JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri officials pushed through new regulations for the state's dog breeders in a flurry of legislative activity Wednesday that started with Gov. Jay Nixon signing one measure that rewrote key sections of a voter-approved dog-breeding law and ended with the legislature approving a whole new bill making additional changes.
In the end, Nixon and lawmakers eliminated parts of the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act" passed last November by voters, including a limit of 50 breeding dogs per business. Other portions dealing with the care of dogs were changed. The new legislation given final approval Wednesday seeks potential middle ground on the specifics of the living-space requirements and gives breeders more time to comply with the new rules. The fees paid by breeders also would be increased to finance the state's regulatory efforts.
The procedural maneuvering Wednesday started with Nixon signing into law a controversial dog-breeding measure that overhauled the voter-approved law. A few hours later, lawmakers approved further changes as part of a compromise plan brokered by Nixon's administration. That agreement has been endorsed by several state-based agriculture and animal welfare groups but is opposed by some national groups that helped finance the ballot measure.
House members approved the new legislation 108-42, and the Senate voted 24-10 to pass it.
The ballot measure, called Proposition B, was approved by about 52 percent of the statewide vote as supporters in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas outweighed opposition in much of the rest of the state. The initiative was scheduled to take effect as law this November. The bill Nixon signed would supersede that by making changes that take effect Aug. 28. However, the compromise measure would replace the bill Nixon signed and take effect as soon as the governor signs it into law.
Nixon said the compromise "upholds the will of the voters by protecting the welfare of dogs while also ensuring the future of Missouri agriculture."
The agreement is opposed by several national groups that helped to finance the ballot measure.
"It is a far cry from what the voters put in place under Proposition B," said Cori Menkin, the senior director of legislative initiatives for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "I don't think the compromise is much of a compromise."
Several animal groups criticized Nixon on Wednesday for signing the bill and called the changes a step backward in dealing with animal cruelty. Some animal advocacy groups also have said they would consider a petition drive to put the measure back on the ballot.
State Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said the final dog-breeding legislation resulted in a bill that would help protect Missouri dogs.
"It's going to go a long way to curb our reputation as a puppy mill capital," Justus said.