The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

August 20, 2013

Our View: Shelters paying price

— Maybe it’s the zeroes that throw off legislators. Dealing with Missouri’s annual budget means dealing with billions of dollars in revenue. Looking at numbers with so many zeroes may desensitize members of the General Assembly to the amount of $2,500.

But that relatively small amount is a big deal to animal shelters around the state that now have to pay it.

Specifically, that $2,500 is the maximum amount of a licensing fee that an animal shelter must pay annually. The maximum fee used to be $500.

The increase comes from the fallout of Proposition B, a 2010 measure approved by voters but scrapped by the Legislature and rewritten in 2011. The original measure, known as the “Puppy Mill Initiative,” limited the number of animals a breeder could keep, but the 2011 rewrite removed those limits and added the fee increase.

Because of the legalese, animal shelters got roped into the group required to pay that fee.

That’s a problem for animal shelters, the very groups that our cities and communities rely on to help with animal overpopulation.

Consider the Joplin Humane Society: It receives about 800 animals a month and tries to place them with new families. These animals are pets that families didn’t want anymore and strays that got picked up by local animal control officers.

This irony makes us queasy: A law that could have limited the number of animals produced by a small group of irresponsible breeders is instead penalizing the groups that are cleaning up the messes left by those irresponsible breeders.

The shelters have already done all they can. They took the matter to the Missouri Supreme Court, hoping to get the fee overturned. They lost the case based on those demoralizing, deflating technicalities that our judges are required to respect, even when those technicalities lead far away from common sense.

Maybe one of our Southwest Missouri legislative leaders can push a bill to eliminate this fee. Doing so would help feed and shelter more animals. The fee’s elimination would have a direct impact on this area and all around the state. And it would remove a major financial burden on shelters, which don’t have many zeroes in their annual budgets.

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