Please Consider Becoming An Animal Advocate

by Gregory M. Simpson

While perusing the newspaper, Animal People, I came across an article that described pro-animal laws passed in 2007 in various states.  In reading about the new legislation it occurred to me how overdue this country is in enacting some basic protections for animals – and in many cases, people, too.  Here’s a sample.

Arizona passed a law requiring that engine coolant or antifreeze that contains more than 10% ethylene glycol must also include the bittering agent, denatonium benzoate, to keep animals and children from drinking poisonous antifreeze by accident in its normal sweet-tasting form.  This is a law that should be in every state and would most easily be put into place by enacting federal legislation.  It is also one of the myriads of risks that speaks to keeping cats safer indoors.  Cats love the sweet taste of anti-freeze, which has dripped from cars onto driveways.

Indiana signed into legislation a bill that makes killing an animal to threaten, intimidate, coerce, or terrorize a household family member a Class D felony, punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of $10,000.  While personally, I’d like to see the maximum penalty higher, it’s a step in the right direction.  The link between animal abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse is well established.  The American Humane Association has long advocated that there also be a law in every state requiring cross-training and cross-reporting regarding child abuse and animal abuse among law enforcement officers, humane investigators, veterinarians, health professionals, domestic violence advocates, and child protection workers.

The Iowa governor signed a bill into law prohibiting Internet hunting, in which hunters kill animals from distant locations using web cameras to spot their targets and a mouse-click to shoot. Model anti-Internet hunting bills have been promoted nationally in recent years by the Humane Society of the United States.  Thirty states have enacted such laws and the other twenty should quickly follow.  As P.G. Wodehouse wrote, “The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of a gun.”

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman signed a bill into law making animal abandonment a felony offense.  Now there’s a man after my own heart.  Animal abandonment is one of the most heinous crimes against animals.

As of 2007, Washington State now bans private acquisition of large cats, wolves, bears, non human primates, alligators, and other potentially dangerous wild animals.  Once again, this should be enacted as a federal law.  No one needs to keep as a pet an animal that may view a house guest as its next meal.

The Hawaii state legislature passed a 2007 bill enacting felony penalties for intentionally torturing, mutilating, or poisoning pets, including pigs as well as cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and birds..  Bravo, Hawaii!  Did you know that the very first American child abuse law in 1874 was modeled after already existing animal anti-cruelty laws?

The Texas legislature sent multiple pro-animal bills to the governor for signature, including one to increase the criminal penalties for dogfighting.  Another bill extends the laws protecting cats, dogs, and horses to feral members of their species.  A third bill introduces penalties for prolonged dog tethering.

Many states, including Connecticut, enacted legislation in 2007 that would require disaster planning to include plans for evacuating, transporting, and sheltering service animals and household pets.  This follows the 2006 federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act which requires states that accept Stafford Act funds for homeland security to ensure that state and local emergency preparedness plans “take into account the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency.”  Kudos go to Connecticut Representative Christopher Shays who co-introduced the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Governor Rell also signed a law, effective 10/1/07, which allows a state or local animal control officer to take custody of an animal without a warrant if a neglected or cruelly treated animal faces imminent harm.  Previously, a criminal search and seizure warrant was needed before taking custody.

Also, effective 10/1/07 was legislation signed by Governor Rell which permits courts to issue orders of protection for animals kept by victims of family violence, stalking, or harassment.  Previously, court orders only protected people.

On the federal level, President Bush signed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act into law on May 3, 2007.  This legislation provides felony penalties for interstate and foreign animal fighting. Each violation has a maximum sentence of 3 years incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000.  Since involved dog kennels rely on transporting their fighting dogs across state lines and internationally, the new law should cripple the interstate transport and international trade in fighting animals.

Every year more progress is made with pro-animal legislation.  Sometimes it is two steps forward and one backward.  There is still much more that needs to be done.  Please consider becoming an animal advocate.

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