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?


Hanon: "Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Greg Hanon. I'm representing the Washington State Veterinary Medicine Association. The WSVMA is a professional association that includes the 1300 licensed veterinarians throughout the state, and 400 veterinary students at Washington State University as well. With me today is Dr. Mike Anderson, who's a practitioner in Bellingham, to share a little bit of insight on the real world application of this proposal as well.

House bill 1186 provides veterinarian immunity from liability in good-faith reporting of animal cruelty. It's drafted very narrowly; this only applies to the veterinarian, not to his staff. It's drafted in a way that it only applies to the veterinarian when they are conducting their professional activity, not as if--not if acting as a private citizen. 30 states have some form of immunity for veterinarians, and at least 3 states even extend it to private citizens. With that, I would turn it over to Dr. Anderson, who can offer some insight as well.

Ah, Michael Anderson, I have a practice in Linden, WA. We provide both large and small animal services. My background is in mostly mixed large animals with a focus on dairy.

I've been involved with animal welfare for quite a few decades now, and I've chaired committees at a national level with the bovine practitioners and at the state level with our state veterinary association. I've been involved with animal seizure cases, I've been involved with working with law enforcement, animal control and testifying in court situations.

So, getting involved with the state association a few years ago, following some of that activity, we have been working to bring veterinarians along to get more involved and understanding all of what goes along with working in welfare cases in a broad variety from what might happen at a companion animal level to what might happen out with a livestock or a much larger situation. And one of the issues identified was the issue of immunity, and clarity on that issue, and so, we're bringing that issue forward to you to try and solve it.

Rep. Pedersen: OK, do we have any questions for the panel? [chuckle] We can't always interpret these signals from the back row. Representative Klippert.


Rep. Brad Klippert (R), 8th district, Kennewick: Thank you, Mr. Chair; are there more people to testify or is this it?

P: This is it. This is your opportunity for a question.

K: May I please exercise it?

P: Yes. Yes, you may.

Klippert: Thank you. What brought this request about? Did I miss that, or is there a specific reason why this request has come forward?

Hanon: No, it's, it's a good news, bad news situation. We don't have a compelling situation that actually occurred where a veterinarian found themselves involved in a claim against them as a result of reporting animal cruelty. The good news is that hasn't happened in this state.

But what's occurring is, as society becomes more aware of issues surrounding animal cruelty, and as the legislature addresses these issues in the form of a number of new laws as well, and we want to encourage people to be aware of animal cruelty situations, AND we looked at other states and how they were dealing with that, we felt it was time to bring this issue forward.

The request actually has germinated in the association for a number of years, and we wanted to wait until we saw a little more maturation of this issue in other states before we brought it forward. And then when we did, we tried to do it as narrowly as possible. 

Pedersen: Follow-up question?

Klippert: Can you just very quickly, 30 seconds or less, I mean, it doesn't have to be long. Give me a scenario when this might be applicable. When would they need protection?

Hanon: Sure. Sure. Law enforcement brings a veterinarian in to be an expert witness, small community, um, the veterinarian is doing that because they feel it's the right thing to do, to be involved in that situation, involved with law enforcement on that particular issue.

The individual that's accused of animal cruelty takes exception to that, and if the issue ends up settling out, not going and ending in actual resolution in the legal system, the owner comes back to the veterinarian in that community and says, "You damaged my reputation, I spent all this amount of money in order to defend myself, and you were wrong."

And so, we want to make sure that, in that case, when the veterinarian steps forward and is available for that sort of professional involvement, they're protected from that sort of, primarily it would be a civil claim I believe would be the most likely situa--situation, excuse me.

Klippert: May I ask Omeara a question?

Pedersen: Go right ahead.

Klippert: So, Omeara, a couple years ago, I do believe in this committee possibly, we removed the liability for slander, or prosecution for slander? True or false, are we under, true or false, do we already have those protections in the law, or is this something that needs to be built in there to protect them from being civilly liable for slander?

Omeara Harrington: You know what, I, I don't know. I'd have to look into that for you. 

Klippert: OK. OK, thank you. Thank you Mr. Chair.

Pedersen (chair): I, I just, so that our listeners or viewers are not worried, I think there still is liability for slander in Washington.

Klippert: Civil and criminal?

Pedersen: I don't think there's criminal liability but certainly there would be civil liability.

Klippert: Civil liability. OK. So that's what we're trying to protect from, is civil liability for, "You've damaged my name; my reputation."

Hanon: The legislation provides for protection from both criminal and civil, when good-faith reporting, in the course of business of a veterinarian. Veterinarian's activities.

K: OK, thank you. Thank you Mr. Chair.

