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that these bills HAVE NOT yet become law; currently they are in the public hearing stage of the process and could be withdrawn or changed as a result of public feedback.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: http://www.leg.wa.gov/legislature/Pages/Testify.aspx
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 ~~
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