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April 25, 2011

Missouri Teen Campaigns for Prop B

For high school junior Maria Smith, helping puppy mill dogs is a top priority

  • Maria helped get out the vote for Prop B last November—and is still fighting today to keep the measure to protect dogs in effect. M. Smith

Maria Smith, a junior at Blue Springs South High School in Missouri, isn't just standing by as Proposition B, an initiative to prevent cruelty in puppy mills, is dismantled.

Along with her student club PAWS (Protection of Animal Welfare Society), Maria worked tirelessly to help get Prop B passed last year—and is now fighting to keep the voter-supported ballot initiative in effect. We asked Maria to tell us more about her efforts.

Why is Prop B so important?

Proposition B is important for a very simple reason: what we breed in Missouri puppy mills does not stay in Missouri. Puppies bred in Missouri mills end up sold online and in pet stores anywhere in the country. For a state that churns out nearly a million puppies a year under minimal, almost nonexistent, standards of care, change that brings some meaningful regulations is good and necessary.

How would Prop B help dogs in puppy mills?

Missouri dog breeders have been allowed to make a profit off the defenseless dogs and their misery for decades. The majority of Missouri voters want to introduce some humane standards. 

Proposition B requires dog breeders to provide necessary veterinary care to sick dogs and puppies and to house mother dogs in cages large enough for them to turn around, which, truly, should be a no-brainer. No humane person would want to imprison a dog in a cage that is only six inches longer than its body for its entire life! In addition, the breeding females may have a rest period between breeding cycles, which is only the humane thing to do. Such provisions are rudimentary survival standards that should have been in place for decades.

Leading up to the November 2010 election, how did you spread the word about Prop B?

In the initial stage of the campaign, I made posters and flyers. With my friends from PAWS, we distributed them through local businesses and coffee shops.

I organized an information booth at the Crossroads Art District in Kansas City. PAWS teamed up with students from a university animal law society to pass out hundreds of flyers to visitors and answer questions.  Our club also held a bracelet sale and donated the proceeds to the campaign, and we collected endorsements and donations.

I wrote a letter to The Kansas City Star about the dogs’ sad journeys from Missouri puppy mills to local animal shelters. I also helped to write an article about Prop B for my school newspaper.

With two weeks left before the November elections, PAWS picketed the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, which is a usual spot for political advocates to show support. I got into a heated debate with one of the opposition leaders who approached me. We also made the local TV news along with Dale Bartlett of The HSUS. We thoroughly enjoyed showing support for Prop B!

Voters passed Prop B, but the Missouri legislature immediately began efforts to repeal it. What have you been doing to help defend Prop B?

I have been contacting legislators in person, via emails, letters, and phone calls—and urging everyone I can to do the same! PAWS collected dozens of letters from constituents and sent them to legislators, calling on them to uphold the people’s vote on Prop B. I also sent an open letter to my senator before the Senate vote on Senate Bill 113, one of the bills that would repeal the crux of Prop B. He voted against the bill, but, unfortunately, it still passed.

I wrote an opinion column that was published in The Kansas City Star (Feb. 8, 2011), and I participated in the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation’s Advocacy Day and, most recently, Humane Day on April 12 at the capitol. I spoke to representatives and, once again, my senator about their vote on SB 113.

Although many responsible representatives promised to uphold the will of Missouri voters and not support legislation that seeks to repeal significant provisions of Prop B, SB 113 garnered the needed number of votes. It now rests in the hands of Governor Jay Nixon, along with the fate of Missouri’s dogs.

This week I wrote an open letter, which is signed by 17 members of PAWS, to Gov. Nixon, asking him not give into the pressures, political or special interest, and not to sign SB 113 into law because it guts the crucial provisions of Prop B.

Add your voice! Contact Governor Nixon and urge him to veto SB 113 >> 

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