released this week by the animal welfare group the Humane Society of the United States as home to “problem puppy mills.”
Kansas came in second.
The group said Missouri is home to 22 such breeding operations and Kansas has 13.
In 2010, about Missouri voters passed the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act” by a 52-48 percent margin that included a limit of 50 breeding dogs per business and put in new safeguard on how those operations were to be regulated.
In spring 2011, the General Assembly negated parts of that referendum with another law brokered by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon between agriculture and animal welfare groups in the state.
That law, trumpeted by Nixon as a compromise to improve the care of dogs while allowing breeders to stay in business, was criticized by many of the national groups that helped pass the anti-puppy mill referendum.
That voter-backed law set indoor floor space requirements at at least 25 square feet for small dogs, 30 square feet for medium-size dogs and 35 square-feet for large dogs. It was nullified by the Legislature.
Instead, lawmakers doubled Missouri’s previous minimum space requirement in 2012 and called for them to triple the previous standard by January 2016 for existing breeders. Wire flooring will also be banned in 2016. Those rules applied to existing breeders.
New dog-housing facilities now must comply with the tripled space requirements.
While the voter-approved law required at least one yearly exam with prompt treatment for any illness or injury, the superseding law changed that to two annual visual inspections that don’t need to be a hands-on exam. Ultimately, there must be one yearly exam and prompt treatment of a “serious illness or injury.”
Missouri law now also requires dogs to have continuous access to water and access to food at least twice daily. The ballot measure called for food only once daily, but it had tighter restrictions on keeping the water supplied to the animals clean.
The Humane Society cited examples of what it believed was animal abuse at 101 dog breeders across the country.
But it suggested some improvements in animal care.
“The news isn’t all bad,” the report said. “Part of the reason Missouri is high on the list of problem dealers is because state inspectors appear to be documenting problems at substandard kennels more carefully.”
The problems cited at the various dog breeders ranged from using guns to euthanize animals to puppies losing hair or having bad teeth.