Pedersen: Any further questions? OK. Are you—I've been thinking about the interaction of this bill with 1202, and I wonder—are you guys, are you leaving now, or are you—

Merit: I need to be more involved in following 1202 and I was just reading it in the back of the room as well, and so we'll, we'll be . . .

Pedersen: Ok, well, so I'll just register a concern that we may want your thoughts about this idea that animal cruelty can be a failure to provide necessary medical attention. I was thinking as I was drifting off to sleep last night about the reminder notices that I get that my 16-year-old cat needs to have an annual physical exam, and if I ignore three of those, do I potentially now have a situation where the third one goes from the veterinarian to the police department, and I've--guilty of animal cruelty. *laughter*

Merit: Completely. That was the reaction I had as I read the bill, that it's something other than class I or Class II animal cruelty, it's whatever we're creating, and then what type of conduct . . . ?

Pedersen: Yeah, yeah. So anyway, I, that probably needs a little more sussing out, but I would appreciate your giving that some thought.

Merit: Absolutely.

Pedersen: Thank you. Because there is obviously an interplay between, an interaction--when, presuming that we move forward with the immunity grant, then that creates an interesting loop with the expanded, with the potential expanded definition of animal cruelty. OK. Thank you very much, that'll conclude our public hearing on House Bill 1186.


Pedersen: We'll move on to consideration of House Bill 1201, and Omeara again.

Omeara Harrington, staff: House Bill 1201 prohibits the sale of animals in public places or on private property open to the public. Under current law, depending on the context in which an animal is being sold, different federal or state statutes might apply. These would typically be in situations where the animals at issue are livestock or are intended for sale to a research facility. Other laws are focused on breeding operations, and generally those are not focused on the sale aspect, they're more safety and sanitation focused, or they focus on wholesale dealers rather than sales to the public.

In Washington, sales of domesticated animals to the public are mostly regulated under local ordinances rather than state law. A number of jurisdictions place licensing and other restrictions on retail pet stores and some jurisdictions prohibit the sale of animals in public.

House Bill 1201 would make it a violation of state law to sell an animal on public property or on private property that's open to the public, and examples of qualifying public property and private property open to the public are provided in the bill. Public property can include parks, playgrounds and other recreation areas as well as streets and public right-of-ways. Private property open to the public includes commercial and retail parting lots, other open lots, swap meets and flea markets. There are a number of exceptions, and the prohibition does not apply to commercial businesses like pet stores, animal control agencies, nonprofit humane societies and charities, livestock markets and livestock events, and animal competitions involving paid entrants.

A first time violation is a civil infraction, and a second or subsequent violation is a misdemeanor. And I'd be happy to answer questions.

Pedersen: Thank you, do you have any questions for staff? OK, the gentle lady from the 21st district has moved to the other side of the room. Welcome.

Rep. Mary Helen Roberts (D): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I will confess, in connection with this bill that I am a cat lady.

Pedersen: Heh. You're in good company.

Roberts: In addition to being a gentle lady. The staff explanation of the bill was quite thorough. I may have—I guess I should just say that you may be getting some phone calls from people that are unhappy with this, and I would suggest based on the calls I got, that they hadn't actually read the bill. That there are some clear shalls and some clear shall nots. And I think it is well-written.

II guess one of my motivations in supporting this bill is that I think we are at a time in our society where we need to be less casual about allowing ongoing procreation of pets that have no homes. And the cardboard box full of kittens or puppies in front of the grocery store just really needs to be a thing of the past. And often those animals were likely never given shots, possibly carrying disease, that sort of thing.

So, I, I just think this is a good statement with regard to what is responsible in terms of selling animals.

Pedersen: OK, thank you very much. Do we have any questions for the prime sponsor? OK, thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chair. May I please hear from Rick Hall, Jillian Brightwater, Denise McVicker, and Brian Boman?

I'll go ahead and start. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for holding a hearing on this bill, and I'm here as Rick Hall, Washington Alliance for Humane Legislation, in support of the passage of this bill. The reason that we're here today is that we support it. And I have submitted a letter of testimony with an attachment with some additional information about this bill and the next one under the hearing, under the separate hearing. We really understand the need for this.

Over a year ago, the Washington State Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies recognized that this is a statewide issue. And, we have counties that actually have enacted ordinances to address the sale of animals roadside or in temporary retail locations. That includes Kitsap and Pierce counties, the city of Spokane, the county of Spokane, and in other states as well. Um, California, Arizona, and even most recently, in 2012, was Louisiana passed a bill to address this issue. I hope we can keep ahead of Louisiana on animal welfare legislation in the future too.

