, says farm bureau

Part 2: More than 5,500 dogs raided from Missouri dog breeders since start of ‘Operation Bark Alert’

Part 3: Law would have required better care for dogs than for children, says farm bureau)

Part 4: ‘These guys are good—we don’t like them, but they are good at what they do’: farm bureau about Humane Society

Part 5: ‘Mutts’ comic strip characters helped pass a law to regulate dog breeders

Puppy mills make dogs ‘autistic,’ says study

Reporter asks USDA to review study on damaged mental health of puppy mill dogs

Katerina Lorenzatos Makris is a career journalist, author, and editor. Credits include hundreds of articles for regional wire services and for  outlets such as National Geographic TravelerThe San Francisco ChronicleTravelers’ Tales, NBC’s Petside.com, and Examiner.com (Animal Policy Examiner), a teleplay for CBS-TV, a short story for The Bark magazine, and 17 novels for Avon, E.P. Dutton, Simon and Schuster, and other major publishers.

Together with coauthor Shelley Frost, Katerina wrote a step-by-step guide for hands-on, in-the-trenches dog rescue, Your Adopted Dog: Everything You Need to Know About Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need (The Lyons Press).