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: http://app.leg.wa.gov/m/cmd/main.htm?aid=18667#items_page

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: http://bluedogstate.blogspot.com/2012/07/cat-killer-vet-drops-dime.html

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: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=1186&year=2013

And here is the page for SB 5102: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=5102&year=2013

(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     tara.weaver@leg.wa.gov
(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    jamie.pedersen@leg.wa.gov

Hansen, Drew (D) Vice Chair     JLOB 369    (360) 786-7842     drew.hansen@leg.wa.gov

Rodne, Jay (R) *     JLOB 430    (360) 786-7852    jay.rodne@leg.wa.gov

O'Ban, Steve (R) **     JLOB 424    (360) 786-7890    steve.oban@leg.wa.gov

Goodman, Roger (D)     JLOB 328    (360) 786-7878    roger.goodman@leg.wa.gov

Hope, Mike (R)         JLOB 466    (360) 786-7892    mike.hope@leg.wa.gov

Jinkins, Laurie (D)     JLOB 311    (360) 786-7930    laurie.jinkins@leg.wa.gov

Kirby, Steve (D)     LEG 437B    (360) 786-7996    steve.kirby@leg.wa.gov

Klippert, Brad (R)     JLOB 410    (360) 786-7882    brad.klippert@leg.wa.gov

Nealey, Terry (R)     JLOB 404    (360) 786-7828    terry.nealey@leg.wa.gov

Orwall, Tina (D)     JLOB 326    (360) 786-7834    tina.orwall@leg.wa.gov

Roberts, Mary Helen (D)     JLOB 420    (360) 786-7950    maryhelen.roberts@leg.wa.gov

Shea, Matt (R)     JLOB 437    (360) 786-7984    matt.shea@leg.wa.gov

*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: