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Nixon earmarks more money for dog protection

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 15, 2011 - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster teamed up Tuesday morning to promote their plans to enforce the new state regulations on dog-breeders, dubbed "Prosecution Bark Alert."

Although the mandates are not as restrictive as those contained in Proposition B, the now-defunct measure approved by voters last fall (and overridden by the General Assembly this spring), Missouri Humane Society President Kathy Warnick said her group was satisfied with the compromise.

She told reporters the state animal-protection group was particularly pleased with the additional $1.1 million that Nixon has allocated in the new state budget for more "veterinarians, inspectors and other enforcement agents,'' as he explained during today's news conference.

Warnick sidestepped questions as to whether her group would support any effort by the national Humane Society to make a second stab at getting Proposition B's provisions in place, by asking Missouri voters in 2012 to approve a constitutional amendment that is tougher to change. Proposition B had changed state law, but that led to the legislature and Nixon making the compromise changes.

The event was held at the Humane Society's operations in St. Louis. Also participating was state Agriculture Director Jon Hagler who said the message to dog breeders is, "Do business correctly or get out of business for good."

Nixon defended his administration's previous efforts on the dog-protection front but acknowledged that "the push by voters (for Prop B) brought the issue to the front."

The governor said his aim is to show that the debate and discord has abated, when it comes to how to address Missouri's longstanding image as a haven for unregulated, unsanitary puppy mills.

But on Wednesday, U.S. Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle disproved that point by criticizing the state's changes to Prop B.

"The attack on Prop B has been irresponsible and shameful, with a small number of lawmakers subverting a sensible animal welfare law approved directly by voters just seven months ago," Pacelle said. "We are very pleased about additional funding and personnel for enforcement to crack down on puppy mills, but there's no reason not to have both the strong provisions of Prop B and vigorous enforcement of the law. It should have never been positioned as an either-or circumstance.

Pacelle then added, "As the state proceeds with its rule-making efforts on commercial dog-breeding, we will be participating actively and advocating for strong provisions consistent with the wishes of the people of Missouri. In addition, we are supporting the Your Vote Counts Act which -- if approved in November 2012 -- will provide greater protection for voter-approved ballot measures, so that no citizen initiative is overturned by state lawmakers just because of an ideological disagreement with its provisions."

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.