Um, this bill kind of takes the advice of if you were reading something from AKC about how you should shop for an animal; and in that case a dog, and that is: You should be able to know where you're getting the animal, you should be able to look at how the animal--the conditions under which the animal was raised, how the owner or seller is interacting with it, and, uh, how it's--what kind of conditions exist that make a good home and a healthy animal. And a va--a way to know if there is a problem, if you have an agreement with the seller, there's a way to get back to them. Um, my letter of testimony covers everything else I was going to say, so I'll just leave it at that for now.

Pedersen: Thank you.

Jillian Brightwater: Thank you, this is the first testimony I've ever made. My name is Jillian Brightwater, and I support HB 1201, um, I'm gonna leave off that I support HB 1202 as well. My main comment, well I wanted to say I'm a member of League of Humane Voters and also the Alliance for Humane Legislation. And I'm a lay person that creates and disseminates humane education literature in more of a grassroots fashion, around my neighborhood and also to humane societies.

 And both of these bills, 1201 and 1202, are improvements in protecting our beloved animal companions. Many think protecting wild animals and their habitats is more noble or important than our pets. I think it's more important. Pets now are truly confined and at owner/guardian mercy. Being bought and sold from puppymills is only, I'm leaving part of the paragraph out, is only one of many examples of the need for good protective laws reflecting our responsibility and loyalty to our pets. Our state statues being vague, let's take this opportunity to clear and strengthen them. Our pets would thank us if they could. Thank you.

Petersen: Thank you. Nicely done for a first outing.

Brightwater: What was that?

Petersen: Nicely done for a first outing.

Brightwater: Thank you.

Denise McVicker: Thank you Mr. Chair and members of the committee. I'm Denise McVicker, I'm the president of Washington Confederation of Animal Care and Control Agencies, and I'm also the deputy director of the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County.


Purchasing an animal or getting an animal for free in a public place such as a supermarket or swap meet is usually the result of a spur-of-the-moment decision by that individual that's getting the animal. Many of you gave more thought this morning to picking the pair of socks you're gonna wear with your outfit.

Most of these animals are the result of indiscriminate or unplanned breeding. Many are not vaccinated.

In Pierce County, we've had an ordinance for--against giving away, selling, bartering or trading animals in a public place. Prior to that, we used to see a huge result of the poor choices that the public made. Um, they frequently would get an animal, it becomes ill, when they had no money to treat the animal then it would end up at the shelter, or they finally figured out after maybe 2 weeks or 2 months, that the animal needed much more time than they could give it. And then as a result the animal ends up at the shelter as well.

Currently, outside of the different counties that have this ordinance, there's no recourse to stop this sort of behavior of the people that are perpetuating the pet overpopulation problem. Thank you.

Pedersen: Thank you very much.


Brian Boman: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm Brian Boman, the Animal Care Supervisor for Pierce County. As Ms. McVicker was saying, this code has been in effect in Pierce County for quite some time, and it's been a very useful tool for animal control officers. Being able to deter people from selling animals in public places, with the risk of contamination, being diseased or sick has been very useful, and very helpful for us as far as the investigations and prevention of animal cruelty. Thank you.

Pedersen: Thank you. Do you have any questions for the panel? Thank you. Representative Klippert?

Rep. Brad Klippert: Thank you, Mr. Chair. So, for the last lady who testified. So, I read the bill, and, A, it says that I can, on private property, not open to the public. Why is my pet, if I have it in a cardboard box, a litter of puppies or kittens, in my driveway, any healthier than down the street in the parking lot at the grocery store? What makes that exchange any healthier? What's--I don't see the correlation.

McVicker: Thank you for the question. I can see why you might have that thought, but primarily what happens is that an individual ends up with a litter of animals; most frequently puppies or kittens is what we're speaking of. They haven't given much thought to the process, and they cannot place them. Um, they've gone beyond the period of time by which they've lost their mother's immunity.

A lot of these people that give away animals at home, have already put an ad in the paper, which in Tacoma you have to have a license for your intact animal that had those animals, so you can't even put an ad in the paper without it.

Anyway, what happens is you have those animals, and pretty soon they're adolescents; they're 2 and a half, 3 months old, they're losing their cuteness, you still haven't vaccinated 'em, now you need to do something, so you go to a parking lot at Safeway or a swap meet or something. And so you're just perpetuating the problem. They've lost their mother's immunity, you don't have any track of them either.

At least if you've gone to your house, my house, anybody's house to purchase an animal, you have some recourse--you can go back to that house and talk to the individual, and say, "Hey, my dog got sick." When you're at a supermarket or somewhere else you have no recourse. You don't know who that person is, you don't know where they live, you have no recourse at all.

Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Pedersen: Represeantative Shea

Rep Matt Shea (R) 4th District, Spokane Valley: Thank you, Mr. Chair, this is a question actyually might be for staff, but the way that I read this bill, if I'm an AKC breeder in Northeast Washington, and I call 'em up and I say I want a labrador puppy, he says, "I'll meet you halfway, let's meet at the Yokes Market on Highway 2. And I go up there, and pick that dog up, and hand him the money, that is a sale in that public parking lot that would be banned by this bill. Am I understanding that correctly?

Hall: Were you saying this was Spokane?

Shea: I'm saying Eastern Washington, generally, because that's what happens a lot, is you have a breeder in, exactly, in Northeast Washington, that will meet you halfway, at some public parking lot to do the exchange and actually finish the purchase, which would, as I'm reading this bill, constitute a sale that would be banned under this bill.

Hall: Well, it would be. If you look at--I'm just thinking, Spokane in the county and city ordinances. They ran into problems with that anyway, that breeders don't meet at their homes. Anybody who's an AKC breeder is encouraged to make the transaction occur--the buyer should be able to look at how the animals are raised in that location. That's why Spokane and county--city and county--went ahead and  enacted an ordinance to that effect. That it should occur on private property.

Shea: I guess, for, so, just to clarify for staff, I mean, that--that type of a transaction would be banned? And the reason I bring this up is that you have the enormous distances, where you have people coming to Spokane on a regular basis, and they will actually bring some animals down with them, make the transaction. And I just want to be clear that, that type of a transaction would be banned under the current wording of this bill.

Omeara Harrington, Counsel (staff): Well, I think if it's one of the places that doesn't have an ordinance, you know, technically that's a right-of-way. Perhaps it would fall on where the actual transaction took place. I mean, this disallows offer of sale, barter, upon the public property or private--so, perhaps it would depend on the circumstances, but I think there, there are situations where that would be prohibited under this bill.

Shea: So, Yokes Market, which is a common meeting place, Big R parking lot, that type of thing, would probably be banned based on this language.

Harrington: I think generally, yeah, most parking lots would be.

Shea: Thank you.

Chair: K, further questions for this panel? Rep. Klippert?

Klippert: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I don't mean to be pointed with my question, but, that's an excellent example that I have used even in other states, because you look online and you find the animal that you want, that you've been looking for, on the long distance.

And we really want the long arm of the law to prevent stuff like that?? That's what you're saying we want to do with this bill?

Hall: Well, I can tell you an example that just came up in North Bend, where someone met somebody in a clandestine loca--just in a public location, and they bought an animal that had parvo virus, spent lots of money trying to deal with that animal's health issues.

That's why it was a concern, and that's why it's been enacted in certain counties I believe is that, these transactions don't leave the buyer with much recourse, and it can be very expensive emotionally and financially to deal with that--that kind of thing. That's why it's--what you see in the counties has been enacted that way, I believe.

Klippert: Thank you sir, for your answer. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Chair: Thank you very much. Any further questions for this panel? K? Mr. Vice, thank you very much for your testimony. Mr. Vice Chair?

Vice Chair: May we please hear from Jack Field?

Jack Field, Cattlemen's Association: Thank you Mr. Chair, members of the committee. For the record, I'm Jack Field with the Washington Cattlemen's Association, here with a couple concerns on House Bill 1201.

In reading 1201, in reading through and listening to the staff report, reading the bill report, hearing the introduction, it's, certainly the assumption this is meant for cats, and the kittens and puppies in the parking lot. But the question I have, on page 2, line 15 and 16, would be in sub-F, wanting to make sure that we've very, I mean it would be sub-E and sub-F, wanting to make sure that we very explicitly would exempt, and it may to some degree, private bull sales, seed stock sales.

We're right in the middle of what the industry would call "bull sale season," and the idea of the government limiting what I can do on my private property is, is something that's extremely troubling. But on the other hand there are the exemptions and I didn't have time to look it up under 16.65. But I don't know if that 16.65 reference is broad enough to include all, if it be, WSDA sanctioned, but I just. I just want to be certain that we're not eliminating thousands of families' livelihoods by eliminating the ability for them to have a sale on their private property.

Chair: As an alternative, I s'pose we might just limit the application of the bill to cats and dogs.

Field: That would be very helpful. 

Chair: OK. Do you have other concerns?

Field: That was my concern, thank you.

