SENECA, Mo. — When authorities raided J.B.’s Precious Puppies, they discovered more than 200 dogs standing in their own excrement, crammed three and four to a cage. Some were so sickly they were missing clumps of hair. The skeletal remains of puppies and adult dogs were found inside pet-food bags.
Missouri is home to more than 4,000 shoddy and inhumane dog-breeding businesses, by one estimate. But the state is trying to shed its reputation, with the chief of the Agriculture Department pledging to crack down on bad breeders. "Missouri led the nation in licensing breeders. Let’s lead the nation in putting unlicensed breeders out of business,” Agriculture Director Jon Hagler said. Missouri has been No. 1 in puppy mills for decades, with fly-by-night breeders selling pups churned out by dogs that spend their lives in cages. Since taking office in January, the agriculture chief has been working to better enforce a 1992 program for protecting animals cared for by breeders. He has named a new program coordinator, asked for a re-examination of old cases, ordered a review of internal procedures, and stepped up inspections and the issuing of citations to violators. His new Operation Bark Alert allows people to report unlicensed breeders directly to him by e-mail. Tim Rickey of the Humane Society of Missouri, said he is encouraged by what the efforts. "They are working harder to shut unlicensed facilities down. They are seeking prosecutions. This is all new and unproven,” Rickey said.