ST. LOUIS (AP) — Some animal advocates are concerned the Missouri Department of Agriculture hasn't referred many dog breeders to the state's chief law enforcement office.

Missouri voters enacted new rules to crack down on so-called puppy mills eight years ago. Legislators rewrote the law and state inspectors gained the authority to ask the attorney general's office to sue kennels, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The Department of Agriculture has only referred one case to the attorney general's office since Nov. 23, 2015. The department referred more than 45 settlement reviews and enforcement recommendations to then-Attorney General Chris Koster's office between 2011 and 2015, according to a Post-Dispatch review of attorney general records.

Bob Baker, president of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, said it's "very disconcerting" that the agency hasn't referred many cases.

Some advocates contend the pause could mean that the state has given breeders the implicit go-ahead to skirt Missouri law. But local breeders told the newspaper that inspectors and activists are as overbearing as ever.

"If I was not doing things right, I would not still be licensed," said Kim Coleman, who has ended up on advocates' bad breeders lists.

Department spokeswoman Sami Jo Freeman said the state's procedures focus on getting breeders to comply instead of funneling them to the attorney general's office.

"For us, the inspection process is a chance to get people into compliance, not necessarily to just refer them to the attorney general's office," she said. "And for us, that process is really about identifying ways they can improve their facility."

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com