Wednesday, September 11, 2013

APHIS Retail Pet Store Final Rule to be Published

The finalized USDA APHIS rule redefining retail pet stores has been released and will be officially published later this week, going into effect 60 days after publication. This is a federal rule that will affect the entire USA.

A few highlights:

Food, fiber and breeding stock sales, and the sale of certain types of working dogs, are exempt if the animals are not being sold/marketed/raised for the purpose of being pets.

The rule change will affect breeders, rescues and others who sell animals as pets in situations where the seller does not personally meet the buyer face to face when selling or delivering the animal, whether the internet is involved or not.

Other situations, such as selling to laboratories, at wholesale or for exhibition will still be covered as before under AWA/APHIS regulations.

The exemption on number of breeding females for cats, dogs, small exotics, and wild animals has been raised from 3 to 4, and APHIS has clarified that this is calculated as a per-household number of animals capable of breeding, not per species (in other words, one dog, one cat, and one hedgehog, and one spiny mouse female capable of breeding would meet the threshold, even if they were not all actually being used for breeding). This exemption only applies if all the cats, dogs, small exotics or wild animals being sold were born and raised by the seller on their premises.

The $500 threshold for other types of animals remains the same, but APHIS is removing the "limits on the source of gross income" to include retail sales under that umbrella. The under-$500 exemption applies to "any person who does not sell or negotiate the purchase or sale of any wild or exotic animal, dog, or cat and who derives no more than $500 gross income from the sale of the animals other than wild or exotic animals, dogs, or cats during any calendar year.”

APHIS clarified that shelters, rescues and other nonprofits are subject to the same standards as breeders in determining whether they need to be licensed; adoption fees and donations are considered the same as sales for their purposes.

The requirements for facilities, paperwork, etc. in order for a seller to be licensed remain the same. Nothing has been changed in that respect to make it possible for small breeders, foster homes, etc. to be USDA licensed and raise animals in a typical home/family type setting. The AWA rules still require that licensed facilities must keep animals only in a sterile commercial/laboratory-type setting with staff present at all times during business hours, and other elements discussed in our previous post about what USDA licensing entails:

Some relevant links:

USDA/APHIS News Release:

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has revised the definition of “retail pet store” under the Animal Welfare Act to restore an important check and balance that helps ensure the health and humane treatment of pet animals sold sight unseen."

FAQs on the Retail Pet Store Final Rule:

PDF of the Final Rule:

Recording of the APHIS-Retail Pet Rule Conference Call 9/10/13, courtesy of The Cavalry Group:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Stopping Breeders is Not the Way to End Shelter Overpopulation

Let's try explaining one more time in a different way why eliminating breeders is not the way to solve the "shelter overpopulation problem."

First, a quick look at some animal population statistics. No two sources seem to agree completely, so these are rough--consider them for illustration purposes here. They are largely drawn from various shelter and rescue websites such as the ASPCA, as well as from several published surveys and research papers.

Approximately 57% of American households will obtain a dog or cat, for a pool of 17 million available homes. Of that 17 million, approximately 20% will adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue. Another 15% or so will get animals from breeders or pet stores, while the remaining 65% obtain their cats or dogs from other sources, mostly cheap or free such as finding a stray, having a friend or aquaintance give them one, having a litter of babies, etc.

Somewhere between 5 and 8 million dogs and cats enter shelters, with about half being owner surrenders and half coming in through animal control as strays, confiscated animals, etc. Approximately 10% of those are unadoptable, with some being animals that were brought in by their owners to be euthanized for health/age/behavior issues. Another 10% or so are lost animals that are reunited with their owners. About 20% of them are actually animals that previously came from a shelter and are being returned to the shelter system. At most 25% are estimated to possibly be purebreds, based on their appearance--but this number is probably overinflated, since many animals that look like a given breed are not actually purebred. Even of the ones that are, not all of them will come from actual breeders and intentional breedings. The vast majority of animals that enter the rescue and shelter system are feral animals and/or the result of unplanned breedings.

About half of animals that enter shelters are euthanized, for a total of 3 to 4 million that leave alive and 3 to 4 million that are euthanized. That 3 to 4 million, minus the unadoptable ones, are what is generally referred to as shelter overpopulation.

OK, now for our illustration.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Updates on WA Animal Legislation

A few quick updates on several items of WA animal-related legislation:

There is a hearing on HB 5102, the veterinarian immunity law, scheduled on Wednesday, March 13th at 8am in the House Committee on Judiciary in Olympia.

You may see the previous WA Animal Watch post about veterinary immunity laws here:

HB 1202, "Animal Cruelty Prevention," has been placed on the House floor calendar, which makes it eligible for a vote by all members of the State House of Representatives. If it passes that, the next step would be the Senate.

SB 5202, the spay/neuter assistance bill, was moved on March 8th from the Senate Rules Committee to the Senate floor calendar. The next step would be a vote by all members of the Washington State Senate. An amendment and the substitute bill change the funding mechanism to donations rather than a tax on pet food or pet licensing.

Two new animal-related laws were introduced in the WA state legislature on Feb. 8th:

HB 1786 would require registration of animal abusers (defined as anyone convicted of 1st or 2nd degree cruelty, animal fighting, or poisoning animals).

See our previous post about animal abuser registry bills here:

HB 1787 would ban the tail docking of dairy cows, outlawing both the act of docking and also essentially banning ownership of already-docked cows, in addition to forbidding bringing them into the state.

Rep. Derek Stanford is the prime sponsor of HB 1786 and 1787.

