Hey Missouri legislators: Keep your paws off the puppy mill vote
Some of the same Missouri lawmakers known for claiming title to “the will of the people” are threatening to repeal or drastically alter a statewide vote.
With the very suggestion, they signal their disrespect for the state, its voters and the democratic process.
Proposition B, the measure calling for breeders to provide more humane conditions for dogs, passed on Tuesday by 61,000 votes, or a 51.6 percent margin.
That’s a close vote, but it signals that a majority of Missouri voters favor legislation requiring dog breeders to provide animals with adequate space, food, water, exercise and medical care.
Some Republican lawmakers, placing the wishes of outraged breeders and agricultural groups over what’s best for Missouri, say they’ll use their legislative majorities to undo the vote.
Their logic: The measure failed in more than 100 of the state’s 114 counties, so the vote shouldn’t count.
Sorry, but that’s democracy. The Missouri constitution allows for initiative referendums, to be decided by a majority statewide vote. Nowhere does it say that issues are decided on a county-by-county basis.
Missouri lawmakers could have prevented this vote by doing their jobs. They could have updated state statutes to require that breeding dogs not be confined around the clock to cages too small to turn around or stretch their legs. They could have legislated that cages not be stacked atop one another, leaving the bodily wastes of one dog to rain down on another. They could have required that dogs be seen by a veterinarian at least once a year.
Year after year, though, lawmakers failed to take action, even as Missouri gained the unsavory reputation as “puppy mill capital” of the nation. It is home to at least a third of the nation’s dog breeders.
Animal welfare groups, led by the Humane Society of the United States, raised funds and gathered enough signatures to force the issue to the ballot.
During the campaign, a preposterous story line took hold that the move to regulate dog breeding operations was the first step in a calculated attempt to drive animal agriculture out of Missouri. Legislators would be very deceitful to use such unfounded fears as a basis to repeal Proposition B.
In fact, there is no good basis for undoing a statewide vote. Lawmakers who are concerned about the health of dog-breeding businesses should spend their time helping breeders comply with the new law — not scheming up ways to get rid of it.