On a daily basis, pet blogs across the country are filled with stories of animal cruelty and neglect. Entire TV shows are dedicated to showcasing the efforts of animal welfare and rescue workers. Gut-wrenching commercials show wide-eyed puppies and sad, scared, and often sickly dogs of every age staring from behind the bars of their cages in animal shelters.

The cause of all of this suffering comes down to one thing…money.  There is a lot of it to be made by churning out litter after litter of adorable puppies for a quick sale. There is not enough of it available to government agencies charged with law enforcement and annual inspections of breeding facilities, animal shelters, pet stores, handlers, and dealers.

As a lifetime resident it embarrasses me to admit that Missouri is known as the “puppy mill capital” of the United States. Large-scale “puppy mills” produce litters on the cheap then sell them to unsuspecting (or not) pet stores and individuals.  Most buyers have no idea of the conditions the puppies came from, or what heartache and costly health complications may be ahead. However, the puppies that make it out are actually the ‘lucky’ ones. The suffering continues for those left behind to produce litter after litter, often confined to small, stacked wire cages, living in their own waste, suffering malnutrition, parasites, eye, ear and respiratory infections. Many go “cage crazy” – continually spinning in their small cages. Many rescued puppy mill dogs have never touched grass or dirt.  They only know the feel of cold metal and filth beneath their bodies.

As a pet shelter volunteer I have seen firsthand what happens to these poor animals, and it is horrendous. When I walk my dogs, a 9-year-old Sheltie and newly-adopted Terrier/Poodle mix from our local shelter — and the best dogs in the world, of course! — I often think how different their lives might have been if subjected to a lifetime of cruelty, versus being spoiled rotten by their humans.

There is hope, however, for the puppy mill dogs of Missouri. A new, citizen-backed campaign is underway to add a ballot question in November’s election, The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.  If passed, it will require large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each breeding dog under their care with the basics of humane animal care and limit the number of breeding dogs in each facility.

Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, the organization circulating the ballot initiative is comprised of numerous individuals and animal welfare organizations, including the Humane Society of Missouri, the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and The Humane Society of the United States, and supported by organizations such as Fetch! Pet Care owners in metro St. Louis and Kansas City, and Best Friends Animal Society.

The law will enable Missouri to join several other states that have enacted similar laws through their state legislatures. Missouri has held this ‘distinction’ for far too long, and it is an opportunity to finally make progress toward eliminating these abuses. 

This article was written by Barbara Gates, owner of Fetch! Pet Care of Western Johnson County. Barb Gates can be reached at 913-738-4328. Fetch! Pet Care is the largest national pet care company in the United States; serving 38 states in more than 2,000 cities and towns.