A few more animal-related pieces of legislation in WA:

HB 1830 would change the crime of causing harm to a service animal or search and rescue animal from a gross misdemeanor to a Class C felony if done "with reckless disregard". In previously existing law, a Class C felony under this statute required intent to harm the animal. As of today, it has received a first reading and been referred to the Judiciary committee.
HB 1024 and SB 5645 revise the language in WA statutes regarding service animals to more closely align with federal law.

HB 1024:

HB 1886 adds data entry and processing expenses to the costs that can be recovered by the Dept. of Agriculture in disease control and traceability actions. 

SHB 1010 expands the requirement to add an aversive agent to antifreeze/coolant to include wholesale containers of 55 gallons or more, and exempts spent antifreeze/coolant being stored/transported for disposal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Update on HB 1201, 1202. Judiciary committe executive session on 1202

The WA House Judiciary Committee did not take action on HB 1201 (the bill on selling animals) today.  They did take action on 1202, the bill making a number of changes to the animal cruelty statutes.

Rep. Roberts proposed a substitute bill for HB 1202 making fairly significant changes to the proposed bill, and this was passed out of committee with a vote of 8 yeas and 5 nays for a "do pass" recommendation.

The new version of the bill no longer creates a new infraction for animal cruelty, and takes out several of the proposed changes to the definitions section.

It does retain the addition of a section on leaving animals in vehicles, and the changes to add "injury" and "food and water" to the 2nd degree cruelty statutes, as well as the changes to the animal fighting statutes which would make it apply to all types and species of animals. It removes the word "knowingly" from section 3(1)(b) on animal fighting, but retains the word "knowingly" in section 3(1), which would cover 3(1)(b) as well, making the second instance of the word redundant.

The substitute bill adds "and condition" to the definition of necessary food, along with retaining the language "or as directed by a veterinarian for medical reasons" in the definitions of necessary food and necessary water, as follows:

(j) "Necessary food" means the provision at suitable intervals of wholesome foodstuff suitable for the animal's age ((and)), species, and condition, and that is sufficient to provide a reasonable level of nutrition for the animal and is easily accessible to the animal or as directed by a veterinarian for medical reasons.

The substitute bill leaves out the other suggested changes to the definitions section that were in in the original bill. It does still remove economic distress as an affirmative defense for 2nd degree animal cruelty, and retains several of the other changes to the wording of the laws as well.

The substitute bill is not yet available on the bill's homepage as of this writing, but you can read it from the committee meeting documents here:

Click on Amd/Proposed Subs and then on 01 - PSHB 1202 With Effect Adopted (91k), and a PDF file of the substitute bill should open. Remember, in general the existing law is in regular font. Crossed-out portions in double parenthesis ((like this)) are the parts the current bill is proposing to remove, and underlined portions would be added in the proposed bill.

Here is the video of today's Judiciary Committee executive session, 1/14/2013 at 10AM.

And here is a rough transcript of the executive session from the video. The initial discussion is from near the beginning of the video, and the recommendations and voting are from about 28 minutes in. Again, this is not an official transcript; just notes taken by one of our volunteers.

Monday, February 11, 2013

WA Animal cruelty bills scheduled for executive session Feb 12th

The Washington House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to have an executive session on HB 1201 and HB 1202 on Feb 12, 2013, at 10:00AM. This is where they will be voting on whether to pass the bills out of committee to go on to the next step in the process of becoming a law or not.

Again, HB 1201 (companion bill SB 5203) would make selling animals in public places or private places open to the public, with certain exceptions, an animal cruelty crime.

HB 1202 (companion bill SB 5204) adds a new animal cruelty infraction for issues not rising to the level of 2nd or 1st degree cruelty, and makes several other changes to the animal cruelty laws.

If you would like to make your opinion known and hopefully influence the way the committee members vote, please contact the judiciary committee members ASAP.

Contact Information for the WA House Judiciary Committee:

See the following posts for more information:

Washington Animal Cruelty Legislation for 2013: HB 1201 and HB 1202 (This post contains a summary of the two bills and the changes they would be making to existing law):

Unofficial Transcript of Public Hearings on HB 1201 and HB 1202, including a link to video of the hearing:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Why Veterinarians Should Not be Immune from Responsibility

The veterinary immunity bill passed out of committee in the Washington State Senate as well as the House, and is up for debate and discussion among those lawmakers who will be voting on it next. In the WA house it is HB 1186, where it was placed on 2nd reading Feb 7th, and in the senate it is SB 5102, where it passed the 3rd reading with unanimous yes votes. Links to the pages for these bills are at the bottom of this post.

This bill would hold veterinarians immune from all civil and criminal liability for "good-faith" reporting of animal cruelty in the course of their practice. It ignores the fact that someone can "in good faith" still be negligent or commit malpractice, and leaves owners with no recourse in these situations.

The WA legislative website is trialing a new option to allow people to leave comments directly on the bill's page. Look for the "comment on this bill" link at the top of the page.

You should also contact the bill's sponsors and your representatives and let them know that animal owners need to be able to take appropriate measures if veterinarians knowingly, maliciously or negligently make false reports of animal abuse; or make a diagnosis of abuse so careless and wrong that it would be equivalent to medical malpractice.

Washington laws about false and malicious reporting, slander, etc. already require that such actions be negligent, malicious, knowingly false, etc. in order to successfully pursue action against the person. We believe there are already adequate protections in place to protect veterinarians or anyone else who makes a good-faith report of animal cruelty with legitimate reason to believe cruelty is taking place, even if the accused is not convicted of cruelty.

