New law prevents farmers from getting sued for animal damages
COLUMBIA – After becoming law Wednesday night, Senate Bill 844 will change the way cattle farmers could be affected by their animals.
Missouri legislators overrode the governor’s veto for the bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Mike Parsons (R-Bolivar). Now, cattle owners will have a layer of protection from possible damages their animals could create.
The new law allows for the owners of the animals to only be held liable for the damage their escaped animals could cause if they are proven to be negligent in how they keep the animals locked away.
Cindy Brenneke owns the Where Pigs Fly Farm and has several free-range animals on the farm. After hearing about the overridden veto and new law, she expressed relief.
“People don’t realize unless they’re in farming that you can put up the most incredible fences, but it’s just almost inevitable at times that you’re going to have a cow jump a fence or a horse jump a fence,” Brenneke said.
Despite putting up thousands of dollars in cattle fencing, Brenneke said she has had some of her animals escape, sometimes into her neighbor’s yards.
“We still have animals that manage to get out, which can be quite frustrating,” Brenneke said.
Dustin Stanton, co-owner and operator of Stanton Brothers Eggs, said he is happy the bill has become law but does not see it affecting how business will be run. Stanton’s company is the largest free-range egg operation in America.
“The main thing is we’re still going to operate the same as farmer and producers in general, regardless if you have poultry, cattle, horses, sheep, etcetera. You still care about the consumer and about their safety,” Stanton said.
Both also agreed that those who do not have animals may not realize that despite all precautionary measures, animals can still cause damage.
“Our animals are like your children, and a lot of times your kids do things that you don’t necessarily appreciate them doing or have control of them doing, and that’s sometimes the way our animals are,” Brenneke said.
Though the new law has given relief to some, Senate Bill 844 did not pass without some controversy.
Before the bill moved on to the House Wednesday night, Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) and Sen. Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan) engaged in a shouting match.
Schaaf wanted those voting on the bill to think about what money potential damages could cost those they affected if owners were not held responsible. Schatz argued back on the floor that farmers in general should not have to bear the burden of liability if they tried every possible way to stop it from happening.
Ultimately, the bill became law after the Senate voted 24-7 and the House voted 114-40 in favor to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto.