JEFFERSON CITY — Lawmakers on Wednesday rolled back voter-approved restrictions on Missouri dog breeders and passed new rules that supporters say will target puppy mills without harming legitimate breeders.
The legislation now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon, who declined to say whether he would sign it.
The bill essentially rewrites the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act,” the ballot question known as Proposition B that passed with 52 percent of the vote last fall. Prop B was scheduled to take effect in November of this year.
The legislature’s vote is a victory for breeders and other animal-agriculture interests in the state, who said Prop B threatened their entire industry and lobbied hard for changes.
“We’re pleased, and hopefully now we can move on and take care of our animals,” said Barb York, president of the Missouri Pet Breeders Association.
But officials with the animal welfare groups that placed the measure on the ballot — and spent millions to get it passed —criticized the legislative action.
“To put it mildly, we’re outraged,” said Cori Menkin, senior director of legislative initiatives for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “This isn’t just a few changes to Prop B. It’s effectively a repeal of all the meaningful measures in Prop B.”
The bill removes Prop B’s 50-dog limit on breeding operations, as well as restrictions on how often dogs can be bred. It eliminates requirements for larger animal enclosures and continuous access to outdoor areas, and reduces requirements for veterinary care, among other provisions.
Lawmakers even changed the name of the law, from the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act” to the “Canine Cruelty Prevention Act.”
Supporters said such changes were necessary to keep legitimate breeders in business and preserve a significant industry in Missouri’s rural economy.
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