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      Koster protecting puppies

      Missouri has long been known as the puppy mill capital of the nation. Low regulation and a central location are reasons massive breeding operators have chosen the state, but that's all about to change according to Missouri Attorney General, Chris Koster. Until now, consumers who got ripped off by the large licensed and unlicensed operators had very few places to turn for answers. The problem has become so widespread, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's office has created a website. Now, when someone spends hundreds of dollars on a dog, only to find out it's sick, they can go to the site for information. Barbara Schmitz, with the Humane Society of the United States says it's a great step forward, "So the fact that the Attorney General has included a program where folks can call and comment about licensed facilities as well as unlicensed ones is a very good sign in our eyes". Barbara Schmitz says those calls use to go to the Humane Society, "They were unsuspecting consumers and they dealt with puppy mills, they purchased a sick puppy or a puppy that died shortly after purchase, and we've been dealing with those kind of complaints for a number of years". Koster's office put out this statement: "We have an obligation to protect the well being of animals, and Missouri has recognized that obligation by passing laws outlining acceptable standards for pet breeders and commercial pet dealers." Koster is talking about the "Canine Cruelty Prevention Act", which the governor signed into law back in April. The Act gives the Attorney General's Office the authority to file criminal charges for "canine cruelty," Koster's office can also seek civil penalties for offenders and enhanced penalties for repeat offenders.