As a Missouri resident, and as a member of the Humane Society of the United States, I’ve been the recipient of several letters and emails urging me in the most ardent of terms to vote yes on Proposition B aka the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act”, which goes out on the polls tomorrow. Animal welfare is one of the subjects nearest and dearest to my otherwise blackened and shriveled heart, so it didn’t take much to sway my opinion in a favorable direction.
In fact, I figured this would be a bill everyone, regardless of political creed, could agree on. Folks in MO love babies so much that they want every single fetus to make it through gestation…surely the same logic would apply here. Besides, what sane person could resist this:
Imagine my surprise, then, when I found anti-Prob B propaganda in unlikely places: outside of a gun and munitions store, in the kennel where we buy our fancy dog food; in the feed store where we get our grain and hay; I even heard the AKC had come out against it. I expressed my surprise to my friend Casey, who loves animals, and now works as a riding instructor after having majored in Equestrian Science, who only served to increase it by revealing her own misgivings. In my attempt to defend Prop B, it came out that I had not actually read it…just watched some of a video in which a vet affiliated with HSUS endorsed the measure. Casey implied that perhaps I lacked the knowledge required for meaningful debate, and I was forced to concede her point (although she had not read it either).
On my next visit to the feed store, I picked up an inflammatory pamphlet bearing the ominous title “The Truth About Prop B.” I knew what those in favor were saying, but it was time to explore the issue from the other side’s p.o.v., and compare it to a reading of the actual proposition.
For my fellow Missourians, I think this will be an illuminating look at a “radical” bill. For the rest of you, it will be an (instructive) exercise in how two opposing sides can use the same material as a base for their antithetical viewpoints.
The pamphlet I have before me is published by the Alliance for Truth, the focal point round which the anti-Prop B maelstrom swirls. According to its website, the Alliance was cooked up specifically to fight Prop B. It doesn’t claim any political affiliations, although an article entitled “HSUS and Obama” leads me to suspect that Republicans are behind this. The only name the website offers is that of Mark Patterson, who is apparently the Alliance’s treasurer; into the search engine his name goes. I discover that Mark Patterson is Obama’s Treasury Department Chief of Staff; presumably they are not the same person.
Even when I narrow the search, I don’t find much…save that the Alliance for Truth pulled a fast one to avoid showing the state its contribution reports. I do come across another name: Mindy Patterson. Wife or relative of the mysterious Mark, or perhaps a post-op Mark? I can’t find much about her, either. Sure, she’s quoted in some Prop-B related news articles, but I want something a little more juicy. Like a picture of her shaking hands w/ Ashcroft over the carcass of a dog or something.
Mildly disappointed, I turn my attention to the Alliance pamphlet. It makes some pretty damning allegations: Prop B will destroy the pork and egg industry just like it did in Florida and California, as well as the legitimate dog breeding industry. OH WAIT. Prop B has nothing to do w/ pork or eggs in Missouri. But for some reason, the pamphlet starts out that way. Apparently, back in 2008 CA voters passed a new state statute “that prohibits the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.” THOSE MONSTERS. And now? “California is facing bankruptcy and the foreclosure rate is one of the highest in the country (emphasis theirs).” Oh man. You see what the authors did there? This is true, and yet it is NOTHING TO DO w/ the topic at hand. At least, not according to reputable sources like The Economist or The Christian Science Monitor. But still, one can’t accuse them of lying. Is it their fault if the reader jumps to the wrong conclusion all on his own? Watch, I can do it too:
On June 3, 2006, my grandmother tried tofu for the first time. A few hours later, she was dead.
I never SAID that tofu was the culprit. Who cares if I fail to mention that she died b/c she was in a car accident? The facts I didn’t choose to omit are still true!
“Florida now has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, (emphasis theirs)” the article warns. The Economist confirms that. “Jobs have evaporated particularly in construction, property and finance; the unemployment rate is 12%,” 2.4% higher than the national average of 9.6%. The article goes on to list the causes for this. Funnily, pork, or even the agricultural sector as a whole, is not mentioned at all.
The USDA, who has an entire division devoted to the “economics of food, farming, natural resources, and rural America” also failed to link these phenomena. So either the Alliance authors are journalistic geniuses who enjoy unparalleled access to sources of information that even the government doesn’t know about…or else they’re just full of shit.
In a starburst on the front page are the words: “HSUS defines ‘puppy mill’ as ANYONE who breeds a dog–regardless of the care they receive.” I check the text of Prop B; not even a half-truth, this assertion is a bald-faced lie.
The next three pages of the Alliance for Sophisms report are devoted to bashing HSUS. I ignore these, b/c my goal here is to analyze Prop B on its own merits.
