Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Wednesday repealing key parts of a voter-approved dog-breeding law as part of an agreement for lawmakers to consider still more changes to the state's regulations for dog breeders.
The legislation strikes key parts of the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act" passed last November by voters, including a limit of 50 breeding dogs per business and various details about how dogs must be fed, watered and housed. Instead, the bill grants the Department of Agriculture greater discretion on dog-housing rules and raises the fees paid by breeders to finance the state's regulatory efforts.
But Nixon's signature on the legislation is not likely to be the final word for a dog-breeding industry that has an estimated $1 billion impact in Missouri.
Lawmakers are expected to consider further changes to the state's dog-breeding laws as part of a compromise plan brokered by Nixon's administration among state-based agriculture animal welfare groups. National animal advocacy groups, which helped finance the 2010 ballot measure, have said they would consider a petition drive to put the measure back on the ballot if it is changed by state officials.
The debate about Missouri's dog-breeding laws prompted large competing rallies last week, just blocks apart at the Governor's Mansion and the state Capitol. Nixon's office says it received thousands of letters and emails from people about the dog legislation.
Supporters of the voter-approved law said Missouri's previous regulations for breeders were too weak, allowing operators to keep dogs in wire cages and exposed to excess heat and cold. Critics of the voter-backed law have said it would wipe out the dog-breeding industry by forcing costly renovations to facilities and effectively limiting how many dogs the businesses can sell.
The ballot measure, called Proposition B, was approved by about 52 percent of the statewide vote as supporters in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas outweighed opposition in much of the rest of the state. The initiative was scheduled to take effect as law this November. The bill Nixon signed would supersede that by making changes that take effect Aug. 28. But the latest deal brokered by Nixon's administration could kick in before that, if lawmakers approve.
Nixon said the latest agreement is designed to increase protections for dogs and allow breeders to remain in business. It has won support from several state-based agriculture and animal welfare groups, but several national groups that helped finance the ballot measure said they did not support the proposal.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.