JEFFERSON CITY — Messages urging Gov. Jay Nixon to veto Missouri legislation dealing with deer are outnumbering those calling for him to sign the bills.
A few hundred letters and electronic messages have landed in Nixon's mailbox and inbox amid disagreement over regulations for deer breeders and hunting preserves.
Missouri lawmakers passed legislation this year that would classify captive deer as livestock with the Agriculture Department responsible for the industry. Currently, the Agriculture and Conservation departments are involved with overseeing facilities, and conservation officials have advanced proposed rules they say are needed to combat chronic wasting disease but that the deer industry contends are unnecessary and would force operators out of business.
More than five times as many messages called for Nixon to veto the legislation as urged him to sign, based upon a review by The Associated Press of correspondence the governor's office had received in the weeks following the end of the legislative session.
Nixon faces a mid-July deadline to take action. A spokesman said the governor has not yet decided what he will do.
Many people calling for a veto said conservation officials are best-suited for managing deer and expressed concern about what would happen if chronic wasting disease spreads. The disease affects deer, and conservation officials report that there have been 11 confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease in captive deer in Missouri and 10 cases in wild deer. The Conservation Commission this month endorsed regulations that include a ban on importing deer from other states and requiring double-fencing for new permit-holders. A 30-day public comment period is starting July 16.
David Davis said the idea of eliminating an agency's involvement with deer facilities rubbed him the wrong way. Davis is a hunter and lives in the north-central Missouri town of Brookfield, which is within Missouri's chronic wasting disease containment zone.
Davis wrote to Nixon that he has "witnessed the devastating effects of this disease on both the deer herd and the local community/economy. I believe that we need to have strict regulations on businesses dealing with captive wildlife and I believe that the current captive cervid legislation sent before you will relax these regulations."
Many who urged Nixon to sign the deer legislation identified ties to the industry. Owners of Missouri deer facilities said the legislation would help them stay in business, and operators from other states also voiced support. Some who wrote to the governor's office described spending thousands of dollars for hunting trips to Missouri.
Donald Hill wrote in a message to Nixon that complying with the fencing requirement could cost more than $1 million. He said "our deer are disease free" and that the proposed regulations would put him out of business. Hill said he is a significant employer in central Missouri's Osage County and that transferring oversight completely to the Agriculture Department "will help keep my business alive."
"All they are doing is putting out a lot of public hype and bad mouthing our industry with no scientific evidence to back it," Hill wrote.