If it becomes commonplace for people to be unfairly prosecuted for animal cruelty when they take an animal to the vet, this will only discourage people from seeking veterinary treatment for their animals.

We know of several cases in which veterinarians reported people for animal cruelty for not purchasing a product or service they were trying to sell, or for wanting to wait or get a second opinion instead of immediately euthanizing an animal or doing an invasive and unnecessary procedure the vet recommended.

Here is one example:

The family adopted an FIV-positive cat. When veterinarian Holly Cheever recommended euthanizing it, they decided that since the cat did not seem to be suffering they would like to try to keep it comfortable at home a little longer. They might have sought a second opinion, but the veterinarian immediately called authorities who seized the cat and brought it back to Cheevers, who euthanized it that same day (removing the owners' right to get a second opinion, and the evidence they needed to defend themselves) and insisted that they (including a family member who did not even live with the cat, but helped transport it to the vet) be charged with animal cruelty for their refusal to immediately euthanize the cat based on her recommendation.

Several of our team have personally experienced veterinarians prescribing medications or procedures contraindicated for the condition or species of animal they were treating, making severe misdiagnoses, or doing things like prescribing blacklisted medications (unsafe for use in meat animals) for livestock that were being raised for human consumption.

Animal owners should not be prosecuted because they refused the recommended treatment or went for a second opinion when the vet made a mistake like that.

No type of malpractice should be immune from consequences. If a veterinarian makes a significantly negligent diagnosis of animal cruelty, the owner should have recourse to pursue appropriate civil or criminal remedies. A veterinarian who has a pattern of reporting people in retaliation for refusing something the veterinarian was trying to sell, or for seeking a second opinion from another vet, should be disciplined. Veterinarians should have no more freedom than anyone else to make an allegation of animal cruelty without good reason to believe cruelty is actually taking place.

In fact, veterinarians should know even better than the general public how to evaluate animals' health, and so should not be excused when they make a significantly stupid diagnosis that could rise to the level of malpractice. If they do not know how to evaluate and diagnose a species, they should refer the case to a vet who can instead of making a wild, uninformed guess that could lead to someone's conviction for a crime they did not commit.

A few potential examples of this sort of thing:

* Reporting an owner for starving an animal, in the absence of reason to believe they were withholding food and without considering or checking for any medical conditions that could be causing the animal to lose weight.

* Diagnosing neglect or abuse in a healthy animal because the vet did not know how to properly evaluate the species and were diagnosing a type of animal they did not normally treat or examine. For instance, using a horse-specific body scoring system to score a dairy cow and declaring it to be starving because it had normal bone structure visibility for a dairy cow but did not fit the normal ranges for the horse scoring system, misidentifying a healthy alpaca as a severely underweight llama, or diagnosing a common and harmless anomaly normal for a given type of animal as being caused by neglect or abuse.

* Reporting an owner for animal cruelty because they refused to do immediate exploratory surgery on a dog that had a routine issue normally handled far less invasively. Since the owners were visiting family in another town and this wasn't their regular vet, they decided to instead immediately take the dog home to their regular vet for a second opinion. If the dog did need surgery, they would rather have their regular vet that they knew and trusted perform it. The first vet (who had never seen them before) tried to talk them out of this, saying that they were just trying to "save money" and that seeing another vet "wouldn't help."

Their normal vet treated it in the standard way, and the issue resolved just fine without surgery.

In making a report of animal cruelty on these clients, the vet reportedly stated that people should not be allowed to own any animals at all if they could not afford or were not willing to do any treatment recommended by this vet. Again, this was a routine issue very common to the breed, and exploratory surgery as a first resort would have been an inappropriate and unnecessarily dangerous and invasive treatment option. The owners didn't just refuse treatment and let the dog suffer; they were essentially reported for seeking a second opinion.

We love our veterinarians, and know that many are extremely competent and would not lightly or inappropriately report people for animal abuse. But veterinarians, just like anyone else, are not infallible, and there are situations where negligence or malpractice happen, or even where veterinarians commit crimes.

Do you have any stories of veterinarians making significantly negligent errors in diagnosis or treatment, or making clearly inappropriate reports of animal cruelty? We'd like to hear them, and we think our lawmakers should hear them too.

It is important to realize that these are not just situations where a person is making a report that is then going to be checked out and verified by experts--the vet IS the expert, and in multiple cases people have been convicted of cruelty based on a vet's word, when the veterinarian was not knowledgeable about the species and testified in court that something actually normal for a healthy animal of that type was proof of neglect or abuse.

Again, you can comment both by contacting your own representatives, the bill's sponsors and the committee members individually, by calling the legslative hotline, and by leaving a comment on the bill's homepage (links below).

We tried using the widget for leaving a comment on the bill's homepage, but kept getting an error message. Please let us know if you get it to work.

If you call the hotline or use the "contact" widget on the legislative hotline for individual legislators, they will request your home address to verify what district you are in and who your representatives are, but you can request that your message be sent to the bill's sponsors and the committee members working on it as well. You can tell the operator whether you oppose or support the bill, and they will also write down your comments to forward to the lawmakers.

On the actual homepage for each representative, you can generally email them directly without going through the legislative website widget.

Legislative Toll-free Hotline:
1-800-635-9993 (TTY)

Here is the link to HB 1186:

And here is the page for SB 5102:

(If you are not from Washington, check to see if your own state is trying to pass or already has similar legislation, and contact your own legislators. Many states have or are trying to pass these types of laws.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Unofficial Transcript of Public Hearings on Animal Cruelty Bills, Jan 31, 2013

Please note, this is not an official transcript of the 1/31 House Judiciary Committee Public Hearings. This is just notes taken by one of our volunteers, for those who need (or prefer) to read rather than listen to it. Please let us know if you notice any major errors and what the timestamp on the video was so we can double check it.

