Missouri senator proposes repealing dog-breeding law

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. | A state senator filed legislation Wednesday to repeal a voter-approved law that creates new regulations for dog breeders in Missouri, saying voters were misled and the rules won't curb animal abuse.

Sen. Bill Stouffer's measure was among dozens of proposals filed on the first day that lawmakers could introduce bills before the annual legislative session begins in January. The bills covered numerous topics, from buffer zones between cars and cyclists to banning all motorists from texting while driving.

Stouffer, whose largely rural district covers part of central Missouri, said voters were misled about the state's dog breeding rules. The Republican said the approved ballot measure could loosen some existing requirements and would only affect breeders already following the rules.

“It does nothing to solve the problem of dog abuse,” said Stouffer, of Napton. “It only targets licensed dealers, and people that are ignoring the law now are not affected by this.”

Missouri voters last month approved a ballot measure that limited people to 50 breeding dogs and required that the animals be fed daily, provided annual veterinary care and given unfettered access to an outdoor exercise yard. Dogs also cannot be bred more than twice every 18 months.

The law, which takes effect next year, makes violations a misdemeanor carrying up to 15 days in jail and a $300 fine.

The ballot measure, called Proposition B, was approved by 52 percent of the vote.

Barbara Schmitz, the campaign manager for the group backing the ballot measure, said Wednesday that she was disappointed lawmakers were trying to undo new regulations that voters favored. She said it seemed “anti-democratic” to trump the initiative petition process.

“It's a little frustrating that Proposition B has literally just passed, and the Legislature believes that it is time to replace it with its view of the issue,” Schmitz said.

The dog breeding rules was among the mostly hotly contested measures on last month's ballot.

Supporters argued that the new rules were needed to protect dogs. Critics said the law would make it harder for legitimate dog breeders to stay in business and pushed for better enforcement of existing state requirements. Others warned that the proposal could be a precursor to efforts to restrict livestock production in the state.

According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, there are about 1,400 licensed commercial dog breeders in the state. Some animal groups have said there are many unlicensed businesses that treat dogs inhumanely.

Other bills filed Wednesday would require motorists to give a 3-foot cushion when passing bicyclist, ban everyone from sending cell phone text messages while driving and restrict automatic phone dialing. Other measures would require elected officials to wait two years before becoming lobbyists and establish term limits for all statewide offices.

One proposal submitted in the Senate would bar workers from being forced to join unions and other labor organizations in order to be hired and would bar workers from being forced to pay dues and fees. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor. Sen. Rob Mayer, the chamber's likely president pro tem, has said making Missouri a “right-to-work” state would be a priority for him.

Another lawmaker took aim at a second voter-approved law, proposing changes to the requirement that Kansas City and St. Louis hold votes over their earnings taxes. The new law requires voters to renew the earnings taxes every five years, and if voters reject the tax, it would be phased out over a decade.

St. Louis Rep. Tishaura Jones filed legislation that would require a vote every 20 years. Jones, who is part of the Democratic leadership in the House, said more frequent votes could make it more expensive for St. Louis and Kansas City to sell bonds.