COLUMBIA — Groups opposing Proposition B lost their battle in the polls on Election Day. Now they're hoping to counter that loss with a win in the courtroom or the state legislature.
The ballot initiative, which narrowly passed in the polls Nov. 2, adds restrictions to commercial dog breeders. It applies to all facilities that own more than 10 female sexually intact dogs and breed them with the intention of selling their offspring as pets. The new law does not take effect until Nov. 2, 2011.
Agricultural groups such as the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners, the Missouri Pet Breeders Association and the Missourians for Animal Care Coalition are working to keep Proposition B from taking effect at all. These groups have been working with Rep. Mike Parson and Rep. Tom Loehner, who work on the House Agricultural Policy Committee, to determine which course of action is most likely to weaken or eliminate the law.
Loehner said he is considering filing a bill that would "grandfather in" licensed breeders, or exempt breeders who were licensed before the election, from having to meet the new restrictions.
If the new law's opponents choose to fight Proposition B in the Missouri legislature, they must wait until Dec. 1 to prefile any new bills. These prefiled bills would then be introduced Jan. 5, the first day of the General Assembly session, according to the Missouri House of Representatives website. Any proposed bill would need 82 yes votes before moving to the state Senate.
MU law professor Richard Reuben said any attempt to fight Proposition B through the state legislature or court system would be a long shot — and expensive.
Reuben said trying to repeal or weaken the law would mean opposition groups must pay for attorneys, filing costs and possible appeal costs if they choose to appeal in the courts.
"It's not an inexpensive proposition," he said. "You could be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars."
If they go the judicial route, Reuben said groups opposed to Proposition B must find something illegal in the way the law was enacted or find a constitutional provision that would trump the new law.
Reuben said fighting the law through the state Legislature might be more effective, but that it's still not likely to be successful. If agricultural groups go this route, they must try to get both the House and Senate to pass an amendment modifying Proposition B or eliminating it altogether. This amendment must then be signed by the governor before becoming a law.
Reuben said getting this kind of legislation passed wouldn't be easy, especially since Proposition B won with a popular vote.
But Loehner said Proposition B certainly has enough opposition to merit a second look. He pointed out that most of the people who voted in favor of the law live in cities and don't understand what it's like raising animals for profit. He added that 103 out of 114 counties rejected Proposition B.
But Reuben pointed out that fighting Proposition B might not be worth the time and money it would require of opposition groups. "There gets to be a real point where they have to ask themselves if the cost to fight the law is more than the cost of complying," he said.