Ever since Missouri citizens voted in favor of Proposition B -- the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act -- in November, a few politicians have been thumbing their noses at voters and talking about overturning the will of the people. One bill has already been pre-filed to repeal Prop B in its entirety, and others are expected to severely weaken or gut the core provisions of the measure.
We'll be reminding lawmakers that Prop B passed with a clear majority statewide; in fact, a majority of voters favored Prop B in a majority of state senate, state house, and congressional districts. Prop B won in five of the nine congressional districts -- three that elected Democrats and two that elected Republicans. And it had winning margins in 18 of the 34 state senate districts -- eight Democratic seats and ten Republican seats -- with the "yes" side ranging from 50.9 percent to 79.4 percent. 16 of those winning senate districts had a 17-point margin or more for Prop B.
Elected officials should respect the will of the people. Subverting the judgment of voters is not right, and it is anti-democratic. Our system is built on majority rule, and a majority of Missouri citizens -- including majorities in most legislative districts -- favored Prop B. The voters acted precisely because the legislature has failed to stop puppy mill abuses. It is undemocratic and would be wrong of lawmakers to usurp the power of the people and ignore their expressed will.
Prop B was a simple measure, dealing only with setting standards for commercial dog breeding, and has no connection whatsoever to Missouri's important agriculture and livestock economy. The opponents' campaign was based entirely on falsehoods and misrepresentations in an attempt to confuse voters. The truth is, Prop B deals only with dogs. It does not deal with cattle, chickens, or pigs.
Some people who voted against the measure were wrongly told that existing regulations on dog breeding are adequate. They are not. Under pre-Prop B rules, a dog can be in a cage just six inches longer than her body, she can be confined in that cage and never let out, she need not ever see a veterinarian, and a dog can be huddled in a wire cage in the middle of winter -- exposed to freezing temperatures. All of that was legal, and that's why we needed Prop B.
The new regulations, requiring adequate and clean food and water, exercise, properly sized and sanitary cages, veterinary care, protection from extreme heat and cold and adequate time between breeding cycles, are very reasonable, as Missourians of good will -- including responsible breeders -- know. Prop B also provides a one-year phase-in so breeders have plenty of time to comply with these new standards.
If you live in Missouri, contact your state legislators today and tell them to keep their hands off Prop B. You can look up their contact info, or type in your zip code to send an email. You can also send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. As the Jefferson City News-Tribune, which opposed Prop B during the campaign, wrote in an editorial:
Proposition B was among the most discussed and debated issues on the November ballot. To contend the voters were misled undermines their intelligence.
It doesn't matter whether we -- or other newspapers -- opposed it, whether a vast majority of counties rejected it or whether legislators are happy with the outcome.
The initiative petition process, used to launch Proposition B, empowers people to propose public policy when their elected representatives fail to do so.
The proposition exemplifies the phrase "of the people and by the people." And our state motto reminds us to respect the welfare and the people, including their ability to determine what that is.
With regard to Proposition B, let it be.