JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate voted Thursday to repeal many of the mandates included in a dog-breeding law approved by voters four months ago.
Some lawmakers fear the law could wipe out the state's dog-breeding industry by forcing costly renovations to facilities and effectively limiting the number of dogs each business can sell.
The Senate legislation would eliminate a cap on owning 50 breeding dogs and roll back various requirements on the dogs' living conditions. It also would eliminate provisions that make any violation a crime.
Instead, the measure would allow civil penalties and misdemeanor charges for repeat offenses. Under the Senate measure, dog breeders would need to provide appropriate space for their animals based on regulations set by the Department of Agriculture. The bill also would allow licensing costs of up to $2,500 instead of $500 and would impose an additional $25 annual fee to finance state efforts to crack down on unlicensed dog breeders.
Senators passed the bill 20-14, with much of the support coming from Republicans who represent districts outside the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. The legislation now moves to the House, and leaders said they plan to consider the Senate's proposal rather than their own.
The dog-breeding ballot measure, called Proposition B, was approved by 52 percent of voters in November.
Missouri has roughly 1,400 licensed commercial dog breeders, according to the Agriculture Department. They amount to a $1 billion industry that employs thousands of people, said Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, who is sponsoring the legislation that reverses parts of the voter-approved initiative.
Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, who supported the Senate bill, said the measure preserves voters' intent. He said the additional funding would help increase the number of state inspectors.
"This bill, as I said, honors the spirit and the intent of the voters. It protects dogs," said Mayer, R-Dexter. "There's not one member in this body that wants to in any way inhumanely treat animals or dogs, and this will ensure that dogs get the proper humane treatment that they should get."
Critics said voters approved the ballot measure months ago, a decision they contend that lawmakers should respect.
"The Senate decided to defy the will of the voters and to dismantle Proposition B provision by provision, dealing a blow to the welfare of dogs and also to the democratic process in Missouri," said Barbara Schmitz, the Missouri director for the Humane Society of the United States who helped to win support of the ballot measure.