While "puppy mills" escape legal definition, for those of us familiar with them and the often times sick, genetically compromised dogs they produce, puppy mills are all too easy to define. The term conjures images of dimly lit sheds and stacked cages stuffed with feces-matted dogs, some of them too sick to move. It recalls the overwhelming stench of urine, feces and filth, the assault of ammonia that burns the eyes and nostrils. It revives the din of constant barking, of dogs in distress. This is the horror of puppy mills.
Tonight's historic passage of Proposition B reflects a landmark achievement in the ongoing fight against animal cruelty. Prop B, known as the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, has set in place common-sense, enforceable standards for large-scale dog breeding facilities throughout the state of Missouri. New requirements include significantly increased cage space, solid flooring, adequate veterinary care, nutritious food, clean drinking water, and protection from the elements. While these standards may seem modest at face value, given the unspeakably poor conditions that have persisted for far too long in puppy mills throughout Missouri, this legislation provides welcome relief to the thousands of dogs languishing in facilities throughout the state.
Home to an estimated 3,000 puppy mills -- 30 percent of the mills in the U.S. and far more than in any other state -- Missouri is the leading source of puppies in the country. The potential impact of Prop B is staggering. We know that approximately one million puppies are produced annually for the pet trade in Missouri. When added to the number of breeding dogs permanently housed in kennels statewide, this translates to more than 1.5 million lives affected each year by these new regulations.
The ASPCA has been steadfast in dedicating resources to raise awareness and combat puppy mill cruelty. As a founding member of Missourians for the Protection of Dogs / Yes! on Prop B, the ASPCA collaborated with members The Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society of Missouri, the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, and Best Friends Animal Society, urging Missouri voters to pass this landmark measure, providing support from afar as well as on the ground in Missouri. The ASPCA's Field Investigation & Response team participated in numerous rescues from overwhelmed puppy mill breeders in Missouri over the last year, and knows all too well how much suffering goes on from neglect and lack of proper care standards. We hope that with the passage of Prop B, dogs suffering from neglect and lack of proper care standards will no longer be an option for breeders.
While policy reform is most often generated through state legislatures, Prop B was a citizen-supported initiative. Its advancement, from inception through passage, reflects the power that we, as concerned Americans, have to participate in legislative change to improve animals' lives. As a result, we, as a nation, have gained a greater widespread awareness of ongoing animal cruelty issues. Moreover, we have gained an understanding of what we can do to stop it.
We are more hopeful than ever that the strong momentum around this issue will push other states to follow Missouri's lead, and that this will cause a ripple effect throughout the nation. In no other state were the stakes higher for puppy mill dogs, and Missourians have set an admirable precedent for reform. Today, we celebrate this victory alongside the caring citizens of Missouri, and we recognize our continuing obligation to end the needless suffering of animals nationwide.