However, this saintly figure may be better known to television viewers as the elderly woman in footage from a July 2010 KTVI-TV (Channel 2) news report. In it, she's wagging a finger from the passenger seat as her husband, Herman, accelerates, hitting the news camera with their vehicle. "This is private property!" she cries, shooing away reporter Chris Hayes.

The Schindlers (and, by extension, their breeding and brokering business, Mettoville Kennels, also known as Teacher's Pets) received a "dishonorable mention" in an October 2010 report from the Humane Society of the United States titled, "Missouri's Dirty Dozen: A Report on Some of the Worst Puppy Mills in Missouri." The Schindlers, the Humane Society concluded, may be running Missouri's largest puppy mill.

"The Schindlers' facility has racked up more than 35 pages of USDA violations in recent years and more than 133 Missouri Department of Agriculture violations, yet they remain both federally and state licensed," reads the report.

Located a two-hour drive northwest of St. Louis, Mexico, Missouri, held one of the state’s largest dog-breeding operations. Until October 2010, the entrance to Herman and Bonnie Schindler’s property, seen from the county road at right, was home to nearly 1,000 dogs.
Kase Wickman
Located a two-hour drive northwest of St. Louis, Mexico, Missouri, held one of the state’s largest dog-breeding operations. Until October 2010, the entrance to Herman and Bonnie Schindler’s property, seen from the county road at right, was home to nearly 1,000 dogs.
In KTVI-TV reporter Chris Hayes’ infamous summer run-in with the Schindlers outside their property, Herman Schindler appeared to accelerate, striking the
news camera with his car.
courtesy KTVI-TV (Channel 2)
In KTVI-TV reporter Chris Hayes’ infamous summer run-in with the Schindlers outside their property, Herman Schindler appeared to accelerate, striking the news camera with his car.

Excerpts of a July 2010 USDA inspection report detail emaciated dogs, puncture wounds, oozing sores and a newborn husky whose tail had been bitten off by its mother in the hours immediately after its birth, leaving a raw wound. In another excerpted inspection, USDA personnel reported a burning sensation in their eyes and strong odors emanating from areas where the dogs were housed.

There's no middle ground when it comes to the Schindlers. To hear their friends tell it, they've been demonized by aggressive animal-rights groups, working in concert with a sympathetic media. Their critics say instead that a lax system allowed the couple to prosper for years, even as the dogs in their care suffered.

And how you feel about the Schindlers is likely a good indication of how you feel about Prop B. If you support the couple, you probably think it's an overreaching initiative forced on Missouri by deep-pocketed activists; if you oppose them, you surely believe it's humane and long overdue.

But the truth about the Schindlers, just like almost everything about the dog-breeding business in Missouri, is more complicated than it seems.


In late October, just one week before the election where voters would consider Prop B, a joint poll from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV (Channel 4) showed that 69 percent of Missouri voters supported Prop B, with a 4 percent margin of error. A Post-Dispatch story announcing the results called Prop B a "virtual lock." Not, the paper added, that "protecting puppies is an especially hard sell."

However, on election night, things didn't seem so easy. At the Humane Society of Missouri's election night "party," in fact, there seemed to be little reason for celebration. Early in the night, 63 percent of the vote was against Prop B.

Every two minutes, when new results came in, the room held its collective breath, hoping for the gap to narrow, for the "yes" votes to overtake the "no." For hours, murmurs of "at least we tried" echoed in the room.

"People get confused, and confused voters vote no," Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, intoned from the podium. His early-evening pep talk sounded more like a concession speech.

By the end of the night, the "yes" on Prop B votes pulled ahead, but only by 60,320 votes — 51.6 percent of the vote.

The fact that Prop B came so close to failing is somewhat astonishing. The "Yes on B" campaign raised more than $4 million, more than three-quarters of it donated by national organizations and out-of-state boosters. Tony La Russa filmed a TV commercial; actress Betty White lent her voice to recorded phone calls to Missouri voters in the days before the election.

By contrast, the anti-Prop B Alliance for Truth raised a pittance, just shy of $122,000, almost all of it in small donations from Missouri donors. Spending less than 4 percent of their opposition's money, the group still came within arm's reach of defeating the measure.

Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation and a key architect of Prop B, says that about a month before the election, proponents began to worry about what had previously been predicted to be a landslide victory.

"There's just been so much misinformation and fear mongering going on that it has everybody worked up, especially in the rural areas," he says. "There was just a huge campaign to try to give the impression that this was going to end agriculture in the state, and in some of the flyers and brochures that the opposition was putting out, they had a picture of a family with a dog, and the dog was whited out. It said that if Prop B passes, they're going to take your dog away from you."

Some voters he spoke with, Baker says, worried that the price of eggs would rise as a result of the law or that hunting would soon be outlawed.

"As you could tell from the voting results, it really had people in rural communities very concerned and scared. Now they've got their legislators scared, and I do think there will be some serious efforts to repeal or to amend Proposition B."

Indeed, today, it remains to be seen just how much of a mandate Prop B's 3 percent victory margin can command.

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