This post is extraordinarily long, so only the first several paragraphs will appear on the main blog page. Click on the "read more" link for the rest of the post.
HB 1186 (27:55 on video)

Omeara Harrington, Counsel (staff):"House Bill 1186 provides legal immunity for licensed veterinarians who report animal cruelty. The animal cruelty statutes outlaw killing or harming animals or engaging in a number of practices that are hazardous to animals, including unsafe confinement, animal fighting and poisoning animals.

Veterinarians can be involved in animal cruelty investigations in a number of ways. The animal cruelty statutes specifically permit law enforcement officers to solicit the help of veterinarians in determining whether animal abuse or neglect has occurred to such a degree that would justify the law enforcement officer in removing the animal for care. Veterinarians may also be called on to advise and assist the law enforcement officers in the euthanasia of an animal that has been seriously injured and is suffering, and there is statutory immunity provided to veterinarians participating in these activities as long as they are carried out with reasonable prudence. Veterinarians may also encounter evidence of animal cruelty in the course of their practices.

State law does not require that animal cruelty is reported, and veterinarians are not provided with immunity from liability in statute if they do decide to voluntarily report.

House Bill 1186 would provide licensed veterinarians with immunity from criminal and civil liability for reporting suspected animal cruelty in good faith and in the normal course of business.

And I can answer questions.

Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D): Thank you, do you have any questions for staff? OK. Our resident veterinarian, the lady from the 35th, is not with us at this point. We'll give her a chance to testify if she comes a little bit later. In the mean time, Mr. Vice Chair, let's bring up the witnesses.

May we please hear from Mr. Greg Hanon and Dr. Mike Anderson?

Monday, February 4, 2013

2013 WA House Judiciary Committee

Contact Information for the WA House Judiciary Committee Members, as of Jan 2103

Legislative Toll-free Hotline:
1-800-635-9993 (TTY)

Tara Weaver, Legislative Asst.     JLOB 204A     (360) 786-7122
(Ms. Weaver is the person who can put your testimony or comments into the case file for the law under consideration.)
Representative    Room    Phone    Email    FAX

Pedersen, Jamie (D) Chair     LEG 436B    (360) 786-7826

Hansen, Drew (D) Vice Chair     JLOB 369    (360) 786-7842

Rodne, Jay (R) *     JLOB 430    (360) 786-7852

O'Ban, Steve (R) **     JLOB 424    (360) 786-7890

Goodman, Roger (D)     JLOB 328    (360) 786-7878

Hope, Mike (R)         JLOB 466    (360) 786-7892

Jinkins, Laurie (D)     JLOB 311    (360) 786-7930

Kirby, Steve (D)     LEG 437B    (360) 786-7996

Klippert, Brad (R)     JLOB 410    (360) 786-7882

Nealey, Terry (R)     JLOB 404    (360) 786-7828

Orwall, Tina (D)     JLOB 326    (360) 786-7834

Roberts, Mary Helen (D)     JLOB 420    (360) 786-7950

Shea, Matt (R)     JLOB 437    (360) 786-7984

*Ranking Minority Member  **Asst. Ranking Minority Member

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Behind the Coops

Article reprinted on Washington Animal Watch with permission from the author. It does remain under copyright;  we can contact the author for you if you wish to obtain permission to reprint it elsewhere.

This was originally printed in a newsletter for a regional rabbit club. The author decided they would prefer not to have their name posted publicly on the blog. (Note: Due to technical difficulties, this was originally posted with a chunk of the article missing . . . it has been corrected now to include the full text.)

Behind the coops...
By: _________
OL Director and ARBA Judge

I just got home from an animal “abuse” case. This is the second trial I have sat in on just this year. I am sharing this information not only to try to help breeders from falling into the traps certain activists have laid, but also to help you to see how animal extremists’ minds work. I am a Veterinary Technician and have been a tech at a shelter for 5 years.

I will say that most animal control and rescues have the best of intentions. Often they have no farm experience and little or no training in livestock or rabbits. They rely on the expertise that Hollywood has given them and the pristine conditions in Disneyland movies.

The first case involved a small farm outside of Seattle. A farmer/rabbit breeder was accused of neglect. The whole farm had animals seized (I think the number was 132 animals; most of which were rabbits and poultry, with a handful of large animals). The most concerning part was that it was all done with a complete lack of due process.

The charges were dropped, but the damage had already been done. Most of the animals had been adopted out soon after they were seized. A few of the animals were eventually offered back to the owners for the adoption fee. However, even valuable rare livestock had all been sterilized shortly after seizure.

The Animal Control (AC) Officer didn’t like the fact the rabbits were in stacked cages (with trays) and stated that they were overcrowded, although a witness who checked out the situation reported that the cage sizes appeared to exceed Animal Welfare Act requirements for the size and number of rabbits, and the feed and water amounts the owner demonstrated were typical of standard rabbit care.

For example, probably the most "crowded" cage was a small or medium breed doe and six 3-week-old kits in a 24" x 36.5" cage. The fact that some of the rabbits did not have food in front of them was considered "starving" them (they were fed a heaping cup of standard rabbit pellets per day for dwarf to medium sized breeds not in production, along with hay--only the does with litters were free-fed). The animal control officers and prosecutors cited the fact that there was "only enough food on the premises for a few days" as evidence of neglect. For example, the owner only purchased 100 lbs. of commercial rabbit pellets at a time, and the animal control officer considered this insufficient for a small herd of rabbits, even though they lived near a feed store and bought more as needed.

