UPDATE: Progress made on Missouri dog-breeding issue, Nixon says

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 | 6:20 p.m. CDT; updated 8:23 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 20, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon reported progress Wednesday toward an agreement that would repeal some of the dog-breeding restrictions approved by voters last November and give puppy producers extra time to comply with the new requirements.

State lawmakers approved legislation last week that replaced much of the voter-approved law. This week, the state Department of Agriculture brokered a deal for further revisions that was embraced by several state-based advocacy groups who had been on opposite sides of the debate. However, several national groups that helped finance the ballot measure said they did not support the proposal.

Nixon, who met with the House speaker about the plan Wednesday, said later that officials are trying to determine the order of what must happen to implement the compromise. Nixon did not say whether he would sign or veto the bill approved by the Legislature. He said there were issues the ballot measure did not adequately address and that changing it would not repudiate the will of the electorate.

"Our goal is to try to make solid reformation of a sector of our agricultural economy that needs that while still working to allow them to do their business," he said.

Lawmakers who sponsored the dog legislation said Nixon should first sign their legislation before considering the alternative proposal he brokered.

Republican Sen. Mike Parson said in a letter to Nixon that approving the bill was "paramount in developing goodwill with lawmakers" and warned that a veto would be a "serious setback." The letter was signed by 70 lawmakers and 10 groups representing agriculture.

Voters in November approved a ballot measure called Proposition B that was backed by several animal advocacy groups. It passed with about 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 of that law said it would wipe out breeders by forcing costly renovations to facilities and effectively limiting how many dogs the businesses could sell. Backers argued that Missouri's existing laws were too weak, allowing breeders to keep dogs in wire cages and exposed to excess heat and cold.

The dog-breeding debate has been a polarizing issue in state Capitol. Supporters and critics planned competing rallies Wednesday evening just several blocks apart.

As with the legislation already approved by the Legislature, Nixon's plan would repeal a voter-approved maximum of 50 breeding dogs per business. It strikes a potential middle ground on the specifics of the living-space requirements and gives breeders more time to comply with the state's new rules.

The original law approved by voters, which is scheduled to take effect this November, requires an indoor floor space of at least 12 square feet for small dogs, 20 square feet for medium-size dogs and 30 square-feet for large dogs.

The latest plan would eliminate the voter-approved indoor space requirements. However, Missouri's existing space requirements would be doubled for breeders by January 2012 and tripled by January 2016. Any dog-housing facilities constructed after last Friday would have to comply with the tripled space requirements immediately.

The voter-backed law requires one yearly veterinary exam with prompt treatment for illness or injuries. Lawmakers replaced that with two annual visual inspections, which would not need to be a hands-on exam. The plan brokered by Nixon's administration goes back to an annual exam and requires prompt treatment of a "serious illness or injury."

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Harold Sutton April 20, 2011 | 8:40 p.m.

It is beginning to sound like some sensible revisions are being worked out. Much better than the radical extremist bill that people were snowballed into voting for. The phrase "Puppy mills" provoked many into voting for it because it conjured up images of cruel inhumane conditions at all of the licensed breeder operations. Yet made no real inference that the vast majority of the inhumane operations were hidden away and not licensed.

Yes there are definitely improvements needed. But trying to drive all the licensed operators out of business is total folly. With no licensed operations there would be no reason for inspections. The hidden, unlicensed operations would feel free to operate big time.

If the "Rescue groups" would focus on shuting down and reporting the slimeballs who are the real problem, this "Puppy mill state" reputation would steadily fade
away. Why don't they issue a public report of all rescues along with names and addresses on weekly or monthly basis?

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