Sunday, October 31, 2010

Missouri Veterinary Medical Association Opposes Strengthening Puppy Mill Legislation

Veterinarians and animal advocates know Missouri is the most culpable state when it comes to out-of-control dog breeding.  It has many more large confinement dog breeding operations (puppy mills) than any other state.  According to an estimate recently quoted in the New York Times, 1 out of every 3 dogs sold in pet stores nationwide comes from Missouri.  That's not even counting puppies sold directly over the internet.

Even if puppies originating from puppy mills don't have intestinal parasites, entropions, cryptorchid testicles, or demodex, it doesn't change the frustration when clients unknowingly purchased them from puppy mills.  Puppy mills--and Missouri puppy mills especially-- have been cited extensively for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including neglect, abuse and overcrowding of breeding dogs.  But unfortunately, puppy mills are still thriving.

In an attempt to finally crack down on puppy mills, the ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States and multiple other animal welfare groups are sponsoring Missouri's Proposition B on the November 2 ballot.  Its stipulations are as follows:

A “yes” vote will amend Missouri law to require large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with sufficient food, clean water, housing and space; necessary veterinary care; regular exercise and adequate rest between breeding cycles.  The amendment further prohibits any breeder from having more than 50 breeding dogs for the purpose of selling their puppies as pets.  The amendment also creates a misdemeanor crime of “puppy mill cruelty” for any violations.
A “no” vote will not change the current Missouri law regarding dog breeders. 

Society expects veterinarians--of all people--to support dogs having adequate food, water, space, necessary veterinary care, regular exercise and rest between breeding cycles.  However, the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association is opposed to Prop B.

The Missouri VMA can't possibly have medical or ethical grounds for opposing such basic humane dog care.  Does it just disapprove of the 50 breeding dog limit?  Well...this doesn't make sense either. As veterinarians, we are expected to steer clients clear of irresponsible breeders, and the number of dogs at a facility is a pretty telltale sign of whether or not the person is "responsible."  As we know from experience, telltale signs should not be ignored if we are trying to fix a problem

"Responsible breeders" are expected to know their breeding dogs' names, interact with them, and be keenly aware of their genetics and personalities, as well as their deworming and vaccine schedules. For the first 8 weeks of life, their puppies are expected to have human interaction. Let's not kid ourselves...50+ caged dogs in a outdoor breeding operation is clearly not conducive to "responsible breeder" characteristics.

Nonetheless, the Missouri VMA is against Prop B, and so is this couple.  Her t-shirt sends a message that the family dog would cease to exist if Prop B passes.  (She must not be aware that there are millions of other dogs in animal shelters and rescues across Missouri who are begging for homes.)  If true, this shirt would seem to convey that the majority of Missouri puppies do come from facilities with greater than 50 dogs and/or who violate basic humane standards of care.  I'd say the shirt is an example of shooting oneself in the foot, but other opponents of Prop B  have been completely won over by this kind of nonsense.

Joe the Plumber must not have read the proposition before signing onto and perpetuating propaganda.  It seems obvious to read the proposition, yet plenty of people continue to argue for and against views that have nothing to do with the proposed legislation.  Or they state the reason they're opposed to providing dogs with basic care is because they care about dogsClick here and here for the opposition's statements. The former I recommend you read for yourself, and the latter is the Missouri VMA website. 

Among the reasons the Missouri VMA is supposedly opposed to Prop B:

"The issue of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act has come about because breeding facilities that are unlicensed are not being regulated or inspected."

"Cases of neglect and bad conditions have come mainly from unlicensed breeders who are not overseen by state inspection."

However, these statements are not at all factual or honest, especially coming from a professional organization.  In actuality, government reports and audits have documented repeatedly and extensively that many licensed Missouri facilities have been far from satisfactory in inspections.  And so-called enforcement of humane conditions has done very little.  Just a case in point: even with 500+ pages of Animal Welfare Act violations on file with the USDA, Missouri kennels (like S and S Family Puppies, Milan, MO) have remained both state and federally licensed.

Even if it's true that unlicensed breeders are the primary problem, is that really reason for a veterinary professional organization to oppose legislation targeted at dog breeding facility abuses in general?  Perhaps opposition to Prop B has more to do with the state culture or other societal interests.

The ballot plainly states: A “no” vote will not change the current Missouri law regarding dog breeders.  However, it is clear that change has been needed for decades.  Thousands of dogs spend their lives in torturous cramped confinement and endure overlooked neglect.  It is the duty of veterinarians to support something that will change this.  The problem is obvious and can't be ignored.

If Prop B passes, the Missouri VMA may frown.  But Missouri breeding dogs will certainly have something to grin about.

Friday, October 22, 2010

And Now...Egg Industry Speaker Recommends AVMA Abandon Concept of Human-Animal Bond

In the October issue of Veterinary Practice News, a veterinarian and regular contributor openly slammed the egg industry. It was similar to my blog content, sans the distracting hyperlinks. Her disillusionment was incited by her visit to a so-called animal welfare symposium at the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP) Conference.

Here's what she said about the keynote "animal welfare" speaker at this symposium: 

"...he urged us to tell the American Veterinary Medical Association to “abandon the concept of the human-animal bond.”

Apparently this speaker suggested veterinarians use the term "human-animal interface" instead. I don't think this should make us less guilt-ridden about treating billions of animals like inanimate, unfeeling machines. We just cannot continue to ignore the animal abuse that is rampant in animal agribusiness.

Click here to read the full article. Or, if you're feeling lazy, here's the article's conclusion: 

"We deserve the kind of lashing dealt out by the likes of HSUS"

Yep, it's pretty close to what I would have written. Except I would have changed the title "Animal Welfare Speaker Lays an Egg" to the more accurate"Egg Industry Representative Masquerades as Animal Welfare Speaker and Condones Animal Abuse." Alas, not everyone is as  blunt as I am. I have to give Vet Practice News some credit for printing the article at all. They had to have known it would make the egg industry very angry.