Missouri again atop Humane Society’s 2024 Horrible Hundred report

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Missouri continues to have a bad track record when it comes to puppy mills. — Photo from Dawn Boyles and The Missouri Times

Missouri’s murky and complicated past with puppy mills has resurfaced once again with the release of the Humane Society’s 2024 Horrible Hundred report.

According to the Humane Society, the report is a “list of known, problematic puppy breeding and/or puppy brokering facilities” across the country and it ranks states based on how many of these 100 facilities are in each state.

Missouri has topped the list every year since the report’s inception in 2012 and this year’s report is no different. The Show Me State is at the top of the 2024 list with a reported 23 out of the 100. Ohio came in second with 20 and Iowa was third with 15.

17 of the 23 were listed as repeat offenders, meaning they appeared on at least one of the previous reports. But many have appeared on more than one of the past reports. One of the Missouri breeders appeared in this report for the 9th time.

Although Missouri has topped the list again, some progress has been made since the last report.

At least one of the Missouri breeders that appeared on the 2023 report dropped their state and federal license, effectively closing their doors and not appearing on the 2024 report. According to the 2023 report, the breeder’s offenses go back to 2008, predating the first Horrible Hundred report by years.

Earlier this year in January, almost 100 dogs were reduced from an unlicensed breeder, Sho-Me Labradors, in St. James. Sho-Me Labradors appeared on the 2023 Horrible Hundred, their 5th time appearing on the report. The report also mentioned that the breeder had 80 dogs removed from them a few years before the 2023 report.

“Missouri remains atop the Horrible Hundred list because we lack meaningful penalties to change how offending puppy mills operate. Fines of a couple of hundred dollars simply do not dissuade many of these operations from continuing with unsafe and filthy kennels, withholding proper veterinary care, or ignoring severe medical issues like the puppy who died from an easily avoidable and treatable lice infestation. Without action from the legislature to ramp up enforcement and penalties, we will continue to maintain our place as the state with the most puppy mills in the Horrible Hundred,” said Missouri State Director of the Humane Society Cody Atkinson.

Missouri does have penalties for breeders who mistreat their animals. However, the effectiveness of these penalties has been called into question by activists. The Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Animal Care Program is in charge of inspecting licensed breeders in the state. According to the Humane Society, many owners dodge inspections multiple times. One of the Missouri breeders reportedly dodged five inspections in a row last year. When the kennels are eventually inspected, violations usually result in a warning or a small fine.

The controversy surrounding Missouri’s puppy mills is not new. The debate has spanned over a decade. Back in 2010, voters had an opportunity to vote on the Missouri Dog Breeding Regulation Act or Proposition B. The proposition aimed to install tougher regulations on dog breeders in the state.

Proposition B passed 51.59% to 48.41%. But in the spring of 2011, the proposition was ultimately cut back by the Missouri General Assembly.

During this session, puppy mill-related legislation appeared once again. Rep. Ben Baker and Sen. Justin Brown both put forward the same legislation (HB 2265 and SB 937) in their respective chambers that would bar local governments from banning or restricting pet stores. Activists claimed this preemptive ban would weaken a local government’s ability to react to pet stores working with puppy mills.

Both bills remained in committee as the 2024 session ended

The full Horrible Hundred 2024 report can be found here.

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