JEFFERSON CITY — A high-profile supporter of Missouri's new dog-breeding law met with lawmakers Wednesday to discourage them from attempting to repeal the voter-approved initiative.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said the new dog-breeding law offers more protection for the animals and has the imprimatur of voters. He said it would be unfair for lawmakers to overrule their constituents' decision only a few months after it was approved and before the law takes effect.
"We believe that commercial dog breeding is an acceptable enterprise," Pacelle said Wednesday. "But we insist that it be done humanely, that the animals get veterinary care, that they have enough space to move around and that they're protected from the elements."
The law approved by voters limits people to 50 breeding dogs and requires that the animals are fed daily, provided annual veterinary care and given unfettered access to an outdoor exercise yard. Dogs also cannot be bred more than twice every 18 months.
The law, which takes effect later this year, makes violations a misdemeanor carrying up to 15 days in jail and a $300 fine. It was approved by 52 percent of the vote in November.
Several lawmakers have filed bills this year focused on the law, including an outright repeal or exemption from the new requirements for the state's current dog breeders.
There are 1,406 licensed commercial dog breeders in the state, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Some animal groups claim there also are many unlicensed businesses that treat dogs inhumanely.
Critics argue that the new law will make it harder for legitimate dog breeders to stay in business and have warned that the proposal could be a precursor to efforts to restrict livestock production in the state.
Sen. Bill Stouffer, who filed legislation to repeal the dog-breeding law, has said the changes will not do anything to solve the problem of dog abuse. Stouffer, R-Napton, has said he believes voters were misled by the ballot measure.
The Humane Society of the United States was one of several organizations that backed the ballot measure. It was among the most hotly contested items on the ballot in November.
Pacelle said he anticipated that it would necessary to defend the dog-breeding law before a skeptical legislature. After voters approved a 1998 ballot measure that criminalized cock fighting, bear wrestling and other animal fighting, lawmakers approved changes the following year.
Pacelle also planned to meet with Missouri officials on Thursday.