JEFFERSON CITY — Advocates on both sides of the Proposition B debate converged on Missouri's capital Wednesday to voice their opinions about two recent developments in the dog-breeding measure passed in November.
On Monday, Gov. Jay Nixon proposed a compromise that would repeal some of the law's restrictions and give breeders more time to comply with new requirements. The governor called his compromise the "Missouri solution," which he backed in response to legislation that would repeal parts of Proposition B, given final approval by Missouri lawmakers on April 13.
Nixon said his compromise is between dog breeders and animal welfare advocates; it would eliminate restrictions on the number of dogs a breeder may own and fund increased enforcement of breeding laws. The governor has yet to take any action on the April 13 repeal bill.
About 100 members of animal advocacy groups — including the Humane Society of the United States and the Best Friends Animal Society — met outside the Governor's Mansion to protest the compromise. During the rally, protesters chanted "Veto 113" and "Keep your paws off our laws."
"We believe that the word of the voters should be respected," said Dane Waters, director of ballot campaigns for the national Humane Society. "We want Prop. B, and we want it intact."
Waters said the protesters want Nixon to veto the Senate bill and remained "cautiously optimistic" about the chances he will do so. Waters added that the Humane Society was willing to listen to the proposals for compromise, but it was never asked to take part in any discussion.
Down the street, a group several times larger than the animal welfare advocates assembled on the Capitol steps to show their support for the compromise.
Jon Hagler, director of Missouri's Department of Agriculture, said he'd traveled the state with the governor and supported Nixon's compromise for the dog-breeding controversy.
"(Nixon) understands agriculture, and he understands that when agriculture does well, Missouri does well," Hagler said.
The day after he presented the compromise proposal, Nixon received a letter from more than 60 members from both legislative chambers. The letter included statements from the repeal bill's sponsor, Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, thanking Nixon for his efforts and urging him to sign the bill passed last week.
"This public statement by a broad coalition of legislative leaders is a significant step forward for our Missouri solution," Nixon said in a statement released Tuesday evening in response to the letter.
Rep. John McCaherty, R-High Ridge, voted to overturn Proposition B when it was on the House floor. Although he supports the compromise, he said he didn't appreciate the timing.
"Personally, I wish this would have happened weeks ago," McCaherty said. "And (that) both sides would have come to the table then, instead of after we passed the legislation."
Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, agreed with McCaherty and said he was concerned with the time crunch lawmakers will have passing it.
"This 'Missouri solution' is going to be a rush to get it through, but I think one thing the governor needs to do first is sign Senate Bill 113," Munzlinger said, who attended the pro-compromise rally.
Munzlinger criticized the Humane Society as "anti-agriculture" and asserted that the organization "misleads the populace with pictures of abused puppies and kittens."
Barbara Schmitz, Missouri state director of the national Humane Society, said she was disappointed with the compromise.
"We think that it falls short of what the voters approved last November," she said. "We have concerns because we don't think it provides as many protections as we would like for the dogs that are provided under Proposition B.
"Our laws and regulations for 18 years were pretty weak and inadequate."