MO’s Canine Cruelty Prevention Act

puppy mill dog 

Update April 28, 2011: In what the Humane Society of Missouri calls a "victory for puppy mill dogs", yesterday, the state legislature passed and Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law the compromise legislation, S.B. 161, agreed to last week. The new law  resolves differences between the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act approved by voters last November, 2010 and a bill passed by the legislature, S.B. 113/S.B. 95 that effectively gutted the Act.  

For more on what the new compromise law called the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act means for the dogs, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

Original report April 18, 2011: Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon today announced an agreement between animal welfare advocates and industry on legislation to resolve differences between the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act approved by voters in November 2010 and S.B. 113/S.B. 95, a bill passed by the legislature that would effectively gut the Act. 

New compromise legislation has been introduced. Even a joint letter touting the new legislation has been signed by the Humane Society of Missouri, Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, breeders groups, the Dept. of Agriculture and a Missouri farmers organization.   

Gov. Jay Nixon explained, "Over the past week, my administration has been working closely with folks on every side of this issue to reach an agreement that respects the will of the voters, protects dogs and allows responsible breeders to earn a living in our state….

"Throughout this process, I have met personally with representatives of Missouri’s major animal-welfare and agricultural organizations, and with leaders on this issue in both the House and the Senate. The agreement that was signed today upholds the intent of the voters, protects dogs and ensures that Missouri agriculture will continue to grow. I look forward to continuing to work with these leaders as we move this proposal through the legislative process as swiftly and efficiently as possible."

What this means for the dogs

1. Wire flooring must be eliminated by Jan. 1, 2016 and will be prohibited in new construction after April 15, 2011 (as of now) 

2. More space – For currently existing enclosures, by Jan. 1, 2012, the space must be two times that "allowable" under current MO regulations. For enclosures constructed from now on and by Jan. 1, 2016, there must be 3 times the currently provided "allowable" space.   

Under current regulations each dog housed in a primary enclosure (including weaned puppies) must be provided a minimum amount of floor space, calculated as follows: The mathematical square of the sum of the length of the dog in inches (measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail) plus six inches (6"); divided by the product by one hundred forty-four (144).

This means a dog that is 50 inches long from his nose to the tip of his tail must under the current law be provided with 21.77 sq. feet of space, barely enough for the dog to lie down. This is how the dog lives 24/7 in Missouri puppy mills that are complying with the law.  An unspecified amount of additional space is to be provided if a dog is nursing. There is supposed to be 6 inches of space above the head of the tallest dog in the enclosure. 2 CSR 30-9.030 

Under the proposed compromise bill, though it is not clear what "allowable" means, a dog who is 50 inches long is entitled at least to 43.55 sq. ft. of space in existing enclosures by Jan. 1, 2012. If the enclosure is built after April 15, 2011, and as of Jan. 1, 2016, all enclosures would arguably be required to  have 65.33 sq. ft. of space per 50" long dog, more than required under the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.

In addition, it should mean 12 inches of space above the head of the tallest dog by Jan. 1, 2012 for existing enclosures and 18 inches for enclosures built after April 15, 2011 and all enclosures by Jan. 1, 2016.

The compromise bill also contains the provision from S.B. 113/S.B. 95 requiring "adequate" space to be determined by the Dept. of Agriculture and from the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, the requirement of "sufficient space to turn and stretch freely, lie down, and fully extend his or her limbs", meaning having…sufficient indoor space for each dog to turn in a complete circle without any impediment; and enough indoor space for each dog to lie down and fully extend his or  her limbs and stretch freely without touching the side of an enclosure or another dog".

3. The bill requires along the same time lines for implementing the extra space requirements that enclosures have "constant and unfettered access" to an "attached outdoor run" "except as prescribed by rule". It’s not clear whether this means the Dept. of Agriculture can simply eliminate the requirement at least in some situations. There are also no size or building specifications for the run.

It is not clear the run would be intended for exercise. Instead, the new bill adopts the provision from S.B. 113/S.B. 95 which states a licensed veterinarian would develop an "exercise plan" with "maximum opportunity for outdoor exercise as weather permits".  

4. No limits on the breeding. As under SB 113/SB 95 but contrary to the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act approved by voters, there would be no limit of 50 breeding dogs. There would be no limit on breeding a dog to twice in an 18 month period as long as a licensed veterinarian agrees it is "appropriate for the species, health and age of the dog".

5. Vague requirements for protection from extreme temperatures and weather. The provisions of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act requiring protection of dogs from temperatures below 40 degrees and above 85 degrees would be eliminated. Dogs would not be guaranteed access to an indoor enclosure, only "shelter from the elements".  

The bill would only require that dogs be provided "protection from the extremes of weather", "proper ventilation" and a "solid surface" where the dog could lie in a "recumbent position".

6. Cages can be stacked as long as there is an impervious barrier between them. It would be a Class A misdemeanor if there is not an impervious barrier between them. The sanitation and cleaning requirements would be relaxed.

7. Veterinary care. The compromise bill has more limited requirements for veterinary care than either the current law under the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act or S.B. 113/S.B. 95. But the bill would still require an annual examination by a licensed veterinarian and prompt treatment for serious injuries or illness. Euthanasia could only be performed by a licensed veterinarian.

8. Food and water. Appropriate, nutritious food must be provided twice a day that is "sufficient to maintain good health", and dogs must have continuous access to water that is not frozen.

9. Exception for small for profit breeders and all dogs raised for hunting or sport. The bill would apply to pet stores, animal shelters except pounds and dog pounds, dog trainers, and all breeders that keep  more than 10 female dogs for breeding and sale of offspring except those breeding dogs for hunting or sport. A huge loophole but the original Act approved by voters largely exempted dogs raised and used for hunting or sport. 

Under the proposal annual licensing fees required for commercial kennels as well as shelters, boarding kennels, contract kennels, pet stores, exhibition facilities, could be raised to $2,500 instead of $500. An additional $25 would be imposed annually to support Operation Bark Alert. The deal is also said to include $1.1 million to improve the inspection program.

10. The enforcement mechanisms would be the same as S.B. 113/S.B. 95. Only if there have been past violations that have not been corrected, could the state veterinarian or an "animal welfare official" could request the attorney general or local prosecutor to bring an action for a temporary restraining order or injunction. The relief requested could only be for correction of the violation. The court could impose civil fines only up to $1,000 per violation.

Except for the stacking of cages without an impervious barrier, a crime could be charged for violations only if the breeder "repeatedly violates" the law "so as to pose a substantial risk to the health and welfare of animals in such person’s custody, or knowingly violates an agreed-to remedial order involving the safety and welfare of animals under this section." It is not clear what is meant by "repeated violations".

Only a class C misdemeanor could be charged for a first offense and a class A misdemeanor for subsequent offenses.

Veterinary and sales records would be required to be kept for 2 years and must be made available on request to the state veterinarian or local animal control or law enforcement.

There is little time left in the legislative session to pass this bill. Also, if Gov. Nixon does not veto S.B. 113/S.B. 95 within 15 days, it will become law regardless. It is not clear what the plan is to make sure the compromise legislation is enacted and not S.B. 113/S.B. 95.