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UPDATE: Missouri petitions on dog-breeding, court changes filed

Monday, May 3, 2010 | 8:47 a.m. CDT; updated 9:25 a.m. CDT, Monday, May 3, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — Missourians seeking new restrictions on the state's dog breeders and a different system for picking some judges delivered tens of thousands of signatures in dozens of boxes to get their proposals before voters.

Several groups trying to bypass the legislature and suggest their own laws and state constitutional changes scrambled to deliver initiative petitions before the Sunday deadline. Four proposals made it.

Besides dog breeding and judicial selection, the other proposals could affect taxes. One measure eventually would require voters in Kansas City and St. Louis to decide whether to keep those cities' earnings taxes, and the other would bar a transfer tax on the sale of houses and other real estate.

Under the proposed dog-breeding measure, people could only have 50 breeding dogs and would be required to feed animals daily, provide annual veterinary care and not breed animals more than twice every 18 months. Breeders also would have to follow rules for the dogs' living space and house animals indoors with unfettered access to an outdoor exercise yard.

It would apply to people with at least 10 female dogs for breeding. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to 15 days in jail and a $300 fine.

Supporters estimated they had collected about 190,000 signatures and brought dogs along with their petition to the secretary of state's office building near the state Capitol.

Barbara Schmitz, campaign manager for Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, said the measure — which would be called the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act" — is designed to strengthen the state's laws to ensure dogs are treated humanely. However, a lawsuit over the description of the petition that would appear on the ballot has not yet been resolved.

"We're tired of being known as the puppy mill capital of the country," Schmitz said. "We're tired of having dogs being treated in such a substandard and cruel way."

Schmitz's group says Missouri has about 3,000 high-volume breeding facilities. State officials have been cracking down on them.

Dog breeders and some Missouri farming groups have sharply criticized the proposal, warning that it could be a precursor to more efforts to restrict livestock production in the state.

Karen Strange, president of the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners, said Sunday that the proposal would affect licensed dog breeders who already follow the rules and make it more expensive for people to buy dogs as pets. Strange said many of its provisions already are followed and that she feared the ballot measure's supporters have misled some who signed the petition.

"They are targeting the legal, licensed professional breeders that do it right," Strange said. "I don't think it's fair to limit a legal industry."

Another ballot measure — submitted just before the 5 p.m. deadline — would scrap Missouri's system for picking appeals court judges and some urban trial court judges and replace it with traditional partisan elections. The measure's supporters said they submitted more than 250,000 signatures.

Currently, people interested in becoming judges for those courts apply to special nominating panels that forward three finalists to the governor, who then appoints one. That system is used for the state Supreme Court; three regional appeals courts; and trial courts in St. Louis city and Clay, Greene, Jackson, Platte and St. Louis counties. The judges then stand for periodic retention elections.

Traditional partisan elections are held for trial courts elsewhere. Missouri adopted its system in 1940 to limit politics in the judiciary and reduce urban political machines' influence.

But critics contend politics are still involved in picking judges and criticize the current process for being too secretive and giving trial attorneys too much influence.

James Harris, a leader for the group trying to change judicial selection, said the status quo is "flawed" and that the voters should have more control over their judges.

"It's better to have the people in charge than a bunch of robber barons that have a financial interest in the current process," Harris said.

But defenders of the current system — including the Missouri Bar — contend it works and warn that partisan elections could make the courts more political.

To get any initiative on the ballot to change the state constitution, organizers need signatures from 8 percent of the votes cast in the 2008 governor's election from six of Missouri's nine congressional districts. For petitions changing state law, it takes 5 percent of the total votes from the 2008 governor's election in six congressional districts.

That amounts to between 146,907 and 159,359 for constitutional amendments and 91,818 to 99,600 for statutory changes. Election officials have until Aug. 3 to determine whether the initiative petitions qualify for the ballot.

 


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Comments

Joe Over May 3, 2010 | 1:44 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
DUANE REYNOLDS September 28, 2010 | 1:31 p.m.

I HAVE LIVED IN MISSOURI MOST OF MY LIFE AND I KNOW THAT RAISING PUPPIES TO PLACE THEM IN LOVING HOMES IS WHAT I WANT TO DO AND NO ONE SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO FORCE ME OUT OF MY BUSINESS WHEN I ABIDE BY STATE AND USDA LAWS.ALL MY DOGS ARE WELL TAKEN CARE OF.VETS SAID THE DOGS STAY CLEANER AND AWAY FROM THINGS THAT CAN HURT THEM BY BEING IN CAGES ,I TAKE THEM OUT TO PLAY .HSUS IS SO MISLEADING AND THEY DON'T TELL YOU THE TRUTH ALL MY DOGS HAVE WATER AND GOOD QUALITY FOOD AT ALL TIMES AND ALWAYS HAVE A PLACE TO KEEP COOL OR WARM .LETS PROTECT MISSOURI WORK FORCE BY VOTING NO,NO,NO ON PROP. B.

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