The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association is pressing Gov. Nixon to sign a bill to ease the punishment for livestock producers whose animals escape property lines.
The bill was approved by the 97th General Assembly over a month ago and has been awaiting the governor’s final signature since that time.
The legislation, SB 9, splits the current animal neglect law into separate punishments for animal abuse and animal control. While the animal neglect charge would apply to livestock producers failing to provide animals with adequate care, the newly created animal trespass measure differentiates between incidents that are accidental in nature versus malicious intent.
"As the animal abuse and neglect law currently stands, a farmer can receive a hefty fine or even imprisonment because their livestock got out of their confines. It doesn't matter if the animal is out for 12 hours or 10 minutes," says Missouri Cattlemen’s Association President Dr. Chuck Massengill. "Animal abuse should not be taken lightly, but we need to ensure that the law does not make criminals out of farmers who had a couple cows walk over the fence."
According to the Associated Press, the bill creates a new offense of animal trespass, defined as knowingly failing to provide adequate control of animals for at least 12 hours.
Animal trespass would be an infraction upon first conviction and a class C misdemeanor upon the second and all subsequent convictions.
The legislation also enforces stronger punishments for cattle rustlers. The bill would make cattle rustling a felony for the first time offenders in most cases.
"Cattle rustling is not the same as stealing objects. We are talking about livelihoods being stolen," says Massengill. "As a veterinarian, I will tell you that animal health and welfare is also compromised when animals are stolen. This is a very serious offense and Missouri law should reflect the seriousness of this crime."
In addition to the updated animal control terms, the bill also puts an emphasis on career and technical education programs in the state. The Career and Technical Education Student Protection Act, as it’s labeled in the bill, ensures programs including FFA remain a vital element of education in Missouri schools.