The bill the Missouri Senate recently passed to amend Proposition B does what Prop B was supposed to do—beef up enforcement and raise standards of care for dogs at licensed facilities, while allowing reputable breeders to remain in business.
The bill increases the cap on license fees from $500 to $2500 to generate more funding for inspections and enforcement. It also adds a new $25 fee to support Operation Bark Alert, an enforcement program based on caller tips overseen by the Missouri Attorney General’s office and the Department of Agriculture. According to the Attorney General, the bill expands his authority to pursue criminal violations and seek court injunctions.
Prop B placed more responsibility for enforcement on local officials. However, the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association testified in favor of amending Prop B because county sheriffs do not have the manpower to enforce it. Prop B provided no additional funding. In fact, state officials estimated Prop B would add more than $600,000 to the Department of Agriculture’s program costs.
For most voters, regardless how they voted on Prop B, the real issue is how dogs are treated. Under the bill, more dogs at more facilities will have excellent care. Like Prop B, the bill requires “sufficient food and clean water; necessary veterinary care; sufficient housing, including protection from the elements; sufficient space to turn and stretch freely, lie down, and fully extend limbs; regular exercise; and adequate rest between breeding cycles.”
Not even one of Missouri’s 1400 licensed facilities meets all of Prop B’s specific standards. The bill passed by the Senate sets standards, too, but calls for veterinarians to make recommendations appropriate for the age, species and health of individual dogs. In addition, unlike Prop B, the bill applies to retail pet stores, shelters and rescues as well as commercial facilities.
Critics of the bill made several false claims, such as it allows dogs to be exposed to extreme weather conditions and deprived of clean water. Current laws and regulations prohibit such treatment, and so does the bill. Moreover, the bill puts more specific requirements into statute, such as providing outdoor exercise and a solid surface upon which to lie, as well as more resources for inspection and enforcement.
Rather than repeal Prop B, lawmakers kept what made sense and came up with a bill more effective in getting rid of the disreputable breeders nobody wants in business. It is not the first time a law passed by ballot initiative was improved through the legislative process, and it probably will not be the last.
(Leslie Holloway, of Jefferson City, Mo., is the director of state and local government affairs for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization.)