The Missouri Legislature is back in session, and the Missouri House is likely to soon be voting on a bill that, among many other provisions, would provide important and necessary protections for Missouri dog owners.
As approved by a House committee, Senate Bill 600 has become a large omnibus bill that includes a number of provisions from other bills covering a broad range of topics – including bills supported by the AKC and the Missouri Federation for Animal Owners.
This week, the legislature is focused on a state budget deadline, but it is likely that the bill could be considered by the House very soon, and then quickly moved to the Senate where it could go to conference committee. Those who reside or participate in dog events in Missouri are strongly encouraged to contact their State Representative and State Senator to express support for the following portions of the House Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 600:
- Outlawing Breed-Specific Legislation
The bill would prohibit any county or municipality (including those under home rule) from controlling or regulating specific breeds of dogs. It would also make any existing breed-specific law in the state null and void. Counties and municipalities may regulate dogs, including at-large and vicious dogs, so long as the laws are not breed-specific.This is a bill that legislators and advocates, including AKC and its state federation, have been trying to get passed in Missouri for several years, as several municipalities in the state have breed-specific policies. Passage would be a great step forward for Missouri dog owners.Visit the Breed-Specific/Dangerous Dog Laws page in the AKC Legislative Action Center for more talking points on this issue.
- Protection when dogs are seized on suspicion of cruelty
Another section of the bill would make several positive changes to protect dogs and the rights of dog owners when animals are seized on suspicion of neglect or abuse. The purpose is to ensure that the accused are treated as innocent until proven guilty, and also to protect their dogs that are seized and held during a trial. Changes include the following:
- Only allowing law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant to inspect, care for, or confiscate neglected or abused animals – and only as set forth in the warrant. All requests for warrants must be signed, witnessed, and accompanied by an affidavit stating probable cause. The officer must then appear at a disposition hearing within 10 days of the confiscation for the purpose of granting immediate disposition of the animals (current law requires a hearing within 30 days of when a request is filed).
- Expanding current law to allow animals to be placed with a third party approved by the court during a trial (current law only allows for veterinarians or animal control). AKC believes this could allow for dogs to be placed with co-owners or other responsible parties during a trial.
- Prohibiting animals from being sterilized during an ongoing trial, unless necessary to relieve suffering. If the animal is intentionally sterilized or euthanized prior to the disposition hearing (unless necessary to relieve suffering), or any time when a bond has been posted to cover care, the organization is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to the owner for damages, including the actual value of the animal.
- Holding the facility caring for the animals during a trial responsible for the quality of their care. Animals must receive proper care as determined by state law and regulations. The facility or organization caring for the animals is liable to the owner for damages resulting from negligent acts or abuse that occur while the animals are in their care.
- Clarifying that the owner is not responsible for the cost of the animals’ care and keeping during trial if the owner is acquitted or there is a final discharge without conviction. Within 72 hours after the disposition hearing, the owner may post a reasonable bond or security to cover the animal’s care, so long as it is consistent with the fair market cost of boarding an animal in an appropriate retail boarding facility. If the owner is found not liable for costs, they must be paid by the confiscating agency. Further, if the owner did provide sufficient bond and is ultimately acquitted, then they may have their animals returned.
AKC supports these provisions, which protect both the health and safety of animals seized and the rights of owners, unless and until proven guilty.
What You Can Do:
Contact your Missouri State Representative and State Senator and ask them to support these provisions in the House Committee Substitute of Senate Bill 600.
Visit AKC’s Legislative Action Center (www.akcgr.org) and click on the “Find Your Elected Officials” link to get the name and contact information for your Representative.
AKC Government Relations and the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners (MoFed) continue to closely monitor this and all legislative bills in Missouri impacting dog owners. For more information, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org or MoFed at email@example.com.