JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Recent ads from the Humane Society Legislative Fund attacking Chris Koster do not sit well with Bob Baker.
In recent radio advertisements, the HSLF claims Koster is “in the pockets of the puppy mill crowd,” while fliers sent in the mail say the candidate is bad for animal owners.
Baker, the Executive Director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, says the recent attacks against the Democratic candidate are more than simply incorrect, they’re flat out lies. He says Koster has been “terrific” in fighting the puppy mill problem in the Show Me State.
MAAL does not endorse candidates, but Baker says that they’re concerned about the message that the HSLF and HSUS are trying to spread.
“When there is a candidate who has done so much for animals, we don’t think their record should be tarnished, slandered or totally distorted,” he said. “I’m just concerned that voters are going to get the wrong message. HSUS does have some concerns on Koster’s policies are farm animals, but I say examine those issues separately. Don’t tarnish his reputation on puppy mills because you don’t like his position on farm animals.”
Baker supports his statement by pointing to Koster’s record. One of Koster’s first actions as attorney general was to set up Operation Bark Alert back in 2009, which investigates facilities that may be unlicensed.
He also fought for a new law that allows the Attorney General’s office the authority to prosecute dog breeders found to be in violation of the laws, which until he took office had always been left to local prosecutors.
Koster supported Prop B, the anti-puppy mill ballot initiative, and when that was repealed by the state legislature, he worked toward the passage of the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act. Under Koster, the Attorney General’s office also created the Canine Cruelty Prevention Unit.
Kathy Warnick, the president of the Humane Society of Missouri, has also defended Koster’s record on the puppy mill amendment.
“The Humane Society of Missouri wishes to reiterate our sincere gratitude to Mr. Koster for his support of Proposition B strengthening regulations for commercial dog breeding facilities,” she said in a letter. “Under Mr. Koster’s leadership, the Attorney General’s Office has vigorously enforced the subsequent Canine Cruelty Prevention Act (CCPA) of 2011.”
The Humane Society of Missouri is a separate entity from the HSUS and the HSLF.
“The HSUS actively opposed the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act, and I think they’re upset because they have a hard time taking credit for its success,” Baker said.
According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, there are now 50,000 fewer breeding dogs confined in puppy mills here in Missouri since Koster took over as the attorney general.
In fact, the HSLF wrote in a fundraising letter in 2015 that the state’s law is “one of the strongest anti-puppy mill statutes in the nation”. The same document also states that since the statute became law, some of the worst offenders in Missouri have faced heavy fines and have had licenses revoked.
That same letter, signed by HSLF President Michael Markarian, praises Missouri for their work to improve the laws regulating puppy mills, and finishes by asking for monetary donations to the HSLF.
Baker says that he cannot believe that the HSLF is criticizing a candidate who has fought so hard to help improve those very laws protecting animals.
“He’s been a champion. No attorney general in this country has done what he has done to protect dogs,” Baker stated. “Maybe on the issue of farm animals, they are right in criticizing him, but let the people know about the issues you have problems with.”
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.