Those are only a few of the rabbit specific examples of “why” the farmer's animals were seized. There were many other things that the Animal Control cited that would make you go wha....????

The next case I sat in on went to trial. Two extremely elderly horses were seized for being “dehydrated” and chronically “starved”. The officer who initiated the case was acting out of jurisdiction due to a personal connection with the reporting party, who contacted her privately. The horses had normal bloodwork at the time of surrender, but 5 weeks later were far thinner and had more abnormal bloodwork than when they left the owner's house. The evidence from after the horses had been out of her hands all that time was used to convict the owner. Both horses died in the rescue's care: one was euthanized because of colic and the other was euthanized due to an infection contracted many months later, that the rescue opted not to treat. The prosecutor told the jury that the horses were "doing just fine now," despite the fact that they were actually dead.

The veterinarian who acted as expert witness for the prosecution is a known animal rights activist who was employed by the rescue, had connections with the reporting party, and derived a substantial portion of her income caring for horses she diagnosed as neglected and in need of rehab at her "Equine Stewardship" facility. This veterinarian testified in court that the ideal way to feed a horse is to free-feed grain so that it never has an empty dish, and that these two approximately 900-lb. horses should each be getting upwards of 40 lbs. per day of feed in addition to pasture. She also made some very strange statements implying that the fact the horses didn't walk right up to a stranger and put their head into the halters without a food bribe showed neglect, and the fact that they were cooperative and allowed themselves to be examined once they were caught proved that they were in terrible condition.

In another case, some random visitors went into the rabbitry of a well known and reputable breeder. They then posted pictures of this rabbitry online, calling it a "rabbit mill."

All it takes is an invite onto your property. There is something called "Plain View Doctrine". This means that an officer of the law does not need probable cause for anything that is in plain sight. Anything they can see from a place they are invited or authorized to be can be the probable cause for a seizure without a warrant, or probable cause to get a warrant, depending on your local laws. If anyone sees “abuse,” animals can be seized and cruelty charges pressed (remember stacked cages have been called abuse; having wire floors in rabbit cages or not having water/food 24/7 could be called abuse).

The last one is the most worrisome because it is close to home. 22 rabbits were stolen from the Portland Meat Collective. The Portland Meat Collective offers classes on learning to butcher and preparing various livestock meat. These 22 rabbits showed up at a Rabbit Advocates (RA) house. After some struggle, the RA gave all but one rabbit back to the Portland Meat Collective. The RA finally gave this one rabbit back after much turmoil.

There are at least two more cases in the horizon just in the Pacific Northwest.

You ask, “Aren’t there laws to protect us breeders?”. Check the local laws in your area. In one case I am aware of, the AC/police were out of their jurisdiction. In some states, the laws are so vague and all-encompassing that virtually anything can be interpreted as abuse.

Laws or no laws, it is best to cover yourself. A lot of the times, the people that can seize animals get paid by the number of animals they find that are “abused” through grants, sob stories and general media. The rescues are motivated to “find” as many abuse cases they can. For example, the director of one WA humane society/animal control agency was quoted in a news article as saying that they were going to focus on abuse cases instead of things like dealing with stray dogs because barking dogs and picking up strays was not lucrative enough--they made far more money searching out abuse cases.

Do you think it still can’t happen to you? This is just one example on the internet:

The Legal disclaimer for the Animal Liberation Front (ALF),
“This guide is for your entertainment, information, and general interest only. It is not meant to encourage the activities described within. We're just writing this for the heck of it. We would never dream of encouraging someone to use the proven-effective methods presented within to free innocent beings from the depths of hell, or to destroy the tools used to torture, mutilate, and murder them. We'd much prefer you sit at home watching TV and remain apathetic”.

They go on and give detailed instructions on how to succeed at taking down breeders.

While ALF is extremely radical, they have put the ideas in people's heads of how to do undercover surveillance. People can be several states away, yet can “eyewitness” your place or barn, using online and other resources to make a convincing anonymous report about a location they have never even visited.

Several states and organizations have offered substantial monetary rewards for anyone who can provide information instrumental in taking down breeders and animal owners accused of neglect or of being a "mill." Does this scare you? It should.

In California, a rabbit rescue is monitoring the fairs and harassing 4-H members for not keeping food in front of the rabbit(s) 24 hours a day-- in one particular case they were upset because the rabbits had pellets but did not have 24/7 access to hay.

These are things to think about.

- You need to educate yourselves. Know the laws in your area.
- Try to stay under the wire. I.E Don’t advertise your address or phone number in connection with having rabbits. 

* Don’t get in over your head. Ask for help if needed, but be very cautious about who you ask. Several people have been raided after reaching out to rescues or other groups for help placing or caring for their animals. *

- Don’t list your physical address or land line phone # on the internet, business card or sign.

- Face book is the internet--be aware of privacy settings and check them often, as well as realizing that even your "friends only" posts are still on the internet and not 100% safe.

- Craigslist is the internet.

- In the shelter I was involved in, there were several volunteers constantly searching the internet and craigslist for animals that came from the shelter. If you think that doesn’t happen, you should think again. There are entire online communities dedicated just to targeting breeders who advertise on Craigslist.

*Never have strangers in your barn or on your land. *

- Google your name and see what other folks can see about you. Does that worry you?

