JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri agriculture community is asking voters to understand the consequences before signing a ballot initiative sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States.
The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act is an attempt to further regulate the dog breeding industry. Some members of Missouri's agriculture community, however, said the history of initiatives similar to this one go much deeper.
Agricultural leadership has said this initiative opens the door for further legislation by HSUS. Such legislation could be focused in the production agriculture sector, according to Jeff Windett, Missouri Cattlemen's Association executive vice president.
"The bottom line is that (HSUS) has a history of not stopping here," Windett said. "This has been a segue into the agriculture industry in the past."
Windett was also pointed out that the Missouri Department of Agriculture has been very active in pursuing animal abuse across the state and that this initiative is unnecessary. The department funds the Animal Care Facilities Act Program, which works to provide companion animals with adequate care, shelter and socialization.
"There is enough animal legislation in the state of Missouri," Windett said. "The existing programs are already under-funded and need more of our focus, not this initiative."
Some students at MU, however, remain skeptical about the puppy mill initiative. Morgan Kueckelhan, Mizzou Animal Ag Coalition tri-chair, said her goal is to not let HSUS take advantage of the average consumer anymore.
Her fellow tri-chair, Keriann Friedrich, said she is concerned with the paid volunteers because they are being paid $0.75 per signature, which she said causes students to not care about the initiative.
"This is a very important topic in agriculture and we're doing our best to not stay invisible anymore," Kueckelhan said. "We're finally getting our voice to be heard."
To help the campaign gain momentum, HSUS hired paid signature gatherers from outside the state to work alongside more than 2,000 volunteers.
Barbara Schmitz, sponsor of the initiative and Missouri director of HSUS, said allegations of a potential farm animal initiative are entirely untrue.
"This measure is about bettering the treatment of dogs," Schmitz said. "We do not have any plans in Missouri to pursue a measure on farm animals."
"Missouri's existing laws are inadequate, outdated and do not reflect the views of the American public on how dogs should be treated," Schmitz said.
If the initiative garners 100,000 signatures, it will be put on the November 2010 general election ballot.