The bill is considered to be a compromise between the state’s dog breeders and Missouri animal-welfare groups.
“I am extremely pleased that agriculture and animal-welfare groups from across our state have worked together to reach a Missouri solution to this complex issue,” Nixon said. “The Missouri solution upholds the will of voters by protecting the welfare of dogs, while also ensuring the future of Missouri agriculture.”
Last November voters approved Proposition B, known as the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, by a narrow 51-49 percent margin. It would set strict new dog breeding regulations, including a limit on the number of dogs breeders may own, requirements for larger animal enclosures and access to the outdoors, stronger veterinary oversight and criminal penalties for violators.
Some breeders fought Prop B, saying it would force responsible, law-abiding facilities out of business. Agricultural groups suggested the law eventually could threaten other areas of animal agriculture.
Shortly after the ballot question was approved, state lawmakers brought forward S.B. 113 to remove its strictest provisions, such as the limit on the number of dogs a breeder can have and the specific space requirements for enclosures. In addition, it removed a provision that required a veterinarian to provide prompt treatment of “any illness or injury.”
The compromise bill, SB 161, also removes the limit on the number of dogs breeders can own but it requires a dog to be promptly treated by a vet for “any serious illness or injury” and phases in the space requirements for animal enclosures.
By Jan. 1, 2012, any existing facility must have enclosures that are two times as large as what is required under current law and provide “constant and unfettered access” to an attached outdoor run.
National animal-welfare groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, criticized the compromise as “an attack on the will of the people.”
But the compromise was praised by the Humane Society of Missouri.
“Today is a great day for dogs living their entire lives in service to Missouri’s commercial breeding industry,” said Kathy Warnick, president of the Humane Society of Missouri. “For decades, the Humane Society of Missouri has been on the front lines of investigating reports of substandard care in Missouri’s puppy mills, rescuing dogs from the worst of the worst and spending millions of dollars nursing them back to health and finding them new homes. Immediately, these dogs will be assured hands-on veterinary care, continuous clean water, nutritious food twice daily and, within a very short time, considerably more space in which to live. We also are very pleased additional significant financial and human resources will be available for enforcement of these improved standards.”