- Friends of friends of friends could accidentally get information into the wrong hands.

Just do a search for various rabbit shelters across the country and you will see how much hatred and animosity of breeding most of them foster. Bunny World Foundation (BWF) feels this way,

“Since domestic rabbits are not the product of natural selection, but rather of human interference by means of breeding programs, and the product is a human-dependent animal that needs protection, it is therefore a human responsibility that these animals be cared for in a manner appropriate to their needs” and also “BWF does NOT support breeders. BWF would like to quote PET PARDONS view on "breeding"

...If you really want to know why so many pets end up on death row then it is really very simple & here it is:
Breeders & Puppy Mills

Despite the massive overpopulation of pets in America the breeders and the puppy mills churn out pets 24 hours a day to make a buck, or in many cases, a lot of bucks. The way to shut down the breeders and the puppy mills is simple, just Adopt from your local Shelter or Rescue instead of buying from a pet store or breeder.”

I have dealt first hand with a Rabbit Advocates (RA) person many years ago. She told me that I was the reason why she had to rescue rabbits and I should be ashamed of myself for being a breeder.

Right now the RA has a very extensive care sheet on how to care for rabbits on the internet. This pamphlet can be found at most feed stores. They offer at their meetings to groom or do nail trims. While this information is mostly true and educating pet owners, it is also teaching people that don’t know any better that rabbits must have food in front of them at all times and that breeders are bad. Every breeder is a hoarder, and has unkept cages with wire floors. In many cases wire flooring, in of itself, is considered harmful/abusive.

I say fight fire with fire. Educate anyone that will listen. Be an advocate at your fair, church, any youth program, feed store or any other venue you can think of. Keep yourself and your rabbitry safe.

I want to end by saying I am not a lawyer, nor am I giving legal advice. I just believe in being proactive in keeping our hobby alive.

***Note from Washington Animal Watch: For those who aren't familiar with animal husbandry for these species, the specifics mentioned here that were judged by authorities and activists to be "abuse" are standard husbandry practices, widely accepted as appropriate for these species based on both practical experience and clinical research.

Some breeders and animal owners feel it is best not to have strangers on their property, while others do it with certain precautions or freely allow it without concern. This is a choice that is up to the individual. WAW's position is that the decision whether to have strangers come to a person's home or not should be left up to each person and should not be dictated by law.

Video of Jan 31st Public Hearings in Olympia

Video footage of the proposed animal-related laws that had public hearings in the House Judiciary Committee on Jan 31, 2013 is now available, here:

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Public Hearings on Proposed WA Animal Cruelty Laws, Jan 31st

Three animal cruelty-related bills proposed in WA state are scheduled for public hearings on Jan 31st, 2013 in the House Committee on Judiciary at 1:30 PM.

Please note that these bills HAVE NOT yet become law; currently they are in the public hearing stage of the process and could be withdrawn or changed as a result of public feedback.

HB 1201/SB 5203 would make animal sales/barters/etc. illegal in most public places or private property open to the public, with certain exceptions. It defines unathorized sales as animal cruelty crimes.

This law would, for instance, make exchanging money/animal on the street or sidewalk in front of a buyer's home after a home check; or a member of the public selling animals at a Saturday market, at a swap meet, in a parking lot, or inside a store an animal cruelty crime--even if, for instance, a feed store gave a non-employee permission to sell animals there.

It does include exemptions for shelters, rescues, bona-fide exhibitors at sanctioned shows, fairs, 4-H/FFA activities, pet store sales by the store owner/operator, and licensed livestock auctions, among other things.

HB 1202/SB 5204 makes numerous significant changes to the animal cruelty statutes, including the following:

adds a new civil infraction level of animal cruelty for issues that don't rise to the level of 2nd degree misdemeanor cruelty (2nd degree cruelty currently requires some negligence or knowing act/failure on the owner's part, and that the animal either has been abandoned or that it experience some sort of pain or suffering to rise to the level of cruelty ["mild discomfort" defined as sufficient pain for a conviction in precedent-setting rulings]); this new law does not appear to require any harm or risk to the animal (or negligence on the owner's part) for a law enforcement or animal control officer to issue an animal cruelty citation for care they consider inadequate;

adds the word "injury" to the 2nd degree cruelty statute so that allowing an animal to experience a minor injury that is not severe enough to cause pain or suffering could qualify as 2nd degree cruelty;

changes the animal fighting statutes to add "causing a minor" to the language and changes definitions to cover all animals rather than just dogs or roosters, but also removes the word "knowing" from the statute so that anyone involved in any way (such as a taxi or bus driver transporting someone to a location, or the owner of a building) could be guilty of felony animal cruelty even if they had no knowledge it had anything to do with fighting;

adds multiple new definitions to the animal cruelty statutes, and also adds several new terms to the animal cruelty laws that are left undefined and open to interpretation;

adds a requirement of "prompt and appropriate treatment of an animal's illness or injury," but leaves those definitions open to interpretation and does not clarify whether home treatment or monitoring for minor routine issues would be acceptable or not;

also adds a statute on leaving animals in vehicles, and makes a number of other changes.

It's a very long and involved bill, covering many different topics and editing many portions of existing animal cruelty law.

HB 1186/SB 5102 removes any civil or criminal liability for a veterinarian reporting suspected animal cruelty.

HB 1194, limiting a landowner's liability when their land is used for habitat projects on the official habitat project list, is also scheduled to be heard during this time slot.


You can see a more detailed post about HB 1201 and HB 1202 on the Washington Animal Watch Blog here:


House committee hearings are generally held in the John L. O'Brien next to the Legislative Building in Olympia, WA. You can call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000 to verify when and where the hearings are.

