Ohio and Missouri Ballots Need Veterinary Leadership

February 9, 2010

As experts in animal health and well-being, the public looks to the veterinary profession for leadership on animal welfare issues. Two new statewide ballot initiatives—one in Ohio and another in Missouri—now provide a clear opportunity for veterinarians to fulfill that professional duty by publicly supporting basic animal welfare reforms.

Both ballot initiatives were launched after efforts to pass these essential reforms stalled in the state legislature due to opposition from the animal-use industries.

HSVMA urges veterinarians who are licensed in either of these states to learn more about these initiatives and join us in endorsing these modest—yet critical—animal welfare measures.

Ohioans for Humane Farms

Ohioans for Humane Farms recently submitted a petition for a ballot initiative that would provide basic welfare improvements for farm animals in the state. Currently, 27 million egg-laying hens, 170,000 breeding pigs, and tens of thousands of veal calves are suffering in extreme confinement in Ohio's factory farms. They live in cages so restrictive that the animals can barely move, and in some cases, they can't even turn around for nearly their whole lives. Additionally, inhumane methods of killing sick and injured animals (such as hanging pigs, execution-style, with chains as revealed in one Ohio case) are considered legal in the state, and calves too sick or injured even to stand and walk can still be transported to slaughter for the human food supply.

Calves in veal crate
Veal calves are often kept in extremely confining crates.
Farm Sanctuary

The Ohio ballot measure, targeted for the November 2010 election, would address these most egregious forms of cruelty by requiring the newly created Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to adopt, within six years, the following minimum standards:

  • Require that calves raised for veal, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens are able to stand up, lie down, turn around and extend their limbs;
  • Prevent inhumane methods of farm animal euthanasia, such as strangulation by hanging, and require that euthanasia methods for pigs and cattle be deemed acceptable by the American Veterinary Medical Association;
  • Prohibit "downer cows" from being transported to slaughter plants for human consumption.

There is broad precedent for these science-based reforms. In fact, Michigan recently became the latest state to adopt similar reforms to provide farm animals with more space to turn around and extend their limbs by passing a measure in its state legislature in 2009. Similar laws also have been enacted in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine and Oregon.

The Ohio petition was submitted by Ohio voters representing 48 counties, and is already supported by a broad coalition of groups including HSVMA, The Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, Ohio SPCA, Ohio Sierra Club, Toledo Area Humane Society, Geauga Humane Society, Humane Society of Greater Dayton, Ohio League of Humane Voters, Center for Food Safety, United Farm Workers, Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Read more about the Ohio campaign and download an endorsement form for veterinary professionals now.

Missourians for the Protection of Dogs

Missourians for the Protection of Dogs submitted The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act for the November 2010 statewide election in Missouri. This moderate measure would end some of the worst abuses at substandard puppy mills in Missouri by requiring large-scale breeding operations to provide each dog the basics of humane care.

Puppy mill dog
Puppy mill dogs get little, if any, medical attention.

Within the last few years, nationwide media exposure of the animal cruelty endemic to puppy mills has shocked mainstream America. Thousands of dogs have been pulled from squalid living conditions, cramped inside tiny wire cages where they have been forced to endure the stresses of constant breeding cycles. Many dogs have received little or no veterinary medical care and were allowed no opportunity for exercise, socialization or human interaction. Meanwhile, offspring have been sold online, in pet stores and directly to consumers with little regard for the dogs' health, genetic histories or future welfare.

Missouri has earned the dubious reputation as the "puppy mill capital of the United States" with an estimated 3,000 puppy mills breeding hundreds of thousands of dogs, far more than any other state. And multiple Missouri puppy mill raids have highlighted horrific conditions and the need for reform. Many veterinarians have seen first-hand the medical problems caused by this type of lifelong confinement and large-scale production when clients buy or rescue puppies from these conditions.

The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act tackles the most egregious abuses with common sense regulations. More specifically, it would require that each dog at a large-scale breeding facility be given:

  • sufficient food and clean water
  • necessary veterinary care
  • sufficient housing, including protection from the elements
  • sufficient space to turn and stretch freely, lie down and fully extend his or her limbs
  • regular exercise
  • adequate rest between breeding cycles

The measure would also limit the number of breeding dogs to 50 per facility, but does not apply to breeders with 10 or fewer intact female dogs.

The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act is spearheaded by Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, a broad coalition comprised of many individual citizens and animal protection organizations including the Humane Society of Missouri, the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and The Humane Society of the United States. It is endorsed by HSVMA.

Read more about The Puppy Mill Prevention Cruelty Act and download an endorsement form for veterinary professionals now.