Chair: Rep. Klippert

Klippert: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Sir, I, the example that Rep. Shea gave was specific to me in the fact that I was buying a cowdog from someone way out there in Oregon and I'm way up here in Kennewick, and so we want to continue to allow this, seeing as how this is now a dog that I use in the commercial application of raising my cattle and beef.

Field: My last border collie I, granted, that transaction happened in Oregon, but if it would have been here I would have broken the law. I met my friend at the parking lot for a dog, and, for what it’s worth, I fully understand when I make that transaction I’m assuming the responsibility. It’s to some degree buyer beware, and that’s why we make sure we do the homework.

I certainly understand the need, but I would just strongly caution that we don’t do something that’s going to dramatically impact livestock production and, as Rep. Shea had mentioned, those transactions that occur on a regular basis.

Klippert: Thank you, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chair.


Chair: OK. Any further questions? All right. Thank you very much for coming forward, that’ll conclude our public hearing on House Bill 1201.


Chair: We’ll move to consideration of House Bill 1202, and Omeara once again has the report.

Omeara Harrington, Counsel: House Bill 1202 makes a number of changes to the laws regarding animal cruelty.

Animal Cruelty in the first degree is defined as intentionally harming or killing an animal by means that causes undue suffering, or with criminal negligence starving or suffocating an animal, putting an animal in unnecessarily—unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or killing the animal, or knowingly engaging in various sexual practices with animals. Animal cruelty in the second degree is committed when a person knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence inflicts unnecessary suffering or pain on an animal. And this can come in the form of failing to provide necessary shelter, rest, sanitation, space, or medical attention or abandonment. And, it’s an affirmative defense if the person fails to provide care due to economic distress beyond the person’s control. Animal Cruelty in the first degree is a class C felony; in the second degree it’s a gross misdemeanor.

House Bill 1202 would create a new civil infraction for failure to provide care. This is defined as a failure to provide food, water, shelter, ventilation, rest, sanitation, space or medical care that doesn’t amount to animal cruelty in the first or second degree. The owner can contest the infraction by explaining any mitigating circumstances that might apply. There are a number of exceptions, particularly for livestock operations, outdoor activities and competitions.

House Bill 1202 also amends the animal cruelty in the second degree statute to prohibit negligently injuring an animal, or causing an injury through knowing, reckless or criminally negligent failure to provide food and water, and additionally eliminates that economic duress defense.

There is also guidance in current law about when enforcement officers and individual citizens can intervene when an animal is being mistreated. Law enforcement and animal control officers with a warrant can remove a domestic animal for care if the officer has probable cause to believe that the owner has violated the animal cruelty statutes, and may make a warrantless removal if the animal is in an immediate life-threatening situation. If a domestic animal is confined without necessary food or water for 36 consecutive hours, any person can enter and provide for the animal, and the person will not be held liable for the entry and is entitled to reimbursement for the food and water.

It’s also a misdemeanor under state law to transport or confine a domestic animal in an unsafe manner.

House Bill 1202 creates a new prohibition against leaving any animal in an unattended vehicle or confined space in a manner that places the animal in a life- or health-threatening situation due to exposure to extreme temperatures or lack of ventilation. Fire and rescue workers are given permission, in addition to law enforcement and animal control officers, to enter and remove the animal upon probable cause to believe that a violation has occurred, and will not be liable for the entry. Violations are punishable by civil infraction, and prosecution under the animal cruelty statutes when applicable.

Current Washington law also prohibits a number of specific acts and practices involving animals, and House Bill 1202 makes changes to a number of these.

In current law, engaging dogs or male chickens in animal fighting, or even just participating as a spectator is a class C felony. Under House Bill 1202 organized fighting involving any animal is unlawful, and language is added prohibiting causing a child to engage in animal fighting activities.

Um, I should probably note here that  “animal” for purposes of this statute means nonhuman mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

A couple of other things in current law: Killing or causing substantial bodily harm to another person’s livestock with malice is a class C felony. House Bill 1202 would expand this to cover any animal owned by another person.

And finally, current law imposes a gross misdemeanor and a $500 mandatory fine for killing, obscuring the identity of, or stealing a pet animal worth up to $250. House Bill 1202 would increase the value limit of the animal to $750 and also adds language noting that a person in violation may simultaneously be prosecuted for animal cruelty if applicable.

And then, a number of other technical and some small substantive changes are made to the animal cruelty statutes as well. So that concludes my summary of 1202. If anybody has any questions I’d be happy to answer them.

Chair: Thank you, uh, we’re gonna pause for just a second and, uh, Representative Haigh has joined us, and I’m gonna give her just a chance to say something. We’ll reopen the public hearing on House Bill 1186. Welcome to the committee.