The page on how to testify at these hearings is at:

It also says, "If you cannot appear before a committee, contact your legislator making your position on a bill known. You can do so by writing a letter, sending an e-mail, calling the legislator's Olympia office, or by calling the Legislative Hotline at 800.562.6000."

It is important to make your voice heard. Public feedback could have a huge influence on the final wording of these laws.

A summary of the various arguments and points of view on both sides is generally compiled from the public hearing process and posted on the bill's page of the legislative website, so this is a particularly good opportunity to make your input count.

~~ Washington Animal Watch ~~

**Forwarding or reposting of this message is permitted, but please leave the message and links intact.**

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

WA Animal Cruelty Legislation for 2013: HB 1201 and HB 1202

As we begin the 2013 legislative session, there are several animal-related laws that have already begun the legislative process, and several more that are in working groups and committee meetings at present.

You can go to the Washington State Legislature website at and click on "bills by topic" to keep abreast of the latest legislation on any topic.

As of this writing, a number of laws have been introduced and are listed under the categories of "animals" and "livestock." Please be sure to check out the WA Legislature site to see all the proposed legislation for yourself. There are others besides these listed already, and new bills can be added at any time.

The links go to the home page for each bill--click on the links on that page to see the original text of each proposed law and any revisions and additional information as the law progresses through the legislative process. Each house bill will also gain a companion bill in the senate as it proceeds through the process, with additional sponsors for the companion bill. A link to the companion bill is added to the bill's home page on the legislature's website and to the search results as it reaches that point.

Only laws that have officially been introduced and have started the process of becoming law are listed on the WA Legislature site; laws that are still in the formation and discussion stage will not be posted yet. For instance, a new law about humane restraint is in the works, but has not yet been introduced for this session.

As a quick review, RCW 16.52, the section of the law on animal cruelty, defines animal this way for purposes of animal cruelty in RCW 16.52.011:

 (2)(b) "Animal" means any nonhuman mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian.
This definition applies when the term "animal" is used in all of the RCW 16.52 animal cruelty laws unless there are specific changes to the definition within a given statute.

Also, remember that WA law imposes certain mandatory penalties for animal cruelty convictions, including a prohibition on "owning, caring for, or residing with any similar animals" for a period of two years for a first conviction of 2nd degree animal cruelty, or permanently for a first conviction of 1st degree animal cruelty or a second conviction of any degree of animal cruelty (in some circumstances, with the option to petition for reinstatement of the right to own animals after 5 years), as well as making anyone convicted responsible for all costs involved in the legal proceedings and the seizure and care of the animals in addition to any other fines or penalties imposed.

Some of the consequences for conviction under animal cruelty laws can be found in RCW 16.52.200 at as well as in the various sections outlining specific crimes and penalties under each statute.

It would be helpful to keep the possible penalties in mind as you consider whether these are reasonable consequences for any newly proposed laws falling under the category of animal cruelty. Keep in mind, also, that there has been a repeated push for measures such as mandatory registration on an offender list, including public publication of personal information, for anyone convicted of an animal cruelty offense.

Here are summaries of two proposed laws that we found to be of particular concern.

*** HB 1201, Preventing Animal Cruelty. This bill would make it a crime to "sell, offer for sale, barter, or auction an animal upon any public property or upon private property open to the public," with certain exceptions (please read the entire text of the bill for more details).

This law calls for this new section to be added under RCW 16.52, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This would define the unauthorized selling of animals as animal cruelty, even if no actual harm or risk came to any animal in the process.

The link to the HB 1201 homepage is

*** HB 1202, Preventing Animal Cruelty. This bill covers a number of different topics, adds several entire new sections to the animal cruelty laws, and revises several others. 

Section 1 creates a new crime that people can be charged with, a "civil infraction," adding several new categories and milder severities of neglect to the law. Any law enforcement or animal control officer is empowered to issue the infraction.

"An owner who, under circumstances not amounting to animal cruelty in the first or second degree, fails to provide an animal with necessary food, water, shelter, ventilation, rest, sanitation, space, or medical attention has committed the civil infraction of failure to provide care."
Note that this law does not require that the animal suffer any ill effect, injury, discomfort or risk from this failure in order for the owner to be convicted of animal cruelty under this statute, since it specifies conditions not rising to the level of 1st or 2nd degree animal cruelty. There is also no requirement of intent, knowledge or recklessness on the owner's part.

Many of the definitions about what qualifies as adequate or necessary care are left open to interpretation, with no real guidelines about what constitutes appropriate care, or whether ideal vs. adequate practices are being judged.

A person can attempt to contest the infraction as outlined in RCW 7.80.080, but with the law so vague and not requiring any actual risk or injury to the animal for an infraction to take place, it could be difficult to contest a difference of opinion regarding animal husbandry practices.

Section 2 is about leaving animals in vehicles, and says, in part:

"A person may not leave or confine any animal unattended in a motor vehicle or enclosed space in such a manner that places the animal in a life or health-threatening situation by exposure to excessive heat or cold or deprivation of ventilation.

It also authorizes "an animal control officer, law enforcement officer, or employee of a fire and rescue organization . . . to enter a vehicle or enclosed space to remove an animal by any means reasonable under the circumstances" and holds them free of liability in such circumstances.

