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Missouri puppy mills face new restrictions

Rescued puppies wait to be adopted at the 'Let The Animals Live' pet shelter on July 10, 2009 in Ramle, Israel.

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Voters in Missouri last year passed a new law setting tougher rules for the state's dog breeders. Now some state lawmakers have filed a bill seeking to overturn the law which they say restricts a growth industry.

From St. Louis Public Radio, Adam Allington reports.


ADAM ALLINGTON: Among dog-breeders, the state of Missouri is labeled by many as the "Puppy Mill State." It's a reputation that carries some truth. The Department of Agriculture estimates that 30 percent of all puppies sold in America -- some three-quarter of a million dogs -- come from Missouri.

Sally Rector breeds Jack Russell terriers. She's a relatively small operation with just eight breeding dogs.

SALLY RECTOR: Right there, that's Cooper, then next to him is Ace. Then I have Reno.

Rector voted against Proposition B, also known as the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act." Among other things, the law requires dogs be given fresh food and water daily, limits the number of dogs to 50, and regulates the size of the enclosures they're kept in.

Rector says the rules are vague, and set a standard that might eventually apply to all animals, including livestock.

RECTOR: Who's a puppy mill? Who's got too many pigs or who's got too many horses? Is that horse's stall big enough? I think that's just the beginning. We don't need any more government regulation.

Opponents say Prop B only passed because of an ad campaign depicting images of sick dogs from a few isolated cases. Republican state senator Bill Stouffer says the measure won't change anything and will only hurt ethical breeders.

BILL STOUFFER: My concern is that we will make it impossible to legally raise dogs in the state of Missouri and we will drive more dogs underground and create a bigger problem than we have now.

Barbara Schmitz is the director of the Humane Society of Missouri.

BARBARA SCHMITZ: I think that the economic arguments are on our side.

Schmitz says the process of churning out puppies as a cash crop invariably leads breeders to cut corners.

SCHMITZ: And those corners are translating into a burden for consumers who buy sick puppies, a burden on humane societies who literally spend millions every year cleaning up after this industry.

As far as repeal is concerned, Schmitz says overturning a direct vote of the people is something all politicians should think long and hard about. On this issue, she says, the dogs have won.

In St. Louis, I'm Adam Allington for Marketplace.

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