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Our Opinion: Animal welfare law revisited

Our Opinion: Animal welfare law revisited

August 28th, 2014 in News

We disapprove of the way the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act came into being, but it appears to working.

Our quarrel is with legislative tampering of a voter-approved law, which is what happened in this case.

But the version approved by lawmakers to crack down on inhumane, substandard puppy mills has resulted in prosecutions, fines and rescues, according to an Associated Press story reporting on a Columbia Tribune investigation.

Since the 2011 law became effective, according to the story, 37 businesses or individuals were referred to the attorney general for prosecution, resulting in $25,000 in civil fines and nine license revocations. In addition, 1,300 dogs have been rescued.

Before enactment of the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act, referrals and fines were rare - 10 during a two-year period - because prosecutors were required to meet a high standard of showing "substantial ongoing risk," according to Jessica Blome, a former assistant attorney general.

Provisions of the new law are more specific. Among them, facilities subject to the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act must: implement veterinary care programs that include a hands-on examination; implement a two-year retention schedule of record keeping; and allow constant and unfettered access to outdoor runs, with exceptions.

A consequence of enforcement is a decline in the number of commercial breeders licensed with Missouri's Animal Care Program. According to the Department of Agriculture, the number has decreased from about 1,400 to just over 800 since 2010.

Humane standards designed to eliminate unsavory puppy mills was the goal of Proposition B, the source of the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act.

Proposition B was a law created by initiative petition and approved by voters statewide. Its provisions were controversial, largely because it was supported by the Humane Society of the United States, a group that has been at odds with the farming industry.

Because it was not a constitutional amendment, the voter-approved law was subject to change by state lawmakers, who did exactly that. The Legislature comprehensively rewrote the law.

We had reservations about Proposition B and did not support it, but we also disagreed with legislative tampering of a voter-approved law.

All that is proverbial water under the bridge. Missouri was ripe for regulation because it had earned the dubious distinction of puppy mill capital of the nation. And inhumane operations besmirch the entire industry.

Credit the attorney general's office with enforcing the law to promote humane treatment and discourage offenders who give reputable dog breeders, and our state, a bad name.