An October 2010 list published by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) called “Missouri’s Dirty Dozen” included the kennel of Mary Ann Smith. The list, which purportedly listed, “some of the worst licensed kennels in the state,” was part of a public relations campaign designed in some measure to urge voter support of Missouri Proposition B, a 2010 ballot initiative that sought to limit the number of dogs a person could own.
[The AKC urged opposition to Proposition B, reflecting that responsible breeders cannot be defined by the number of dogs kept, or even whether they make a profit in selling dogs. Instead, responsible breeders are characterized by the quality of care and conditions that they provide their dogs and the quality (health, temperament and breed type) of the puppies they produce. Nevertheless, the proposition proved successful at the ballot box, with urban voters overwhelmingly supporting the measure and rural voters overwhelmingly opposing it.]
Ms. Smith sued HSUS, claiming that their statements about her kennel were false, scandalous, and defamatory. The lower court dismissed the claims, but a state appellate court reversed that decision on June 29. The case has been remanded and will now be heard by the lower court.
The case is interesting not only because it demonstrates the strength and effort needed to defend against misinformation generated by radical animal rights groups, but also because the plaintiff is the mother of U.S. Congressman Jason Smith. Representative Smith has long been a champion of agricultural interests, both as a state legislative leader in Missouri and since his election to Congress in 2013.
Has the animal rights PR machine picked on the wrong person this time? Time will tell, but rest assured that AKC’s Government Relations Department will continue to monitor developments in the case and will report as they warrant.
For more information, read Courthouse News Service’s article on the case: http://www.courthousenews.com/2015/07/17/congressmans-kennel-owning-mom-wins-in-court.htm.
The full opinion of the Missouri appellate court can be read at: http://www.courts.mo.gov/file.jsp?id=87865.