Appeals court transfers deer regulation challenge to state Supreme Court

By Sam Knef | Oct 21, 2017

The Missouri Supreme Court will consider whether new conservation regulations designed to limit the spread of disease in deer are enforceable.

Deer are a much-beloved animal, unless you are an avid gardener in rural Central Texas.   BrandonLord / Flickr

ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Supreme Court will consider whether new conservation regulations designed to limit the spread of disease in deer are enforceable.

On Oct. 10, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District indicated it would reverse a ruling from the Gasconade County Circuit Court that sided with breeders and hunting facilities who sued the Missouri Department of Conservation and Commissioners over regulations involving the state's captive cervid industry.

But given the "general interest and importance of the questions involved here, we transfer," wrote Justice Robert G. Dowd Jr. for the three-judge panel that also included Judges Sherri Sullivan and Kurt Odenwald.

According to the appeals court ruling, new regulations went into effect in January 2015 to help manage the threat of chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal neurodegenerative disease affecting hooved animals such as deer, moose and elk that spreads between animals and indirectly through environmental contamination. The disease was first detected in Missouri in 2010.

Plaintiff Donald Hill is the operator of a 1,300-acre hunting preserve and white-tailed deer breeding operation, plaintiff Travis Broadway operates a 3,000-acre hunting preserve and plaintiff Kevin Grace runs a luxury lodge and a breeding facility for white-tailed deer, sika and red deer.

The "captive" industry had been subject to previous unchallenged regulation by the state, the ruling states, but raised objections to newer regulations of 2015, arguing that captive cervids were not game or wildlife resources of the state.

Among the challenges, the plaintiffs object to fencing and confinement requirements, as well as the imposition of permitting, record-keeping and reporting requirements on hunting preserves.

After issuing a preliminary injunction, Gasconade County Circuit Judge Robert Schollmeyer held a hearing on the full merits of the case and subsequently ruled that all of the challenged regulations were invalid and prohibited the Conservation Department from directly or indirectly relying on or enforcing them, the ruling states.

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