Missouri Puppy Miller, Congressman’s Mother, Loses Defamation Suit Against HSUS

The Humane Society of the United States and Missourians for the Protection of Dogs were facing a defamation lawsuit brought against them by Mary Ann Smith, a Missouri puppy-mill owner.

Ms. Smith, who happens to be the mother of U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, who represents the Eighth Congressional District in southeast and south central MO, claimed that the HSUS defamed her when, in 2010, they called her kennel one of the “worst puppy mills in Missouri.”

In April, 2017, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against the mill owner, stating that she can’t sue advocacy groups for defamation. That court upheld a circuit court decision, which previously dismissed the same suit.

In 2010, the HSUS had released a report in support of a dog protection ballot initiative, known as Proposition B, the Canine Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.  The measure would place caps on breeding dog ownership and set parameters for acceptable dog care. The HSUS reviewed a number of kennels when gathering support for this initiative, publishing a 27-page report called “Missouri’s Dirty Dozen.”

In their review of Smith’s Kennel, inspection reports detailed one or more dogs with cherry eye, cysts from walking on cage floors, overgrown nails, bloody feces, infectious matter in their eyes and hair loss. The dog were exposed to extreme temperatures without adequate shelter, had inadequate space to turn and move around freely, and missing veterinarian treatment records.

In November 2010, Missouri voters approved Proposition B, following publication of the report.  Protect the Harvest, a group of businessmen who are anti-animal welfare, statedthe vote eventually passed because many Missouri voters did not know exactly for what they were voting.”

Ms. Smith son, Rep. Smith, the 2011 Missouri House party whip, sponsored a repeal bill in the state legislature against Proposition B, before it went into effect in November 2011. Rep. Smith was listed in state records as a co-owner of her kennel.  Protect the Harvest strongly supports Rep. Smith.

Though advocates fought back against the repeal, the Missouri Legislature removed the cap on allowable kennel headcount and loosened additional requirements, favoring the Kennel over the voters choice.

In their recent decision in favor of the HSUS and Missourians, the Supreme Court, noting the history of more than a decade of repeat USDA violations at Smith’s Kennel, said that the advocacy group’s statements were “subjective assessments not provable as false”, therefore were not seen as a defamation.

May 15th has been dedicated by the HSUS as a Day of Giving to fight puppy mills.  You can join a protest or sign petitions.  Find out more by checking out HSUS’s website or join any of these groups: Say No to Puppy Mills, Buster’s Vision, The Puppy Mill Project or United Against Puppy Mills.  If you have additional anti-mill groups you work with, including those fighting to shut down kitten mills, please add them in your comments below so that others may join you.

Lisa Blanck

Writing articles about animals for more than 20 years, she dove into the rescue world with the onset of Hurricane Katrina. As an outspoken advocate for animals, she's covered everything from paws to hooves, fins to feathers. She was the Orlando Animal Rescue and Worldwide Animal Issues Examiner for seven years. She's always thinking pawsitive, looking for ways to improve the lives of animals. She lives with one dog, one cat and one patient human. She welcomes your suggestions and is thrilled to be part of the ShelterMe.tv family!

7 comments

  1. Lisa Blanck says:

    If you are an advocate living in Tampa, Florida area, or know of some, there is a meeting on Wednesday to help stamp out puppy mill sales in that city. Here’s the deets: On May 3rd Hillsborough County Commissioners will vote on a Retail Pet Sales ordinance that will ban the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores. wear a red shirt and get to the meeting early. The meeting starts at 9am—please be there before that to sign in. Sign up to speak as soon as you get there. A simple “I support the Retail Pet Sale ordinance without a grandfather clause” is all that you have to say. there are a number of pet stores that are trying to be grandfathered in so they can keep selling their mill dogs!

    9:00am on Wednesday, May 3rd
    Commissioners Board Room
    601 E. Kennedy Blvd, 2nd Floor
    Tampa, FL 33602
    813-272-5660

  2. Valerie says:

    I don’t know of an organization that rescues cats/kittens from mills. Please let me know who they are. I want to follow them.

    1. Lisa Blanck says:

      I know Alley Cat Allies is one of the leading cat welfare organizations, but I did a huge search and couldn’t find any group who go specifically to cat/kitten mills, thhttps://shelterme.tv/wp-admin/edit-comments.php?p=7620#comments-formough I did find individual busts/arrests of backyard breeders.

  3. Amy says:

    Bailing Out Benji
    National Mill Dog Rescue

    1. Lisa Blanck says:

      Thanks, Amy! I shared them on my personal page as well as my Pet Rescue Examiner page!

      1. Arlene says:

        Harley’s page

        1. Lisa Blanck says:

          thanks for the tip, Arlene! I did a search and I hope this is what you mean: Harley’s Dream web page and Harley, the FB page.

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