Dog breeders bring big revenue to Missouri

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COLUMBIA - A new study released by the University of Missouri found dog breeding brought in more than $58 million in 2013.

The Commercial Agriculture Program found the majority of breeders' profits come from the sale of puppies. Critics contend too many of those pets come from what are known as puppy mills, where dogs are kept in unsanitary, cramped spaces for the sole purpose of breeding as many puppies as possible.

But many licensed breeders say they are being unfairly tarnished by the reputation of puppy mills.

Laura Jennings bought her purebred Italian greyhound, Maggie, from a breeder when she was a puppy.

"I couldn't take the gamble of possibly getting a dog that wasn't a good match for me by getting one at the Humane Society or something like that and getting a puppy was important as well."

Jennings worked at the Central Missouri Humane Society and said she wants people to be cautious when buying animals from a breeder.

"If anybody is going out to buy from a breeder you need to make sure you can see the facilities," Jennings said. "And ask to see the mom and dad. If they are able to pull both out that's a good sign."

MU conducted its financial research from surveys sent out to licensed dog breeders. The dog breeding industry stimulated about $3 million in state taxes and local taxes in 2013, according to the study.

The Humane Society of the United States listed 22 dog breeding facilities in Missouri on its list of 101 worst puppy mills. The Missouri Department of Agriculture has a Web form for reporting questionable breeding practices.

The American Kennel Club offers online resoures for finding a reputable breeder.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture regulates dog breeding. All licensed breeders are investigated once a year by animal care inspectors of the ACFA program.

(Editor's Note: This story has been updated to provide context on the debate over dog breeding in Missouri and links to resources.)