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House panel backs changes in dog breeding law

A Missouri House committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would take away much of a dog-breeding law approved by voters in November.

The House Agriculture Policy Committee unanimously backed the bill, which would remove requirements that dogs be given clean water, time to rest between breeding cycles and a certain amount of space to move within their cages. The bill also would lift a provision that limited dog breeders from owning more than 50 dogs for breeding purposes.

Proposition B passed in November with 51.6 percent of the statewide vote, due largely to a strong showing in urban areas that overcame opposition across most of the rest of state.

At least 15 bills have been filed in the House and the Senate this year to repeal the law or change several of its provisions. A Senate committee last month also endorsed a bill to remove the 50-dog limit and give licensed dog breeders up to 180 days to correct serious violations before they are charged with any crime.

Animal rights supporters have urged lawmakers not to change the law, citing the majority of voters who backed Proposition B. Many showed up to testify at public hearings for the bills before the Agriculture Policy Committee and some have even taken out full-page newspaper advertisements in the Capital City to implore lawmakers not to change the law.

The bill approved by the House committee even would change the law’s name from the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act — as approved by voters — to the Dog Breeders Cruelty Prevention Act.

The House Committee also approved an amendment to the bill increasing the annual fees for licensed dog breeders by $25, which would raise about $34,000 that the state could use to investigate and shut down unlicensed breeding operations. Rep. Delus Johnson, R-St. Joseph, said he sponsored the amendment as a compromise with people who oppose changing the law. But Johnson said changes are, in fact, needed.

“We are going to have to probably take some heat for tweaking this thing,” Johnson said of the dog breeding law. “But we’ve got to re-word it (the law), there’s no doubt about it.”

Both the House and Senate bills would require that licensed veterinarians be in charge of caring for injured dogs or euthanizing them, if necessary.

Committee chairman Tom Loehner, R-Koeltztown, thanked committee members after they voted to pass the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, who is not a member of the committee. Loehner praised the committee members’ patience and questions for witnesses at public hearings on the issue.

Six of the seven bills currently assigned to the committee deal with repealing or changing the dog breeding law. The bill passed Tuesday now goes before the full House.

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