What is Ballot Initiative 16?

UPDATE: In a 7-0 ruling on Monday, June 21, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Ballot Initiative 16 contains multiple subjects. The initiative cannot advance to the signature gathering step, and will not appear on the 2022 ballot. If the proponents of the initiative wish to continue forward, they will need to resubmit a new initiative and begin the process over again. The June 21 Colorado Supreme Court ruling did not address the merits of the initiative itself; the court only looked at whether the initiative contained a single subject, which is a requirement for all initiatives that appear on the Colorado ballot. Click here to read the court’s ruling.

“Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation” or Ballot Initiative 16, would have proposed changes to Colorado’s animal cruelty statutes and was an initiative being considered for the 2022 Colorado ballot.

A ballot initiative is a proposal that gets put on a ballot by an individual or group that collects enough voter signatures to get it added to the ballot. The wolf reintroduction issue on the 2020 Colorado ballot is an example of a ballot initiative.

A ballot initiative does not go through the state legislature or the governor. Unlike legislative bills, the initiative process does not include discussion, criticism, or debate on the content of the initiative. For citizen initiatives, like ballot initiatives, such deliberations are intentionally left to the voters.

CVMA, along with other agriculture and animal welfare groups, was gravely concerned this initiative would have a negative impact on animal health in Colorado.

Why veterinarians should care about Ballot Initiative 16

CVMA was highly concerned about Ballot Initiative 16 because it would have significant, extremely negative impacts on Colorado’s animals, their owners, and the veterinary profession. Every veterinarian takes an oath to protect animal health and welfare, prevent and relieve animal suffering, promote public health, and advance medical knowledge. Initiative 16 would have threatened all of those commitments.

Initiative 16 would have radically redefined certain common veterinary medical practices as criminal animal cruelty and criminal sexual acts with animals.

If passed by Colorado voters in 2022, the initiative would have:

  • Required that criminal animal cruelty charges be filed against veterinarians for performing common veterinary medical surgeries
  • Made spaying and neutering animals a criminal offense, thereby increasing animal suffering, pet overpopulation, and spreading of disease
  • Criminalized safe and common artificial insemination of dogs, horses, and livestock as “sexual act with an animal” or bestiality.

Click here to read the full language of the initiative.

Download our fact sheet to share with your communities.

See the latest news about the intiative on our blog.

In the news

CVMA is working hard to educate the public on the impact of Initiative 16. Here’s where CVMA and the CVMA position statement on Ballot Initiative 16 have been featured in the news.

Want to get involved?

Opposing this initiative will be a very long process. CVMA and other agriculture groups are working hard to prepare for a long opposition effort.

CVMA is communicating information about this initiative to members via eVOICE, CVMA’s weekly member e-newsletter. Keep an eye on eVOICE for more information about Ballot Initiative 16, including how you can help. Are you a CVMA member but not receiving eVOICE? Email us at [email protected] to make sure we’ve got your right email address on our list.

Not a CVMA member? Join now and help us stand up against this initiative. Our veterinary community is stronger together.