JEFFERSON CITY — Dozens of dog breeders and their supporters spilled out of Senate committee hearing rooms and jammed the hallways of Missouri's Capitol for two days this week, calling upon lawmakers to undo a ballot initiative Missouri voters approved in November.
"Proposition B will flat out put me out of business," said Hupert Lavy, a longtime dog breeder from Silex.
Lavy talked with reporters outside the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing room, which was so crowded that Senate staff wired a TV in the hallway for those who could not get into the room to see.
In 2010, Missouri voters approved an initiative that would require stricter regulations on dog breeders in the state. Supporters of the initiative say the restrictions would decrease animal abuse and neglect, and improve quality of life for dogs and puppies.
The new law:
- requires large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care sufficient food, clean water, housing and space; necessary veterinary care; regular exercise and adequate rest between breeding cycles.
- prohibits any breeder from having more than 50 breeding dogs for the purpose of selling their puppies as pets.
- creates a misdemeanor crime of “puppy mill cruelty” for any violations.
Lavy said the new regulations are too expensive and out of touch with animal breeding. He said the regulations called for by Proposition B will "kill animals" and drive 3,000 people out of work.
"Whoever wrote (Proposition B) has never raised an animal," Lavy said.
Before the committee are measures to completely repeal the ballot proposal, to amend the proposal and to remove the limit on the number of breeding dogs a facility can have.
Lavy acknowledged that the chances of a full repeal are slim but said he will continue to fight the law and change the worst parts of it to keep his kennel.
The sponsor of the bill to completely repeal the measure, Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, said the wording of the voter-passed law is so vague that it could be extended to cows, horses, sheep and all other livestock crucial to Missouri's trade and economy.
Although Proposition B was described as a bill dealing with dog breeders, it includes a definition of a pet that covers any "domesticated animal normally maintained in or near the household of the owner."
Karen Strange, a supporter of the repeal who spoke on behalf of the agriculture community, expressed concern over the broad definition of livestock and the threat the new regulations pose to farmers.
"Our people are the working farmers of the state of Missouri who have put their heart and souls into their farms," said Strange, co-founder and president of the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners.
While critics charge that the proposition could open the door to the regulation of animals other than dogs, Kathy Warnick, president of the Humane Society of Missouri, disagreed.
"Proposition B applies to dogs and puppies. There is no other reference to any other species," she said.
Warnick said that the primary goal of Proposition B is to upgrade the lives of dogs.
Proposition B passed with 51.6 percent of the vote in Missouri, with a majority of those votes coming from the Kansas City and St. Louis areas.