JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Deer Association won a legal battle with the Missouri Department of Conservation last week, overturning several regulations.
The proposed regulations would have prevented breeders from importing deer from other states and using them for breeding and on private hunting reserves.
There was also contention over how the deer were termed, as wildlife instead of livestock, which gave the department control over the deer. That distinction meant that deer were the property of the people of Missouri, the department had argued.
“We are very pleased the judge agreed that the state of Missouri does not have – and cannot take – ownership of privately owned animals,” said Jacques deMoss, president of the association, in a statement. “The deer in question have never been a part of the wild. They were born and raised on private farms with considerable financial investment from deer farmers, while the state has invested nothing in them.”
The Department of Conservation had cited concerns about the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, a disease of the nervous system in deer and elk that results in distinctive brain lesions, when enacting the new regulations. But Judge Robert D. Schollmeyer rejected those arguments, finding that CWD had only been present in wild deer in Missouri and only one-tenth of one percent of those tested.
“The Conservation Department used the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease as justification for trying to take ownership interest in these deer,” deMoss said. “We share Conservation’s concern about CWD, just as we are concerned about all of the diseases that can affect animals. In fact, the deer farmers, who have invested millions of their own dollars in acquiring and raising these deer, have a greater financial stake than anyone in seeing that they remain disease free. We fully support the Conservation Department’s efforts to control the spread of CWD in the wild population and hope that it continues to improve its surveillance of deer in the wild.”
Schollmeyer, in ruling against the Department of Conservation, also seemed to suggest that the Missouri Department of Agriculture should be the agency responsible for regulation of privately owned and bred deer. DeMoss welcomed regulation from that agency.
“We do not think we are beyond regulation by the state,” he said. “We have contended from beginning that we think the Missouri Department of Agriculture is the appropriate agency to regulate our privately owned deer, just as they regulate other privately owned animals in the state.”
Read the judge’s decision below.