Monday, April 18, 2011

Compromise on Puppy Mill Cruelty? Why?

It was announced earlier today that Governor Jay Nixon had brokered a "compromise" between some opponents and proponents of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. The proponents who were said to have signed on included Kathy Warnick, President of the Humane Society of Missouri, and Bob Baker from the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, but I have not yet seen any formal statements from those organizations. However, I think Shelley at presents a pretty solid argument that this "compromise" on reform amounts to anything but reform.

Basically, all of the changes included in the "compromise" include hedge words that allow everything to carry on the way it always has. The 50 dog limit is now gone. The requirement that feces shouldn't be in the water supply has now changed to a requirement that feces should "generally" not be in the water. Instead of treatment of injury and illness, we now have required treatment of "serious" injuries and illness. And on and on, gutting basically every single substantive change in the original Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, approved by a majority of Missourians in a year where rural voters were disproportionately motivated and urban voters disproportionately apathetic.

To be honest, it's hard for me to be too shocked at Jay Nixon's decision here. He's a politician, and as such motivated by the goal of being reelected. And it's pretty obvious that this compromise provides the best path for him to do that, considering that he can get by without offending either rural or urban voters. His choice was made particularly easy by the fact that HSMO and MAAL signed on to the compromise.

But that's where I get confused. Though I understand why Nixon took this path, I don't understand why MAAL and the HSMO sprinkled rose petals along it. National groups like the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Best Friends Animal Society all announced their opposition to the "compromise." This strongly suggests that even if Nixon was cynical enough to sign the original bill revoking the will of the voters, or even if a Nixon veto was overruled by supermajorities, animal welfare groups could have run a new ballot initiative in 2012 that would be likely to win by an even larger margin than the 2010 Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. And though our legislature is pretty shameless, would they really be ridiculous enough to try to overturn the will of the voters a second time on the exact same issue? Or more to the point, would voters stand for them doing so?

Yet if this compromise goes through, approved by MAAL and HSMO, it's hard to see voters having any desire to revisit the issue in future elections.

Even with his Grand Bargain, however, Nixon is not completely off the hook. The leaders of the repeal movement are demanding that Nixon not veto their bill to gut the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act while waiting for the compromise to work its way through the legislature:
State Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, who sponsored SB 113, is listed as one of the compromise's backers.

"Growing Missouri agriculture and protecting dogs are both important priorities, and this agreement is a win on both fronts," Parson said in a release announcing the agreement.

But Parson said in an interview that he wanted the governor first to sign SB 113 into law -- and then sign the proposed alternative, should the legislature pass it.

Parson said the main differences between his bill and the new agreement are the types of veterinarian care required and the square footage of the cages confining the animals.

Parson said that the agreement would be "dead" if Nixon vetoed SB 113.
Parson continues:
"If we're truly going to get this done, we're going to know before this veto happens," Parson said. "I hope the compromise is worked out. I hope everyone at the table can get it done. You've got to get it through the [legislature] in a short-term period of time, which is a very difficult process to do. We're going to work for that, if that's what the coalition decides."

"But I think to say that we're going to veto [my bill] right off the bat to do this, I don't think we're going to want to use this as a political game," Parson added. "And I hope that nobody's doing that."
Needless to say, this is complete crap. Republicans (and the absurd Democrats who voted with them) are the ones with the most to lose here, and they should absolutely not be put in a position of power by allowing the repeal to pass and then patiently waiting to see if they fulfill their end of the bargain. With unhinged characters like Nieves and Lembke willing to hold the Senate hostage over things like allowing federal money to go to the unemployed, could there be any worse idea than trusting them with passing a bill that, at least in theory, strengthened protections on dogs? I think the answer is obviously "no."

In fact, in my opinion, Parson's ridiculous position gives Nixon an out. Nixon should veto the repeal bill, SB 113, immediately. If Parson then says that the deal is "dead," well Nixon can honestly say in good faith that he tried to find a compromise. And by completely accident, maybe the will of the voters would be respected after all.

Update: OK, here's a statement from Baker:
"The agriculture groups signed on to it, the dog breeders association signed on to it, and I think everybody's in agreement that this is the best," said Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, one of the groups that signed the agreement.

" I think it significantly improves conditions for the dogs, and we're very very pleased with this agreement," Baker said.

Somehow, I don't quite see the value of being in agreement with the same people who said that Prop B was a secret communist plot to take over Missouri and force everyone to eat bean sprouts. I sure hope MAAL or HSMO offers a more detailed explanation than this!


  1. Yeah, we'd like to get more clarification from MAAL too.

  2. I am still planning on attending the VETO SB 113 rally Wed. at 4 p.m. at the Capitol. I've been involved in politics too long to put up with this bullshit. Nixon is as bad as Parson when it comes to doing the expedient thing.

  3. Thank you. Adam, for making many excellent points. The very idea that MAAL and HSMO would jump into bed with the very people who have lied and cheated their way into power makes me wonder about the ethics of those two groups.

    As for being the way for Nixon to gain re-election, that all depends on how well we get across his betrayal. As a Democrat, I won't be voting for him or any other Democratic challenger who signed onto this travesty. I have been told that Robin Carnahan got fewer votes than Prop B. So I'm betting that Nixon has not thought this through. He's taking some BAD advice and I look forward to it costing him everything.

    Remember, Nixon is not just betraying the puppy mill dogs and the voters, he is betraying everyone across the US who buys a puppy mill dog only to have to spend thousands more in medical bills and/or watch their families suffer the pets' early deaths. That's a whole lot of betrayal and deserves a whole lot of payback.

    Once again, thanks for all your great work, Adam!