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State holds nationwide puppy mills, breeders title

By Greg Salzer

JEFFERSON CITY -- Strong odor attracted animal control officer's attention at a house five years ago. What they discovered was a basement dog breeding operation.

Poohder, a Yorkie who weighs less than four pounds, was one of 81 dogs rescued from the basement puppy mill five years ago.

Pam Paxton, an animal control officer with Boonville animal control, brought her dog Poohder to the capital April 12.

Supporters and members of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation (MAAL) were at the capital to promote animal rights and lobby against legislation they felt was harmful for animals.

Of legislation currently pending in the General Assembly, Paxton found House Bill 666, sponsored by Representative Jim Guest (R-King City), to be of greatest interest.

The bill would criminalize taking pictures of animal production facilities, including puppy mills.

"Nobody should trespass," Paxton said, "but to make it a felony to photograph the health and well being of animals is wrong."

This is the fourth year similar legislation has been introduced.

Supporters of the bill say the legislation is designed to address potential terrorist attack concerns on Missouri food supply. They believe terrorists would take pictures of potential targets as the first step in a campaign of terror.

Other aspects of the bill further criminalize the introduction of pathogen or disease in or near an animal production facility.

Paxton and Joan Banks, Petfinder.com representative, pointed out Missouri leads the nation in the number of commercial dog and cat breeders and dealers.

Taking pictures of puppy mills is often the only way to document conditions.

According information provided by Missouri Animal Watch, Missouri had 1,312 USDA licensed commercial breeders and 161 broker/dealers in 2004.

The state with the next highest number of breeders and dealers in 2004 was Kansas with 441 breeders and 64 broker/dealers. Oklahoma was a close third with 436 and 64, respectively.

"We need to oppose the photo ban bill," Paxton said.