JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to legislation that replaces many of the provisions in a dog-breeding law approved by voters last year.
Backers of the law approved by voters argued that Missouri's existing laws were too weak, allowing breeders to keep dogs in stacked cages and exposed to excess heat and cold. But many state lawmakers argued this year that the new law would wipe out the state's dog-breeding industry by forcing costly renovations to facilities and effectively limiting how many dogs the businesses could sell.
The state legislation would eliminate a cap on owning 50 breeding dogs and roll back various new requirements for the dogs' living conditions. It also would eliminate a provision that allowed someone to be charged with a crime for any violation.
The revised bill would allow civil penalties and a misdemeanor charge for repeated offenses. Dog-breeders would need to provide appropriate space for their animals based on regulations set by the U.S. 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.
The voter-approved law is to take effect this November. The bill passed by the legislature would change it before then.
The House gave the legislation final approval 85-71 on Wednesday, after the Senate passed the dog-breeding legislation last month. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon.
Missouri has more than 1,300 licensed dog breeders according to the state Department of Agriculture. The debate about regulations for that industry has been an emotional issue in the state Capitol this year.
Rep. Tom Loehner, who handled the dog legislation in the House, said the voter-approved law cannot be enforced and would cost jobs. He said many breeders do a good job and take pride in their work.
"Don't go out and punish everyone in this industry whether they're doing a good job or not," said Loehner, R-Koeltztown.
Voters in November approved a ballot measure called Proposition B, backed by several animal advocacy groups, that included requirements of more space for animals and limits on how frequently they could be bred. The dog-breeding ballot measure passed with 52 percent of the statewide vote, as support in areas around Kansas City and St. Louis outweighed opposition in much of the rest of the state.
Critics have said it was wrong for the legislature to overrule voters.
"It basically overturns the Proposition B that was put forth. That is a travesty of justice, a travesty of our democratic process," Rep. Margo McNeil, D-Florissant said.