Representative Kathy Haigh (D) 35th district, Shelton: Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee; I really appreciate this. We did get into a little bit of a food fight over in the agriculture and natural resources committee, so I missed out, and I’m—I apologize.

I’m Representative Kathy Haigh; I represent the 35th district, and I am a veterinarian and have been past president of the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association. Involved in many issues that involve the well-being of our profession as well as the people that we are serving and the animals that we care for.

I believe that this is an important step for veterinarians, especially as we move forward in the, around the issues of animal welfare and become more involved with law enforcement and have had—I and my family and our business have already had some issues around this, and I think we need to make these, this particular piece of legislation very clear, if there would be any concern of—if you get into a courtroom on discussions about and decisions about animal welfare and animal treatment.

Chair: Thank you. Representative Rodney has a question.

Rodney: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Does your professional liability coverage include these types of claims?

Haigh: Well, not so—not as far as I know. If you are sued directly for something that you’ve done, then yes. But I think as a countersuit on, if a court decides against you and they decide to recover funds, you’re probably the only one with the money to be able to recover the funds for the lawsuit, I—I don’t think that is covered.

Chair: You’re probably also at your deductible at least, so—which may not be substantial. All right, any further questions for the prime sponsor? OK. We will reclose our public hearing on

Haigh: Thank you, thank you.

Chair: House bill 1186. Thank you for joining us, and, uh, proceed.

Did anyone have any questions for staff House Bill 1202? Representative Goodman has a question.

Goodman: I’ll just ask it from here. I heard that animals are not defined to include reptiles or fish. So fish fighting or reptile fighting would still be allowed?

Staff: Fish fighting is allowed; reptile fighting is not.

Goodman: Oh. Reptile fighting is not.

Staff: Yeah, there’s a definition of animal under the animal cruelty statutes and it’s non-human mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds.

Goodman: Oh, reptiles are included.

Staff: So, no reptile fighting.

Goodman: OK, so it’s just fish fighting that would be allowed.

[unintelligible chatter] Those goldfish are crazy.

Chair: Yeah, piranhas. Laughter. My kids are watching a movie a lot these days that has a piranha gun and the guy shoots . . . Despicable Me. All right, back to the real world. Ah, Representative Roberts. Welcome.

Roberts: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, I’m Representative Mary Helen Roberts from the 21st Legislative District, and I am commending this bill to the committee. I think it has some good points in terms of helping us clarify existing law, also brings in some issues that are, I guess I would say, a current problem. I specifically reference leaving animals parked in a car that is either unheated when it is extremely cold or, more likely, extremely hot, and causes the death of the animal.

I also think that, Mr. Chairman, you will not be prosecuted for failing to respond to the postcards about Fluffy. Because one of the things that this bill, I think, does, is provide some good definitions. And on page 6 it does talk about necessary medical attention as being what’s necessary and appropriate for addressing illness or injury. And, I guess I think that, dealing with pets is very similar to dealing with small children; that when something’s wrong they really—they really let that be known.

One other item that appealed to me in the bill—and I don’t recall hearing it from staff—was that a part of current law has been stricken, it’s on page 6, and it says that, when they’re talking about animal cruelty in the second degree, it says that a defense, that a defendant can’t use as their defense failure due to economic distress beyond their control. And I think we’re at a point in time in our society that there are organizations and opportunities where, if you have animals that you cannot care for on your own, that there are these other groups that will step in and do so. So saying that “I just couldn’t afford the food” is not an adequate defense. So I hope this is something that you will find acceptable.

Chair: Thank you, I looked, too, at that definition of necessary medical attention and I—I guess I’m—I do worry a little bit that my geriatric, extremely geriatric, cat is now approaching 17 years old. And, you know, suffers from arthritis and various aches and pains of being an old cat, probably by some definition does have an illness that, you know, I—just to be candid and maybe I’m gonna make myself look really unsympathetic. I’m deeply in love with that animal; he’s lived with me his entire life. But, at some point you make decisions about what, how much you’re gonna spend on your animal and how.  (shrugs). And I—I guess, as I—I’m just registering a concern about that provision, and about the potential for people getting caught up in something that’s well-intentioned but maybe a little over-broad.

Roberts: Well, I guess my one comment would be I don’t know that there’s an overethusiastic desire to go out and prosecute people for not taking care of their pets, but I would tell a story of the extreme in the other direction. And I live close to a public area where we think that animals have been abandoned. And I actually found a cat asleep in my kitchen, and took it to a rescue place, and I could tell something was terribly wrong with it. And it died within 2 days of being in that shelter, because it had, you know, an abscess that smelled foul, taking over the pet’s body, and I guess that’s been my experience. And I know there’s the old aches and pains of, of some animals, but the other kinds of things that really do demand medical attention I think are, are usually pretty obvious. And it’s not a matter of interpretation of whether or not this is just aging aches and pains.

