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Prop B Causing Backlash In MO Legislature

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- Animal protection groups reached a compromise last year over a revised Proposition B law to toughen rules for Missouri dog breeders.  Now the head of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation says the new law is so successful,  there's a backlash with more than a dozen bills in the hopper that target related animal welfare laws or issues.

With only two weeks left in this year's session, many of the measures will likely be left behind.

The one proposal that concerns MAAL Director Bob Baker the most is HB 1444.  "That would eliminate our  disposition process for animals that have been abused and neglected  and in effect  it would allow animals that have been abused and neglected to remain in the hands of their abusers," Baker said.

Rescue and shelter groups like the Humane Society of Missouri have been able to care for abused animals seized by law enforcement and make arrangements for them to be adopted as they recover once a civil court "disposition" hearing is held.  That provision has been part of Missouri statutes for some twenty years.

But under HB 1444 all adoptions would be prevented until any criminal charges against the dog breeder were resolved.  If charges were dropped or the owner acquitted he could demand the return of his animals.

Another bill HB 1860 would prohibit undercover videotaping or photographing of farm animals.  Baker, who once worked as an investigator of animal abuse,  said that is a bad idea because it would prevent the compilation of evidence showing abuse toward animals.   Photography of farm animals and facilities "really has a dramatic impact and it really documents the conditions there," he said.

Baker was among the advocates who worked on the Prop B compromise.  He believes it is already a major success.  "Over six hundred breeders have closed down in the last year  because of the new standards.  And to me that just shows there were so many breeders in the business just for a quick buck and once they realized they have to give some semblance of humane care to their animals they chose to get out.  Which is a good thing," he said.

He expects more breeders will leave the industry as new rules are phased in by 2016.
Despite the progress, Missouri remains the largest dog breeding state in the country.

Baker's group cites progress with inspections as well.  Missouri's Agriculture Director beefed up his inspection teams.  "They really cleaned house. They got rid of some of the bad inspectors and replaced them and then hired additional inspectors. They hired a new state veterinarian just for small animals which has never been done before and really beefed up inspections.  So overall it's been a really remarkable progress," Baker noted.

The USDA is promising new federal rules about selling dogs over the internet and has told Missouri dog breeders they must follow existing standards.