COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Legislation that would toughen penalties for cattle rustling and provide a fix to the animal abuse and neglect law was axed last week by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. Vetoing S.B. 9, which was an important bill for Missouri farm and ranch families, led the Missouri Cattlemen's Association (MCA) to question Nixon's commitment to Missouri agriculture.

Mike Deering, MCA executive vice president, said the governor turned his back on families providing safe and nutritious beef for a growing global population.

"Governor Nixon has often touted himself as a friend to farmers and ranchers,” Deering said. “Our association endorsed the governor and certainly appreciate the many efforts he has made in support of Missouri's top economic driver, but a veto of S.B. 9 is reason for serious concern," said Deering 

Rep. Joe Don McGaugh (R-39) sponsored the animal trespass portion of S.B. 9. MCA President Chuck Massengill, who is also a veterinarian, says this portion would have provided a much needed correction fix to the current animal abuse and neglect law.

"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," said 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 that had been knocked down by a fallen tree or an out-of-control motor vehicle."

Cattle rustling is a constant problem throughout the state and most severe in southwest Missouri. It too, was addressed in S.B. 9. The new language, sponsored by Sen. David Sater (R-29), would have made the penalties for cattle rustling tougher by making the first offense a felony in most cases.

"Cattle rustling is not the same as stealing objects. We are talking about livelihoods being stolen," Massengill said. "It's a shame that the governor essentially ignored MCA's request to curb this problem in the state."