Chair: OK, further questions for the prime sponsor? Representative Klippert?

Klippert: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I—you shared about your cat, and I would share, if I may, also, as a law enforcement officer. Multiple occasions, we get calls to go check out horses that people feel are being abused, where you can see their ribs and their pelvic area and all that stuff. And on many—course, the justifiable occasions are certainly reasonable. But many, many, many occasions, it’s just—it’s exactly like your geriatric cat. It’s a geriatric horse that no longer takes the food and does with it what it used to do, and so now it’s just—and the people love the horse, they don’t want to get rid of it. So I’m equally concerned about the language in this bill. Thank you.

Roberts: Might I comment?

Yes. Yes.

Roberts: I do—

Chair: Because I’m sure that Representative Klippert meant that as a question. 

Roberts: Yes. But I, well, I guess I also remember that there was someone here with a uniform that said animal control on its back and so there are people where, if there are those kinds of situations where they are called in they have some level of expertise that says, “No, this is not a horse that is being underfed, this is a geriatric horse and that’s just what they look like.”

Chair: OK, any further questions for the prime sponsor? OK, thank you very much for bringing the bill forward. Mr. Vice Chair?

Vice Chair: May we please hear from Rick Hall, Denise McVicker, Bian Boman, and Elizabeth Brie?

Rick Hall: Thank you Mr. Chairman; committee members. I appreciate your comments and thoughts about this bill. I did want to suggest one thing about the definition of necessary medical attention. Perhaps adding the word “prompt, appropriate and reasonable treatment of an animal’s injury or illness” might help address the concerns that you have so that when you have a geriatric animal or an animal that doesn’t—you have different choices on care that you can make that’s still not cruel—that you can deal with it and you’re not going to be in any trouble with the law. So I just wanted to toss that out.

I also did submit a letter of testimony. And an attachment on this flier too, and we’re fully behind this bill with Washington Alliance for Humane Legislation.

I think one of the real good features that you’ll see in it is the first one, which again, found in local code, where an animal control officer can issue an infraction for failure to provide care. And that’s being done in Thurston, Pierce, and Kitsap Counties right now. And for a long time in Thurston County, I believe. And the nice thing about that is, it’s a good way to help prevent a problem that’s caught at the early stage from blossoming into a full-blown animal cruelty problem where the animal suffers, and both the individual and the animal control officer are faced with a criminal action to deal with.

So I believe that you’ll hear from Brian Boman, the officer here, about the situations under which that occurs. And I just leave the rest of my comments to the letter of testimony. Thank you.

Chair: Thank you.

Boman: Thank you again, Mr. Chair. Once again we do have this code in effect in—

Chair: I’m sorry, we have each one as a different hearing, so could you re-introduce yourself for the record, please?

Boman: Yes. Brian Boman, animal control supervisor for Pierce County. We have various codes in effect that pertain to 1202. The failure to provide adequate care,  removing animals for care, removing animals from, say, vehicles or confined space.

As far as the failure to provide adequate care, once again this has been a very useful tool for us, as far as animal control officers, to avoid having to take the step of the criminal process. Which is a financial burden, not only for the jurisdictions but also for the animal owner themselves, and then plus the agencies that we have to take the animals to. Plus also the court process. It saves time for us, whether it’s testimony in the criminal trial, or, um, depositions or things like that, that we’re able to deter the criminal aspect with failure to provide adequate care.

It is a discretionary tool for us, as far as, with our education and experience and expertise, to—whether to use that, or use it as an educational tool for the owner,  to avoid getting to that higher standard of animal cruelty. Thank you.

 Chair: Thank you.

Denise McVicker, deputy director for the humane society for Tacoma and Pierce County, and president of the Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies. Most of my statements would echo officer Boman’s, and I just wanted you to know that the Federation and the Humane Society supports this bill as it brings many successful local ordinances to the state level, and it cleans up a lot of the language. Thank you.

 Chair: Thank you.

Elizabeth Bray, concerned citizen: Good afternoon, um, Mr. Chairman and the rest of the committee, my name is Elizabeth Bray and I’m a graduate student at the, in the school of theology at Seattle University. I am here as a private citizen. My focus in school, while it’s in theology, is focused mainly on ecological spirituality, and as such it’s been centered mainly on the conservation and welfare of wildlife and farm animals.