It does not require that the animal be harmed by such confinement in order for a person to be charged with a civil infraction, and also clarifies that:

"In the event that an animal suffers physical pain, injury, or death from unsafe confinement in a vehicle or enclosed space, nothing in this section prevents the person who has confined the animal in the vehicle or enclosed space from being convicted of separate offenses for animal cruelty under RCW 16.52.205 or 16.52.207."

Section 3 revises the definitions in the animal cruelty statute under RCW 16.52.011.

It adds the phrase, "or as directed by a veterinarian for medical reasons" to the definitions of "necessary food" and "necessary water" in sections (j) and (k).

Then it adds sections (p) through (s) as follows:

(p) "Necessary medical attention" means prompt and appropriate treatment of an animal's illness or injury.
(q) "Necessary rest" means the provision of regular rest intervals sufficient to maintain an animal's health.
(r) "Necessary shelter" means a constructed or natural structure that provides adequate space, light, ventilation, protection from the elements and protection from heat and cold, suitable to the species, age, condition, size, and type of the animal, and that is sufficiently clean and safe to minimize the risk of injury, physical suffering, or impairment of the animal's health.

(s) "Necessary space" means space sufficient to allow an animal to move in a manner that does not cause injury, disfigurement, or impairment of the animal's health, suitable to the species, age, condition, size and type of animal, and that allows normal movements of the animal, such as sitting, standing, lying down, and turning around, except when confinement of an animal is necessary for medical treatment or transportation. "Necessary space" includes space sufficient to allow an animal to reasonably avoid injury by other animals in the same space.
Notice that it does not define several of the terms added in section 1, including ventilation, rest or sanitation. Many terns are left open to interpretation, such as what constitutes "adequate light" and how broadly or narrowly things like "prompt and appropriate treatment of an animal's illness or injury" could be defined.

For example, does prompt mean within minutes, hours, days? Is home treatment of routine injuries and illnesses considered to be appropriate, or not? Could the mere presence of even a minor issue such as a scratch, a missing chunk of fur, or evidence of a flea or tick be prosecuted as cruelty if the owner could not prove it had already been treated by a veterinarian, even if the injury or condition had just taken place or wasn't of a severity to require being seen by a veterinarian?

Since husbandry practices vary widely, not all law enforcement officers are thoroughly trained and knowledgeable in the appropriate care of every species, and the law does not establish specific standards in every aspect; this could leave the definition of appropriate care open to broadly varying opinions and standards.

Section 4 amends the animal fighting statutes to make it a crime to cause a minor to do any of the things listed in the law, but also makes several other quite major changes.

For example, it removes the word "knowingly" from the law, removing the requirement that a person's actions must be knowing or purposeful in order to be convicted of being involved in animal fighting.

It also removes all the clarifications and definitions as to type of animal (making it no longer apply to just dogs and roosters) and whether the animal is a stray or a pet or not.

This makes it a class D felony for any person, knowingly or not, who is involved or present in any way with any sort of animal fight, whether it be owning the property, transporting a person or animal, holding money, preparing the facility, or being present.

This proposed change to the law could make any transporter, carrier or person who cared for or handled an animal at any step in the process guilty of a felony even if they did not know the animal was intended to be used for animal fighting, training or baiting--for instance, making an airline and its employees guilty of a felony even if they had no idea the animal was being shipped to a location for the purpose of fighting. It also makes transporting any person to or being present at an animal fight a felony whether the person is aware of the situation or not--making a taxicab driver delivering a passenger or a pedestrian walking through the area guilty of a felony, even if they did not know about the fight. It could make the owner of a facility and anyone helping clean, prepare or maintain the facility guilty even if they do not know what the facility is being used for.

This law also makes the mere possession or handling of any animal with the apparent intent or purpose of animal fighting to be a felony, even if an actual fight never takes place.

Section 5 revises the definitions of animal cruelty in the first and second degree to add the word "injury" to the definitions as follows:
A person is guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree if, under circumstances not amounting to first degree animal cruelty, the person knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence inflicts unnecessary injury, suffering, or pain upon an animal.
This could potentially make it a crime to allow an animal to become injured even if the injury is so mild that it does not cause suffering or pain, such as a minor scratch or broken toenail.

It also makes the abandoning of any animal to be 2nd degree animal cruelty, cleaning up the language in 2 (b) and removing the clause saying that the animal must suffer or be at risk of suffering substantial harm from being abandoned in order for the crime to rise to the level of 2nd degree cruelty.

Finally, this section removes the possibility of taking the person's financial situation into consideration in convicting them of 2nd degree cruelty, deleting the following paragraph:
(((4) In any prosecution of animal cruelty in the second degree under subsection (1) or (2)(a) of this section, it shall be an affirmative defense, if established by the defendant by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant's failure was due to economic distress beyond the defendant's control.))
Section 6 changes the wording to refer to animals instead of livestock in making it a crime to harm or kill someone else's animals.

Section 7 changes the amount from two to seven hundred dollars in the threshold below which stealing an animal qualifies as a misdemeanor under RCW 9.08.070 and 2003 c 53 s 9 ., and adds "or under chapter 16.52 RCW for animal cruelty" to the section starting, "Nothing in this section shall prohibit a person from also being convicted of separate offenses under" a list of various laws.

The link to HB 1202 is

You can take action on anything that concerns you in these proposed laws by contacting the sponsors initially. As they progress through the lawmaking process, you may contact committee members as the bills go through various committees, and then the lawmakers who will be voting on them at different stages.

Particularly in the early stages, there is still time and opportunity to push for changes and revisions to the law, or even for the sponsors to withdraw them.

Each law's home page on the WA Legislature website will have information about things like sponsors and committees that are working on the law.