Calls to repeal the bill came just days after the ballot issue.
Jefferson City, Mo.
-- Calls to repeal Proposition B came just days after the ballot issue, aimed at bringing an end to puppy mills in Missouri, passed by an estimated 3.2 percent margin on Nov. 2.
The Missouri Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) was opposed to the issue before it headed to voters, but has stayed mum on efforts to repeal the new law. MVMA officials did not return phone calls by press time, but said in earlier statements that it did not believe Proposition B would be a solution to the state’s animal welfare concerns.
“Our state has good existing laws, but those laws need enforcement. Cases of neglect and bad conditions have come mainly from unlicensed breeders who are not overseen by state inspection, MVMA states in its official position on Proposition B. “Passing blanket initiatives without careful consideration of the facts and ignoring existing law is not in the best interest of the dogs we are trying to protect. The MVMA believes the answer lies in adequate funding for more inspections and better enforcement.”
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), on the other hand, already has issued a statement, expressing its concern over the passage of Proposition B and whether these types of laws are the best way to improve the quality of life for dogs.
“Unfortunately, Proposition B doesn’t do much to actually provide for the care of animals, but only sets limits on the number of animals that can be kept. And there is no research to show that limit laws, like Proposition B, actually do anything to improve the welfare of the animal,” says Dr. Ron Dehaven, chief executive officer of AVMA. “To help state and local governments design effective regulations, the AVMA has drafted model legislation that, if enacted, would actually improve the welfare of dogs at breeding facilities, animal shelters, retail pet stores and other types of operations.”
AVMA has routinely been opposed to state-by-state animal welfare movements that come in the form of ballot measures. The association says its model legislation serves animals of all forms in many settings, rather than focusing on piecemeal laws aimed at particular issues like puppy mills.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which frequently backs ballot measures aimed at animal welfare, worked to pass Proposition B and has taken a stand against lawmakers who suggest it should be repealed.
“The Missouri Constitution allows for citizen lawmaking, and the principle underlying it is majority rule. The will of the people should be respected -- even if the Farm Bureau and some lawmakers disagree with the decision,” HSUS Chief Executive Officer Wayne Pacelle states. “The fact is, a majority of the people of Missouri voted in favor of Proposition B. The measure was approved by a majority of voters in a majority of state House and Senate districts. That counts in a democracy. If you care about animal welfare, leave the dogs alone. If you care about democracy, let the law take effect and do not work to subvert it.”
Several lawmakers currently serving in the legislature, as well as those recently elected, have spoken out about repealing the law based on the fact that is will force legitimate operations out of business without regulating the ones causing the problem. But repealing the new law altogether is unlikely, says Representative-elect Mike Kelley.
The passage of Proposition B was due soley to votes in St. Louis and Kansas City, Kelley says. Finding common ground with Gov. Jay Nixon will be key to any repeal efforts, but watering down the effect of law is more likely than a full repeal, he says.
“Because Proposition B was a statutory change and not a constitutional amendment, it is subject to change by the legislature. If it had been a constitutional amendment, the only way it could be changed is by another public vote, Kelley says. “I believe an outright repeal of Proposition B is unlikely in that it might trigger a veto from Governor Nixon. I do think there are some areas which could be tweaked, such as the 50-dog limit and mandatory veterinary care for minor issues.”
According to Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, the group that sponsored Proposition B, Missouri is home to about 40 percent of the nation’s puppy mills and churns out about a million dogs per year. Proposition B was introduced after numerous attempts to amend existing welfare laws -- now 18 years old -- were unsuccessful. The group believes there are at least 3,000 unlicensed breeding facilities in addition to those that are overseen by the state’s 12 inspectors.
Meetings were scheduled between legislators and agriculture commodity groups in the week after the election, but the results of those meetings were not available by press time. The new legislative session in Missouri will begin in January, and Kelley says it’s likely that identical bills looking to modify Proposition B would be introduced in both the House and Senate at that time.