HSUS and Local shelters file suit

HSUS joined with the Dogwood Animal Shelter in Osage and Stray Rescue in St. Louis to file a lawsuit to block new fees for shelters.

When the Animal Care Facilities Act was passed in the early 1990s, municipal pounds and shelters were exempt from paying fees. The reason why should be obvious: these organizations don't profit for every animal they process. In fact, the opposite occurs, as each organization has to expend money for processing the animal—sometimes a significant amount of money if the dog or cat is from a rescue and is in bad shape. In addition, unlike commercial breeders, these organizations also provide a service to the community by helping to remove unwanted dogs and cats from the streets, including the too many dogs dumped into the animal rescue infrastructure by callous and uncaring large scale dog breeders.

In 2010, this changed. In 2010, a simple little bill called SB 795 moved from the Senate to the House. This bill was related to blasting safety—something everyone can get behind. However, by the time the House was done with the bill, amendments and alterations had been tacked on to the bill to handle transportation of wild boar, the sale of eggs, the establishment of a Large Carnivore Fund, something to do with electric portfolios, a fee for selling booze, registration for pesticides, and amendments to the Animal Care Facilities Act (ACFA).

Among the ACFA amendments is the following, which specifically removes the fee exemption for animal shelters:

273.327. No person shall operate an animal shelter, pound or dog pound, boarding kennel, commercial kennel, contract kennel, pet shop, or exhibition facility, other than a limited show or exhibit, or act as a dealer or commercial breeder, unless [he] such person has obtained a license for such operations from the director. An applicant shall obtain a separate license for each separate physical facility subject to sections 273.325 to 273.357 which is operated by the applicant. Any person exempt from the licensing requirements of sections 273.325 to 273.357 may voluntarily apply for a license. Application for such license shall be made in the manner provided by the director. The license shall expire annually unless revoked. As provided by rules to be promulgated by the director, the license fee shall range from one hundred to five hundred dollars per year. Pounds[,] or dog pounds [and animal shelters] shall be exempt from payment of such fee. License fees shall be levied for each license issued or renewed on or after January 1, 1993.

The square brackets surround existing ACFA text which is removed via this new legislation.

Why remove the exemption for shelters and rescues? Spite, pure and simple. This is proved out by another amendment to the Act, which added an additional section to the law:

The department of agriculture shall not retain, contract with, or otherwise utilize the services of the personnel of any nonprofit organization for the purpose of inspection or licensing of any animal shelter, pound, or dog pound, boarding kennel, commercial kennel, contract kennel, commercial breeder, hobby or show breeder, or pet shop under sections 273.325 to 273.357.

It would be difficult for puppy mills to retain their dirty little secrets if folks from organizations such as Stray Rescue or HSMO were allowed to tag along with inspectors, even if the organization's person provides a needed service, such as veterinarian expertise.

HSUS, in conjunction with the Dogwood Animal Shelter and Stray Rescue are now challenging the increased licensing fee provision because it violates the state Constitution, specifically the Limitation of scope of bill:

Section 23. No bill shall contain more than one subject which shall be clearly expressed in its title, except bills enacted under the third exception in section 37 of this article and general appropriation bills, which may embrace the various subjects and accounts for which moneys are appropriated.

The bill is a clear violation of the Missouri Constitution. The thing is an awful mess of totally unrelated provisions, rules, replacements seemingly shotgunned into the original bill, which is now some grab bag of special interests and personal agenda items. The original bill text about blasting safety still remains—crammed somewhere between pesticides and large carnivores.

The Missouri General Assembly should be ashamed of putting out such a worthless piece of crap. What made it worse, though, was to add an alteration specifically to punish non-profit organizations.

All I can say is the people in Missouri can take no pride in their lawmakers.