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Colorado’s Initiative 16, also called the PAUSE (Protect Animals From Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation) initiative, would effectively criminalize many common animal husbandry practices in the state. If the initiative makes it on the state’s 2022 ballot, there could be severe implications for all of Colorado’s animal agriculture.

A proposed 2022 ballot measure in Colorado would devastate animal agriculture as we know it. The Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation (PAUSE) initiative was introduced in late February and would alter animal cruelty laws, vastly impacting how producers care for their animals.

A coalition of ag leaders and organizations has formed Coloradans for Animal Care to officially oppose the initiative. The group is made up of six Colorado-based livestock organizations including Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Colorado Wool Growers Association, Colorado Livestock Association and the Colorado Pork Producers Council.

“We’ve come together to oppose one of the most radical and reactionary ballot initiative proposals this state has ever seen,” said Carlyle Currier, president of Colorado Farm Bureau, in a released statement. “We can’t allow such a direct and brazen attack on one of the state’s largest and most historic industries to go unanswered.” 

Colorado Cattlemen’s Association President Janie VanWinkle stressed how the initiative would eliminate the exception for accepted husbandry practices, which could lead to common practices being deemed as cruel to animals. “For example, if a court concluded that spaying or neutering livestock was an unjustifiable procedure, deeming it mistreatment, the rancher could be convicted—perhaps once for each animal.”

On March 24, Coloradans for Animal Care filed for a motion for rehearing to challenge the initiative’s title set by the title board on March 17. A rehearing will be held April 7, where the coalition will have the chance to challenge the determination of a single subject and the title, but not any substance of the initiative. To view the hearing at 9 a.m. MDT April 7, click here.

“There’s no way going forward to change the substance of the initiative as it is written,” Shawn Martini, spokesperson for Coloradans for Animal Care, told WLJ. “There’s no way to challenge the legality or the constitutionality or anything of that nature. The system in Colorado is set up so that regardless of how poorly something is written or how terrible it might be, it makes it to the ballot if all the boxes are checked.”

Martini said while the group doesn’t expect much movement at the rehearing regarding whether or not the initiative is a single subject, he thinks the title board may be amenable to a few substantive changes to the title as it is currently set. The coalition will have the opportunity to argue against language used in the title that may be suggestive toward voters to vote one way or another.

If the title remains as is, Coloradans for Animal Care plans to challenge the initiative at the Supreme Court. Martini said the process would likely be completed by the end of May at the earliest and then proponents would have to get their petition sections approved by the secretary of state before they have 180 days to gather signatures.

The group is also working with agribusinesses to support the opposition effort.

“Should it come down to a really significant campaign, the state’s livestock and farm and ranch organizations are nonprofits and we can’t fund this on our own,” Martini said. “If we don’t want the precedent of something like this passing in Colorado and then getting exported around the country, we’ve got to really lean in and stop it here.”

For those wanting to get involved in opposing the initiative, Martini recommends becoming a member in the organizations that make up the coalition. He also stressed the importance of talking about the initiative to friends, relatives, and others, and the implications of the proposal to animal agriculture.

“I think everybody should keep in mind that this is a fairly long road ahead of us to the fall of 2022,” Martini said. “So it’s important to get engaged and stay engaged, but really note that we’re going to have to come out really hard and campaign to talk to Colorado’s voters in a really forceful way in the summer and fall of 2022.”

To learn more about the opposition effort, please visit ColoradansForAnimalCare.com. — Anna Miller, WLJ managing editor

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