Prosecutions, fines increase in puppy mill cases

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(COLUMBIA, Mo., AP) — A state law intended to crack down on Missouri’s worst puppy mills has increased the number of prosecutions and fines and led to the rescue of 1,300 dogs in the three years since it was passed, according to a newspaper report.

The Columbia Missourian ( reported documents from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office show that in the last 27 months, 37 businesses or individuals were referred to the attorney general for prosecution for violating the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act. That resulted in more than $25,000 in civil fines and nine licenses being revoked for terms ranging from three to 10 years.
In the two years before the law took effect, 10 businesses or individuals were referred for violating animal welfare laws and no civil fines were assessed, according to the records.
Before the law passed in 2011, breeders were rarely prosecuted for violating the former animal welfare law, which required potential violators to attend expensive and time-consuming administrative hearings, and also required that prosecutors to meet a high standard of showing breeders were presenting a “substantial ongoing risk,” said Jessica Blome, a former Missouri assistant attorney general.
The new law requires breeders to add more space to their operations, provide constant access to outdoor exercise areas and improved regulations covering food, water and breeding frequency. Each breeding animal also must be inspected at least once a year by a licensed veterinarian and receive “prompt” treatment of any serious illness or injury and more humane forms of euthanasia, which must be approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association and conducted by a licensed veterinarian.
And the Missouri Department of Agriculture can ask state prosecutors to sue breeders for violating the law, as well as assessing civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and charge violators with the crime of canine cruelty.
Since 2010, the number of commercial breeders licensed with Missouri’s Animal Care Program has declined from about 1,400 to just over 800, a decline of more than 40 percent, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
“The main reason (for the decline) is the passage of the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act,” said Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation. “Now that noncompliance is being prosecuted, hundreds of breeders have chosen to shut down their breeding operations rather than face stiff penalties.”
Blome said financial obstacles also are a factor.
“I think the primary reason is the economic recession and very slow recovery. Most people get into the dog breeding business to make a quick buck, which is why violations are so numerous,” Blome said. “Most voluntarily go out of business simply because they cannot make money.”
Information from: Columbia Missourian,