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Why dog breeders, farmers bit back when animal advocates 'picked on' Missouri

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“Puppy mill capital of America,” is what animal protection groups call Missouri.

It was on that battlefield that The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) along with other animal welfare organizations lost their war last year to establish a law that they say would have improved the lives of the tens of thousands of dogs—many of them suffering from severe neglect and abuse—used to produce about a million puppies annually in the state’s hundreds of commercial breeding establishments.

Voters actually approved Prop B, the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act." However, to the satisfaction of dog breeding and farming lobbies and the outrage of animal advocates, Gov. Jay Nixon replaced it with what many call a severely gutted version.

At the 2011 Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA) ‘United We Eat’ Summit in Arlington, Virginia a few weeks later, Missouri Farm Bureau Marketing and Commodities Director Kelly Smith provided his take on the Prop B story.

His organization and other agriculture groups fought Prop B tooth and claw, for one reason because 55 percent of the state’s income comes from animal agriculture, Smith said. Another reason: more than 2,400 licensed commercial dog breeders create a $2.4 billion dollar per year industry there. And a third: they believed that animal activists’ attempts to pass laws imposing animal welfare standards on high-volume dog breeders were part of a larger, long-term plan to regulate other types of animal agriculture and “take away the rights of farmers to raise the food for America.”

Smith said that explains “why the animal activists picked on Missouri. That is because if they could take down the kennel industry in Missouri, they could take down the kennel industry in any other state because they got the big one. And again, in their usual fashion, they tried to slice off a little corner of the piece of cake there with a group that they thought nobody else would support [dog breeders], especially in a livestock state."

Read more on Smith’s version of the Prop B tale.

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