JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A western Missouri lawmaker is headed to court to face a charge of animal neglect after a prosecutor asserts the man knowingly failed to provide adequate fencing and escaped cattle damaged an adjacent landowner's property.
State Rep. Warren Love was cited for a misdemeanor in August 2012, and the trial is scheduled for Oct. 24 before a judge. If found guilty, Love could face a fine or possible jail sentence.
St. Clair County Prosecuting Attorney Joleene Simmons wrote in a court document filed earlier this year that Love "had cattle in his ownership and knowingly failed to provide adequate control of the animal(s)."
Love said Thursday he cares for his animals well and denied that the cattle caused damage. He runs a 40-50 cow-calf operation.
Love said several calves last year got past an electric fence into a nearby field that had burned earlier in the summer. The following morning, he discovered several cows and calves crossed into the field because a tree had fallen over the fence. Love moved the cattle into a different field, but the herd escaped because of a downed tree. He said he moved the animals more than a mile away, but they got out for a few days.
He said he then put the cattle into his tightly fenced hay meadows where they stayed contained.
"I'm just an old rancher, you know, that tries to take good stewardship of his cattle," Love said. "I've never neglected my cattle."
Love, 63, first was elected to the Missouri House in November 2012. He is a Republican from Osceola and represents a district covering St. Clair and Hickory counties and part of Cedar and Benton counties.
In September, Love joined fellow lawmakers in overriding Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of an agriculture bill that included changes to Missouri's animal abuse and neglect law. It also dealt with foreign ownership of farmland and stealing livestock. There were sufficient votes in the House to override Nixon's veto without Love's vote, and the Missouri Cattlemen's Association supported an override attempt.
Previously, owners could be charged with animal neglect for failing to provide adequate care or control, which results in substantial harm to the animal. Under the legislation, those who lose control of animals for at least 12 hours can be charged with the newly established offense of animal trespass. The first violation is an infraction, which is less severe than a misdemeanor.
Love also was a co-sponsor for a separate House bill proposing a similar change that did not pass. He said Thursday he did not prompt the legislation and that other ranchers have faced similar situations. Love said he never would have considered trying to change the law on his own.