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Few opponents of measure to regulate dog breeding protest outside St. Louis office of Humane Societ

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 14, 2010 - Only a handful of opponents of Proposition B, the Nov. 2 ballot measure to regulate dog breeding in Missouri, showed up Tuesday night for a protest outside the Humane Society offices on Macklind Avenue in St. Louis.

Inside, supporters of the measure -- Proposition B -- heard from national and state leaders of animal-rights groups, who said passage of the ballot measure would have national repercussions. Jill Buckley of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals noted Missouri's reputation as "the puppy mill capital of the United States."

"We're almost there,'' Buckley said, referring to Proposition B. "We can almost smell it and taste it."

Proposition B, the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act," would impose restrictions on what has been a controversial industry for decades in Missouri. The national Humane Society is solidly behind the measure, which sets care standards for commercial breeders who own more than 10 dogs.

The ASPCA and national and state Humane Society groups are part of the chief pro-Prop B coalition -- Missourians for the Protection of Dogs/Yes on Prop B.

Meanwhile, the opposition was circulating fliers during Sunday's Tea Party rally by the Arch, as a signal that opponents are gearing up. A combative town hall was held Monday in Columbia, Mo.

Critics, who have set up a website, contend that the proposal is a first step toward regulating agriculture in the state. Organizers of tonight's 6 p.m. protest call Proposition B a "very deceptive piece of legislation" and part of "the sinister agenda of the radical animal rights group."

Among other things, fliers circulated Sunday asserted the Proposition B could lead to outlawing pets. However, tonight's protest was outside the Humane Society's pet-adoption facility.

Barbara Schmitz, a spokeswoman for the Missourians for the Protection of Dogs group, said the allegations are inaccurate and aimed at distracting voters "from what the real issues are."

Her camp isn't disturbed by the protests, she added. "I view it as validation of what we're trying to achieve."

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, a Democrat seeking re-election this fall, sent out a statement this afternoon underscoring his support for the measure. Dooley and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay joined supporters on Monday in Jefferson City.

In a statement today, Dooley said, "This week I’m announcing my public support of Proposition B to bring an end to puppy mills in Missouri. ... This November we can put an end to the suffering of animals sentenced to a bleak life of breeding in Missouri puppy mills."  

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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