The Humane Society of the United States, the Dogwood Animal Shelter in Osage Beach, Mo., and Stray Rescue of St. Louis in St. Louis, Mo., have filed suit seeking to stop a new government fee on non-profit animal shelters in Missouri.
“Animal shelters are already struggling to care for the state’s homeless animals and cope with an influx of animals stranded by the recent near record flooding. The last thing they need is to be hit with a senseless government tax on their lifesaving charitable efforts,” said Barbara Schmitz, Missouri state director of The HSUS. “This new fee is the wrong policy, at the wrong time, and will mean fewer dogs and cats get the medical care, vaccinations, and new loving homes they deserve.”
Until the passage of SB 795 last year, Missouri’s animal shelters were exempt from the licensing fees that the Missouri Department of Agriculture imposes on licensed breeders, dealers, pet stores, kennels, and other commercial entities through the Animal Care Facilities Act. Animal shelters are non-profit organizations that provide a public service to the community, and should not be lumped into the same category as commercial enterprises. In fact, it’s the animal welfare organizations that often clean up the mess created by the commercial entities, such as the large-scale puppy mills that flood the market with dogs.
The removal of the exemption for these non-profit community-based shelters, along with the recent increase in the allowable range of state licensing fees passed as part of the bill enacted by the legislature gutting the voter-approved Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, could subject the already cash-strapped animal shelters in the state to hundreds—and possibly thousands—of dollars in additional yearly fees. As a result, shelters will have fewer resources to care for animals and place them for adoption.
The suit alleges that the provision of SB 795 in question violates the Missouri constitution in that it differs from the original purpose of the bill, which related to blasting safety. The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that the provision removing the exemption is unconstitutional, as well as permanent injunctive relief against the enforcement of the provision.
Missouri attorney David B. Cosgrove and lawyers from The HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation section are representing the plaintiffs in the case.
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