When it comes to canines that you can hold under your arm like a bag, nothing in the world beats Baxter. The maltee-poo may seem like a runty ball of white fuzz, but few animals bring more joy to a room. Whether it’s twirling around a handler like a maypole or asking for a belly rub, Baxter always takes the cake in the realm of cuteness. But Baxter’s life could have turned out differently. He was reportedly taken from a so-called puppy mill, and was apparently in rough shape when he was put up for sale. Thankfully, Baxter found a loving home in the suburbs of Chicago.
Missouri is an epicenter for dog breeders – 1,431 to be exact, according to the Kansas City Star. And that’s caused the animal rights groups to shepherd through a ballot item calling for restrictions on dog breeding.
The campaign manager of the group pushing the ballot item told the Star that the initiative places “animal-welfare” provisions into the “large-scale breeding equations.” The Star also reported that a K.C.-area animal shelter supports the initiative, noting that it deals with the consequences of breeders who run afoul of state regulations.
The folks in favor of the ballot item even enlisted the services of St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa. The animal lover manager appeared in an ad, stating that “thousands of dogs” are crammed into “filthy cages” for their entire lives at “large-scale puppy mills.” LaRussa went on to say in the ad that “no responsible pet owner would ever treat an animal like that." The back-and-forth on this issue has centered on whether the regulations go too far. The Star article noted that some opponents of the initiative are worried reputable breeders will go bust with the regulations concerning recreational space and nourishment. And while many of the provisions are already encased in state law, there is a new regulation slapping a limit on the amount of dogs a breeder can possess.
But one thing that’s not addressed within the proposition is how it will be enforced. The Springfield News-Leader refused to endorse the initiative because it argued there’s nothing in it that provides more funds for actually following through on the regulations. That’s been the problem that yanked the issue into critical mass in the first place.
And with the state looking down a big budgetary hole, it’s unlikely the legislature will dole out more money for state inspectors. And with a number of municipal and county jurisdictions in similarly stressful budgetary situations, it’s an open question whether local officials will be able to do more than they are already doing. It’s possible that this proposition’s passage could put more pressure to break up breeders who run afoul of the law. But no matter how you may love that pooch that sits in your lap or walks by your side, the success or failure of this ballot item may not be the be-all-end-all solution to the problem. It’s going to take the continued efforts of state and local officials to keep the ball rolling on this issue.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Jason Rosenbaum is a freelance journalist. He covered state politics in Jefferson City for Missouri Lawyers Media, the St. Louis Beacon, the Columbia Business Times and the Columbia Tribune. He also is a regular commentator for KBIA, an NPR affiliate based in Columbia.