However, in this instance I do appeal to you to consider the welfare of animals entrusted to our care. I do not present scientific evidence and I am not here to get on an emotional or spiritual soapbox. I am here as a theologian and private citizen to lend a voice for those who cannot speak; our animal companions.

 As a theologian I believe that all life is sacred, with inherent rights granted it. Those rights include the freedom to live cruelty-free lives. As the highest beings charged with stewardship, I ask you; what are our responsibilities in this matter?

I suggest that we must continue our journey away from our, whether intentional or not, treatment of animals as property. Animals are sentient beings with a viable physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual presence.

To not enact this bill might unintentionally send an implicit message that animal cruelty carries no consequences. Pasado’s law is a beginning. I ask that you continue the path of recognizing the rights of animals to be protected from those who might abuse them. There can be no such thing where there is negligence, infliction of unnecessary pain, unsafe confinement, or use of animals for exhibition or personal profit; for fight promotion.

I understand; I’ve heard in this hearing that we are concerned that we might take the wrong steps, or might be acting on, um, things that don’t fit into this bill. It’s necessary that we just do something.

We might make mistakes, but Martin Luther King says, “If we know the right thing to do and we do not do it, then we are implicity as guilty as those who perpetrate.”

Please take this into consideration, so that we can separate, we cannot separate our ethical and spiritual consciousness from the very choices we make regarding our relationship with all of creation. To do so would be to deny a part of the fullness of our humanity. Thank you.

Chair: Thank you very much. Do we have questions for the panel? Representative Klippert.

Klippert: Thank you, Mr. Chair. For the first gentleman if I may. I’m reading on page 1, line 10, it talks about a need to provide necessary food, and then I see in the statute it doesn’t define what necessary food is. One of the slang terms you’ll hear in the legislature is, “the camel’s nose under the tent.”

So I have two purebred dogs, one of them registered, and I make sure the protein content for my animals is 26 or above, because I care about ‘em. But, who—what’s to say without a definition here that somebody sometime’s gonna say, “Okay, you don’t need a certain nutrition content in the dog food that you buy for your store.” So, that’s just one.

And then I go to page 4 and it talks about sufficient light, heat and cold and clean. Um, my animals, I have to clean up the kennel, you know, every morning every night, but, you know, if someone comes by and has something out for me—“Well, you don’t—there’s whatever in your kennel and it’s not cleaned up when I’m here.”

So, well, without these definitions, and who defines what sufficient heat is? Do I now have to bring my animals in at night in the winter time? And they’re cow dogs; they’re farm dogs, uh. It just really concerns me, and I was just wondering if you could address that.

Hall: I could, uh. Necessary food is actually in the definition if you go up to J in the definition section, it’s been in there for a while. The only thing we included this time was a suggestion that if there needs to be a change in diet, if a veterinarian directs that, that should be added. Because a veterinarian may restrict food or change the diet.

As to the other interpretations of heat and cold, one of the things that I think laws like this have to do is not necessarily specify temperatures or cleanliness, but to allow an interpretation by the animal control officer.

Just as you would if you’re a law enforcement officer and you’re dealing with traffic and, if you look at the traffic rules, for instance, you need to follow at an appropriate distance. What is that, exactly? Well, that’s an interpretation that we as drivers and law enforcement might have to decide. But they don’t spell out how many feet. And the same is true for driving under weather conditions appropriate—appropriately so you’re not driving too fast. They don’t say how much—how fast you need to go or you can go under different weather conditions or road conditions, but that does—in the law, but you just need to know that that’s something that a reasonable person would have to make a judgement on.

If a person disagrees with an officer, whether it’s for a traffic issue, or for an animal control issue, that’s something that can be contested. So that’s one of the reasons why, at an infraction level, it’s a good thing to have to help to offset the—usually the most aggregious problems.

Klippert: Thank you, sir, for your answer. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Chair: Thank you very much. Any further questions for the panel? OK, thank you very much for coming forward. Mr. Vice Chair.

Vice Chair: May we please hear from Jack Field.

Field: Thank you, uh, Mr. Chair, members of the committee. For the record, Jack Field with the Washington Cattlemen’s Association testifying with a concern on House Bill 1202. I’ll go as quick as I can. If I could direct you to page 2, line 4 the exemption language, I wasn’t sure it was as clear as it could be. I would offer if the chair would be willing to allow me to work with staff, if we may include a reference from RCW 16.52.185. That would certainly satisfy questions or concerns from commercial livestock industry and interests on issues pertaining to this.

Chair: Yes, please do. Any other concerns that you had? Any questions for the witness? OK, hearing done, thank you very much. That will conclude our public hearing on House Bill 1202 and that concludes our work for the day.

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  1. The video is here: