Today, the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a ballot initiative seeking to expand the state’s cruelty laws cannot proceed.
As such, supporters may no longer collect signatures. They would need to draft a new proposal and resubmit it for consideration and hearings again by the state Title Board. It is very unlikely that this will occur in time for the 2022 ballot.
Proposed Initiative 16, known as the Preventing Animals from Unnecessary Cruelty and Exploitation (PAUSE) Act, claimed to address animal cruelty and bestiality. However, it went much further and sought to make numerous changes, including banning certain standard, safe, and humane animal husbandry practices.
AKC and the Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs joined with livestock and other animal groups in opposition to this proposal, which was very complex and covered a number of changes to law that would have had harmful consequences for dogs and dog owners, as well as for other animals and livestock
In a 7-0 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the initiative is in violation of the Colorado Constitution, which states that no ballot measure may contain more than one subject. The decision states that while the main focus of the initiative is to incorporate livestock into animal cruelty statutes, there are other provisions that would impact the care of all animals.
As such, the Colorado Supreme Court in part declared the following in today’s decision:
“Because these subjects are not necessarily and properly connected, there is the potential for the very kind of voter surprise against which the single-subject requirement seeks to guard—here, voters might not understand that what is nominally a livestock initiative also affects the care of all animals, or vice versa…. Moreover, “animal cruelty,” the unifying label proposed by Respondents, is the type of overly broad theme that we’ve rejected….We have previously found such umbrella proposals unconstitutional.”
If supporters wish to continue, they must now start the process over. This includes drafting a new proposal, submitting it to the Secretary of State, and going through several reviews and hearings before they can be approved again to collect signatures.
While it is unlikely that this will happen prior to the deadlines for the 2022 Colorado ballot, it is possible that supporters will bring a similar measure forward in the future. AKC and the Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs continue to closely monitor this issue and will provide updates as they are available.