Well, this was predictable.
Two months ago, the voters in the state of Missouri passed Proposition B that would have put several stipulations onto commercial dog breeders in the state -- including a couple of stipulations that I thought were troubling such as limiting the number of breeding dogs in the state to no more than 50 dogs, and demanding unfettered access to the outdoors.
While there are a couple of proposals in both the state House and Senate that would completely repeal Proposition B (which is completely within the power of the state legislature to do under Missouri state law), there is another bill on the table that -- while it has some potential to be good - in its current form would devastate the animal rescue community.
SB 95 -- proposed by Brian Munzlinger - essentially removes the "breeding dog" stipulation and applies the rules from Proposition B to any animal care facility in the state with more than 10 female dogs over 6 months of age. The bill, which Munzlinger is calling the "Puppy cruelty prevention act" extends the coverage of Prop B to ALL facilities housing dogs in the state. Thus, if passed, SB 95 would essentially limit all animal facilities - breeding facilities, rescues, and shelters, in size so that no facility in the state could have more than 50 dogs over 6 months of age and all would have to supply unfettered access to the outdoors.
This type of proposal when a 'puppy mill' law has been passed to then apply it to shelters and rescues is not unprecedented at the state level and was done in Washington two years ago.
Now, the initial reaction from the animal welfare community is likely to be outrage. The new regulations would have a hugely negative impact on shelters and rescues across the state -- who don't currently have 'unfettered' access and it would be cost prohibitive for them to add it to their shelter. Also, many of the large shelters in the state -- the ones responsible for rehoming large numbers of dogs -- have well more than 50 dogs in their shelters. This will be pretty devastating for these organizations, especially as the rescue community may be facing countless dogs coming to the shelter from commercial breeding operations that are being forced out of business (or downsizing) due to Prop B passing.
However, the bill is potentially not all bad. Let's face it, there are quite a few animal shelters and even rescue groups in the state that could upgrade the care for the animals in their care (I particularly like the idea of mandating that shelters provide "proper veterinary care"). However, a couple of the stipulations that I think are most problematic for the commercial breeders, are also the most problematic when applied to rescue groups.
I honestly don't think the state Legislature would do anything that would knowingly cripple animal welfare in the state although retaliation is very much a concern. The rescue community, along with HSUS, circumvented the legislature with their citizens initiative without a lot of political clout in Jefferson City, and made no friends in the process. I do think the proposing Senator is making a point with introducing it about a) how unfair the law largely pushed by the animal welfare community is on the breeding community and b) using it for leverage to get rid of some of the more problematic clauses in Prop B.
Wayne Pacelle (who now is apparently a licensed lobbyist in the state of Missouri,which seems odd for the CEO of a 501c3) and the rest of the HSUS crew are in Jefferson City are pushing for no compromises on Prop B. However, in the process, they may be setting rescues up for the law to impact them also...which would not be good. Meanwhile, I'm also curious why neither HSUS, nor legislative group Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, neither has alerted the animal welfare community of the proposed SB 95 and the potential consequences of passing the citizen's initiative without the political capital in Jefferson City to prevent this kind of retaliation from happening.
It should also be noted that Munzlinger is the same Senator that proposed last Spring that the clause that exempted shelters and rescues from paying annual licensing fees be stricken so that now all rescues have to pay the same licensing fees as breeding operations -- so this isn't new territory for Munzlinger.
It's going to be an interesting session in Jefferson City. It may also give an opportunity to see if HSUS and others are willing to sacrifice any of the provisions of Prop B in order to help insure better care of animals in our animal shelters as well -- without, hopefully, crippling the animal welfare community in the process.
One of the first public hearings on Prop B is tomorrow at Noon down at the Capitol... and just be aware that there are a lot of alternatives to the no compromise position on Prop B -- some of which are awful, and some of which have the potential to make things a lot better for all animals in the state.
You can read SB 95 in its entirety here.