Proposed compromise on Missouri puppy mill bill pleases few

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2011:
JEFFERSON CITY–For 24 hours Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and
Humane Society of Missouri president Kathryn W. Warnick thought they
had brokered a deal to preserve key provisions of the Puppy Mill
Cruelty Prevention Act, an initiative approved by Missouri voters in
November 2008, but dismantled by the state legislature on April 13,
Overwhelmingly supported by urban voters, the Puppy Mill
Cruelty Prevention Act did not win approval in rural districts,
whose representatives hold the majority of seats in both the Missouri
House and Senate.

Announced Warnick on April 19, “The most important of our
dog care priorities that will be restored include an annual
veterinary examination of each dog. Dogs with a serious illness or
injury receive prompt treatment by a veterinarian. By January 1,
2012 each dog will have twice the space currently required and a
solid surface on which to lie down. By January 1, 2016 each dog
will have three times the space currently required; constant and
unfettered access to an outdoor exercise run; and no wire strand
In addition, Warnick said, the compromise package included
a guarantee that each dog will have “access to nutritious food at
least twice a day, and continuous access to clean, unfrozen water
generally free of contaminants. Concurrent with this agreement,”
Warnick said, “is a proposed provision for funding additional
inspectors and veterinarians to help ensure the humane treatment of
dogs in commercial breeding operations. This agreement will be
submitted to the Missouri General Assembly for what we hope will be
quick passage.”
The proposed funding provision would add $1.1 million to the
Missouri Department of Agriculture budget, to hire 10 more staff to
enforce regulation of dog-breeding. The allocation was incorporated
into the bill passed on April 13 which in effect repeals much of the
Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, including changing the name of it
to the Dog Breeders Cruelty Prevention Act.
Warnick had barely distributed her media release praising the
deal with Nixon when, wrote Jake Wagman of the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch, “More than 60 lawmakers from the Missouri House and
Senate, as well as representatives of the agriculture industry,
sent a letter telling Nixon they want him to sign the legislation
already on his desk that would roll back the Puppy Mill Cruelty
Prevention Act altogether. Among those signing the letter is House
Speaker Steve Tilley, who controls the flow of legislation in the
Legislature’s lower chamber.”
The following day, reported Jason Noble, the Jeffereson
City correspondent for the Kansas City Star, “Missouri lawmakers and
Governor Jay Nixon charted a way forward. Legislative leaders said
they would advance a proposal from Nixon to amend anti-puppy mill
legislation, but only if Nixon approves a dog-breeding bill already
passed by lawmakers,” taking the risk that the legislature will
renege on the deal to pass the amendments to which Nixon and Warnick
“If the governor and lawmakers uphold their ends of the
deal,” Noble wrote, “both [bills] could be passed by the time the
legislature adjourns on May 13.”
While Warnick appeared to accept the deal with Nixon as the
best that could be had, given the intransigence of the Missouri
legislature, other organizations that supported the passage of the
Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act initiative were critical of the
deal even before the legislators balked.
Said Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle,
“The will of the people should be respected, and this deal falls far
short of the animal care standards that Missouri voters approved. We
were never against the idea of compromise, but we are against the
idea of capitulation.”
Added American SPCA president Ed Sayres, “We applaud
Governor Nixon and the Department of Agriculture for strengthening
enforcement, but enforcement is meaningless without strong standards
for the welfare of dogs. Missouri voters want to turn around the
state’s reputation as the puppy mill capital of America, and the
common-sense standards for dog breeding [they] enacted should not be
Agreed Best Friends Animal Society chief executive Gregory
Castle, “We are disappointed that the compromises incorporated in
the recently announced proposed legislation to amend the provisions
of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act clearly fail to provide the
protections for dogs in Missouri’s puppy mills that the citizens of
the state wanted. We approve moves to strengthen enforcement, but
improved standards for the humane treatment of these animals should
not be discarded.”
Allowed Stray Rescue of St. Louis founder Randy Grim, “It’s
better than nothing, but I don’t think there should ever be a
compromise on the humane treatment of man’s best friend. It bothers
me.” Grim noted that the day after the compromise on the Puppy Mill
Cruelty Prevention Act was announced, Nixon’s office released a
photo of the governor hunting turkeys.
Even before the bill dismantling the Puppy Mill Cruelty
Prevention Act received final legislative approval and was sent to
Nixon for his signature or veto, HSUS was preparing to take the act
back to Missouri voters, if necessary, along with an initiative
seeking to restrict further legislative nullification. “Today, a
broad coalition of organizations from across the political spectrum
filed a ballot initiative in Missouri to protect voting rights,”
announced HSUS on April 12, “and HSUS will be actively supporting
the campaign. If passed in the November 2012 election, this
constitutional amendment, filed by the Voter Protection Alliance,
would require a three-quarters majority of each chamber of the
Legislature or another vote of the people in order to amend a citizen
initiative. Right now, a simple majority is all that’s needed to
overturn a citizen initiative. The coalition must gather the needed
signatures to qualify for the 2012 ballot.”
Added HSUS, “According to seasoned political observers, no
state legislature in the nation has been more aggressive in
overturning citizen initiatives than Missouri’s. The initiative is a
default option when lawmakers refuse to enact popular reforms. Animal
protection groups used the process to outlaw cockfighting in Missouri
1998 and then to crack down on puppy mills in 2010, precisely
because lawmakers blocked these sensible reforms year after year.”

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