Joe the Plumber, Tea Partiers Defend Missouri Puppy Mills

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Two years after coming to national attention during John McCain's presidential bid, Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher is keeping busy. His cause now isn't tax policy, but puppy availability. Wurzelbacher has joined up with a Missouri-based group called the Alliance for Truth, which hopes to defeat legislation that would overhaul conditions in the state's thousands of puppy mills--facilities where dogs are bred to be sold as pets, often in cramped or unsanitary settings.

The legislation has the approval of the Humane Society of the United States, but Wurzelbacher, the Alliance for Truth, and some local Tea Party advocates view it as a case of unwelcome government intrusion.

  • Radicals Want to Make It Harder to Buy Puppies, maintains the Alliance for Truth. The group claims that the Humane Society "seeks only to raise the cost of breeding dogs," and in an interview with Talking Points Memo, a spokeswoman for the Alliance equated the Humane Society with fringe animal-rights activists who believe "ownership of an animal is slavery" and that "animals should have attorney representation." Wurzelbacher goes even further, writing on the Alliance's website that the Humane Society is simply "lying to our citizens and taking our constitutional rights away – one state at a time."

  • We Just Want Good Conditions for Dogs, insists Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society, in an editorial at The Huffington Post. Pacelle lists some of the health violations observed at Missouri puppy mills, then adds that if the legislation passes, it will address "conditions leading to distress and suffering in dogs, such as painful wire flooring, lack of proper veterinary care, overcrowded cages, and scant protection from the elements." The claim that the Humane Society frowns upon pet ownership, says Pacelle, is "laughable and absurd."
  • Is This a Joke?  At the Los Angeles Times, Patt Morrison can't shake the suspicion that someone is being punk'd. "Come on, 'fess up, Comedy Central -- did you sneak a plant into Missouri and start up this group just to gin up good material for your writers?" Getting serious, she adds that "humane organizations would love for every middle-class American family to be a dog owner, and there's a really easy way, a cheap way, to make that happen -- without having to pay the hundreds or even thousands of dollars that puppy mills can charge per pet. Millions of American-born dogs are waiting for you... in shelters and with rescue groups all across America."
  • Let's Go Ahead and Use the S-Word  After rolling his eyes at the Alliance's complaints, Wonkette's Jack Stuef cranks the analogy machine up to 11. "This is yet another big-government intrusion into our ownership of living beings," he writes. "It's like that slavery debacle all over again."

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