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New Law to Deter Cattle Thieves, Address Animal Trespassing in Effect

Cows in Missouri/ Photo Credit: Mason Brown via Flickr

Last week’s annual veto session by the Missouri General Assembly produced a record 10 overrides of bills struck down by Gov. Nixon. Among them was Senate Bill 9. KSMU’s Shannon Bowers has details on the new law, including why the Governor disapproved.

Jim McCann is the president of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association.  He says cattle theft is a multi-faceted problem, effecting both farmers and consumers alike. He says a full grown cow on average cost at least $1,000.

“If they can put 20 head in, they go out there and manage to get it loaded in 15 minutes and they are gone. That is a pretty good evening’s paycheck,” said McCann.

McCann adds that over 10,000 cows are stolen in Missouri ever year. Senate Bill 9 cracks down on cattle theft, making it a Class B Felony, which carries a sentence of between five to 15 years in jail, if convicted.

The new law also makes changes regarding international land ownership, allowing a cap of 1% of agricultural land to be foreign owned. Additionally, the bill addresses animal trespassing.

Despite the disapproval of Governor Nixon and other leading Missouri agricultural groups, Senate Bill 9 was passed during the regular session with overwhelming bi-partisan support in both the House (33-0) and Senate (133-21).

In his veto message on July 2, the Governor did not offer an opinion on the section pertaining to cattle rustling, but did claim the allowance of foreign ownership of agricultural land wasn’t sufficiently vetted and openly considered. Nixon also said the bill’s language regarding animal trespassing would result in unintended consequences.

“The proposed offense was broadly written to cover all manner of animal, including dogs, cats, rabbits, and chickens. Conceivably, an otherwise law-abiding Missourian who failed to control the family cat on two separate occasions could be subjected to incarceration,” Nixon said.

However, McCann is under a different impression of what the trespass rule reads, saying the current law regarding this issue makes no sense. 

“If you had a tree that blew down on your fence, your cow got out, the neighbor calls the sheriff, he comes out. The only thing he could write you a ticket for is animal abuse, because their cow got out” said McCann.

McCann says he has even had friends who have been charged with animal abuse, negatively impacting their standing in the cattle community. He says the new trespass rule gives people a period of time to collect the wandering animal without fear of such drastic charges. 

For KSMU News, I’m Shannon Bowers