Dog breeding bill prompts thousands to write to Missouri governor

Monday, April 25, 2011 | 7:51 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has received thousands of letters and emails urging him to sign or veto legislation rolling back voter-approved restrictions on dog breeders.

Many of the emails, a sample of which were released Monday to The Associated Press, ask Nixon to abide by voters' wishes and veto the legislation that would repeal and replace key parts of Proposition B, which passed last November with 51.6 percent of the statewide vote. Others urge Nixon to sign the legislation, because the puppy breeding industry creates jobs in rural Missouri.

The voter-approved law limits the number of breeding dogs that business can own and sets new requirements for cage space, feeding and veterinary care. A bill recently passed by the legislature would repeal the dog limit and rewrite other requirements on caring for dogs. After lawmakers passed their measure, Nixon's administration brokered a compromise proposal that would give businesses more time to comply with some of the dog-housing requirements, but that plan has not yet received legislative approval.

Some emails, such as one written by Chesterfield resident David Dean, criticized the state's House and Senate, which each approved the repeal measure by large margins.

"It's hard for me to fathom how our legislature could vote for a bill that effectively guts Proposition B," Dean wrote on April 13, the day the House gave final approval to the legislation. "It appears to be the height of arrogance on the legislators(') part."

Others said the new restrictions of the ballot initiative would help the state's breeding businesses by setting higher standards that would improve the industry's reputation.

"If animals are helped by this law requiring reasonable space, food, medical care for animals, that can only be good" for the breeding business, wrote St. Louis resident Paula Hanssen in a April 14 email.

But Nixon also received letters urging him to sign the repeal measure. Supporters of that legislation argue that the puppy breeding industry creates many jobs in rural parts of the state, jobs they say would be lost if Proposition B were to take effect as scheduled this November.

Kathrynne Holden, of Pittsburg, Mo., argued that the Humane Society of the United States, which supported Proposition B, would use the measure as a first step to eliminate the state's entire agriculture industry.

"If we fail to act now, we and future generations of Missourians will pay a steep price, both in tradition and livelihood," she said in an April 17 email.

The Humane Society has said it only wants to strengthen the state's dog breeding regulations.

Purdy resident Larry Hall said he supports some regulation of the breeding industry, but said Missouri's current standards are stringent enough. He said Proposition B would have little effect on its intended target — breeders who mistreat their dogs — and would instead hurt law-abiding businesses.

"Those who are not (licensed) or currently abide by the rules, will continue to operate under the radar," he wrote in an April 14 email.

The governor has not said if he will sign the legislation pending before him. Instead, he's urging lawmakers to pass a new, compromise bill that would lift some of the voter-approved restrictions.

Last week, Proposition B supporters and backers of the repeal measure held rallies in the capital in efforts to sway the governor's decision.

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste declined to say Monday whether the letters and emails would have any influence on Nixon's decision to sign or veto the repeal legislation.

"Obviously we get a lot of correspondence on many different issues," he said.

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