Page 5 has what I’m looking for. “Prop B creates a class C misdemeanor crime of ‘cruelty’ for ANY violation during an inspection of a kennel by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, including a drop of food in a water bowl, a cobweb in the corner of a building, a scratch on a painted surface, etc.”
Hmn, that does sound pretty draconian. The bill does stipulate that dogs must have access to “sufficient food and clean water,” which it goes on to define as “access to appropriate nutritious food at least once a day sufficient to maintain good health; and continuous access to potable water that is not frozen, and is free of debris, feces, algae, and other contaminants.”
Well, okay. I feel like the Alliance is deliberately going against the spirit of the clause, but maybe some anal inspector could conceivably find fault w/ some dog food floating in a dish, who knows? As for the other stuff? I have no idea where they got it. Fished out from the stagnant cesspools of their imaginations, perhaps, or their dogs’ water bowls.
They go on to accuse Prop B of driving up breeder costs by insisting that any injury receive veterinary attention, “including something as simple as an upset stomach, torn toenail, cut on the nose….”
Prop B requires “Necessary veterinary care” which “means, at minimum, examination at least once yearly by a licensed veterinarian; prompt treatment of any illness or injury by a licensed veterinarian….(emphasis mine)” So the above interpretation does have some credence. What Prop B is essentially trying to forfend is medical neglect. It would help to define “injury” as something that cannot heal properly on its own w/o medical intervention…except how can you do that? And why should a layman be allowed to make the distinction? This problem is hardly unique. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Services, defining these issues can be difficult, which often leads “to inconsistencies in policies, practice, and research. Without a consistent definition of neglect, it is nearly impossible to compare research results. This inconsistency also leads to variability in the way neglect cases are handled.” Prop B would be better served if it contained something like this, also from the HHS (just replace the word “child” w/ “dog”): “[Medical neglect is] the failure to seek timely and appropriate medical care for a serious health problem that any reasonable person would have recognized as needing professional medical attention. Examples of a delay in health care include not getting appropriate preventive medical or dental care for a child, not obtaining care for a sick child, or not following medical recommendations.”
Prop B is also reamed for requiring “constant and unfettered access to an outside area which will be deadly to newborn and non-weaned puppies that may crawl outside to follow their mothers….Babies will die of heat exhaustion and dehydration in the summer and hypothermia in the winter.” (Uh, DUH, if the skinflint owner is too damn cheap to take their animals to the vet.)
This is akin to saying, “You put your infant in a stroller? But…but what if you walk away, and your kid wriggled out to follow you, and gets internal injuries while struggling against the straps, or else manages to get out and falls on its head? What if it crawls away and you can’t hear its cries and find it, since you are stupid, and then it gets dehydrated and DIES? WHAT IF?”
By now you have either grasped my point…or are drawing up a petition to put anti-stroller legislation in place.
Also, Prop B addresses these so-called concerns directly; dogs are required to have “sufficient housing, including protection from the elements.” In other words, breeders have to make sure their animals have access to fresh air and sunlight, but not so much that they die from exposure. That is just so unfair.
They also protest the 50-dog limit, proclaiming it ” similar to limiting a realtor to the number to the number of houses they [sic.] could sell…”–which NO, it’s not, since as far as I know, real estate agents to not keep the houses (which are not alive) in their backyards–“…or ranchers to the number of cattle they can own.” Actually, ranchers have incentives to self-limit that are absent in puppy mills. Maybe if someone could present a good argument as to WHY they need more than 50 intact dogs, and HOW they plan to keep them, I might be a bit more inclined to sympathize. Personally, I cannot think of a justifiable reason, and the Alliance for Straw Men certainly doesn’t have any ideas. In fact, in the nine pages of their packet, only 1.5 are specifically about Prop B at all. It’s almost like they want to distract you from something…like the fact that Prop B does not place any debilitating restrictions on breeders, nor does it expect them to do anything extraordinary in the realm of pet care. Here’s all it demands:
“(1) Sufficient food and clean water;
(2) Necessary veterinary care;
(3) Sufficient housing, including protection from the elements;
(4) Sufficient space to turn and stretch freely, lie down, and fully extend his or her* limbs;
(5) Regular exercise; and
(6) Adequate rest between breeding cycles.”
That’s it. Pretty straightforward. The Alliance for Lies and Smokescreens can howl and rage all they want…much like the coal mine owners did when they had to stop exploiting little children. It is my fervent hope that clearer minds will prevail; that we humans will show we are capable of something besides callousness and greed; that you will join me in voting YES on Proposition B on November 2, 2010.
*Not only do they love animals, but they can use personal pronouns correctly! ♥♥♥