JEFFERSON CITY — Rep. Tom Loehner, R-Koeltztown, said he knows what's best for his animals.
Loehner has proposed a bill that would place before Missouri voters a constitutional amendment outlining the right of citizens to humanely raise animals without the burden of costly state regulations. In testimony to the Agriculture Policy Committee, Loehner said the purpose is still directed at humane care of animals while taking care of producers as well.
"The citizens of the state of Missouri shall have a right to raise animals in a humane manner which promotes the animals' health and survival without the state imposing an undue economic burden on their owners," the bill states.
Dale Bartlett, deputy manager of animal cruelty issues for the Humane Society of the United States, said Loehner's proposal doesn't properly define a large "economic burden." He said the phrase is too vague and will lead to further complications that may fall back on the court system.
"If you find a way to make it less broad, drop us a note and we'll work on it," Darrell Pollock, R-Lebanon, said in response to Bartlett's criticism.
Loehner said the bill would bring a significantly larger challenge to animal rights groups that attempt to sponsor initiatives in Missouri, such as the recent Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act sponsored by the Humane Society.
Loehner said he would like to address three questions with his bill:
- Does the caretaker humanely care for the animal?
- Does the caretaker promote the health of the animal?
- Does the caretaker provide for the survival of the animal?
"If you don't take care of your animals, they won't take care of you," Loehner said.
Many groups that stood in support of the measure were not in agreement of the language Loehner used. Karen Strange from the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners said she would like to see the wording tightened up and better defined.
During Bartlett's testimony, discussion in the committee quickly moved away from Loehner's bill and onto the Humane Society's puppy mill initiative. Representatives on the committee said the initiative limits successful producers because of the Humane Society's interpretation of "humane."
"Humane should be in the eyes of the producer, not the court system," said Charlie Schlottach, R-Owensville.
Bartlett said current laws do not go far enough to prevent animal cruelty.
"There are laws in the books, but they are weak," Bartlett said.
The bill still remains in the Agriculture Policy Committee, but is expected to be taken up again next week during their regularly scheduled meeting.