Laws regarding animal rights or welfare tread a thin a line. They can easily go one way or the other. Some laws are excellent moves in the direction of better care of animals. Some seem more like power grabs from the government. So how do you balance legislation to be sure that animals are being cared for humanely, but also allow for the rights of people to responsibly keep animals?
New minority leader leads out upcoming legislative session with trio of animal bills
The Humane Society of Utah asked Senator Gene Davis, the Democrats’ newly chosen minority leader, to sponsor the trio of measures regarding animal welfare for this upcoming legislative session
The focus of the 3 bills are as follows:
- Make cockfighting a felony, as it is in 39 states
- Make it a misdemeanor to tether a dog for more than 10 hours.
- Restrict the sale of dogs in unregulated places such as parking lots.
Tastes like chicken abuse
Many people only think about chicken as the Super Bowl game day menu. But chickens can be entertaining pets that have personalities and also contribute eggs to the breakfast table! TaLaisa and her 3 little boys live in Sandy and love their hens who they inherited from a neighbor. They call the chickens their “girls” and love their friendly, gregarious ways. The boys love to collect the eggs and feed their feathered pets in their yard. But not everyone keeping chickens in Utah is kind to these birds.
According to the Humane Society of Utah’s site:
Cockfighting is a blood sport where roosters have knives tied to their legs and are then made to fight to the death for the purposes of gambling and “entertainment”. Cockfighters seek out states with the weakest penalties so they can avoid meaningful prosecution if they are caught. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has documented ties between this “blood sport” and illegal narcotics trafficking. A variety of crimes go hand in hand with cockfighting. Since cockfighting is a felony in every state surrounding Utah (one of only 10 lacking any felony penalties) the Beehive state is becoming a magnet for cockfighters willing to risk a slap on the wrist for participation in this illegal activity.
Utah is one of 15 states where cockfighting is only a misdemeanor, and that is very sad for the roosters of this state. No living thing deserves to be treated like that. This bill would go a long way to help.
Life on a chain
Dogs are social animals. They need to be with their “pack,” which usually your family! Dogs Deserve Better, a national and award-winning nonprofit organization, is a voice for chained and penned dogs. And they say that dogs that are kept tied all the time are more than bored… they are more dangerous. According to their site, “In the period from October 2003 through today, there were at least 371 children killed or seriously injured by chained dogs across the country. Chained dogs, unsocialized with humans, can become very territorial of their tiny space, and any two year old who wanders into this space can be attacked and killed before adults can intervene.”
In some areas, placing your dog on a chain may placing him in danger of wild animals like cougars. As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune, on Tuesday of this week, 2 pets were attacked by mountain lions, tragically leading to the euthanization of three mountain lions; one adult female and two young mountain lions.
The second bill proposed would make it illegal to tether a dog for more than 10 hours per day. Violators would have to pay a $250 fine. The bill would also allow law enforcement ofﬁcers access to vehicles when dogs or other animals (including exotics) are deemed to be in distress. If the vehicle owner cannot be located, an ofﬁcer would be allowed to enter the vehicle to rescue the animal. This can mean life or death to an animal trapped in a hot or cold car.
This also comes in time for an annual Valentine’s campaign run by Dogs Deserve Better; Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week held February 7-14th.
2 out of 3 ain’t bad…
While the other 2 measures would make clear improvements in the lives of Utah animals, this last piece of legislation is a mix of good and bad. While the benefits of restrict the sale of dogs in unregulated places such as parking lots are many, some fear such a bill may be causing too much governmental interference.
According to The Human Society of Utah:
The third bill would prohibit the sale or distribution of dogs (speciﬁcally puppies) in public areas such as shopping mall parking lots, etc. The proposed law would keep parking lot puppy merchants (who typically pay no sales tax and often cannot be contacted after the sale) from selling or giving away puppies and/or mature dogs in public places. First time offenders would receive a $250.00 ﬁne while second time offenders would be guilty of a misdemeanor violation which would carry a ﬁne not to exceed $1,000.00.
The Humane Society of Utah also reports roadside puppy sales are linked with unplanned purchases of pets that are later abandoned. Humane Society Executive Director Gene Baierschmidt told the Salt Lake Tribune:
“the proposal isn’t aimed at professional breeders or legitimate pet sellers who ensure the animals are spayed, get proper vaccinations and don’t have diseases.”
“…Utah shelters, which see more than 10,000 animals a year, often end up being the safety net after people who make spur-of-the-moment purchases decide they don’t really want animals and abandon them.”
“…puppies are sold in these unregulated areas with diseases that could be harmful — including parvovirus, which can lead to rashes and arthritis in humans.”
Who’s for it, who’s against
This trio of legislation has a lot of support, both local and national. The Humane Society of Utah has joined forces with the ASPCA, The Humane Society of the United States and The Best Friends Animal Society to support passage of all three animal protection bills. Gene Baierschmidt said “We hope this unprecedented collaboration will lead to signiﬁcant changes that will better protect the animals of our state.”
Not everyone supports these measures. Representative Curt Oda proposed a bill in 2011 to allow the shooting of feral animals that caused a lot of angry responses. Not seen as a friend to animals, Oda says he believes the regulations against chaining animals could lead to neighbors reporting neighbors without knowing the circumstance why a dog was chained up.
“Tethering is a natural part of owning an animal and, by definition, animals and pets are not considered human beings — they’re considered property,” Oda told the Salt Lake Tribune. “So if they want to change how animals are going to be treated overall, they’ll have to change the definition to say animals aren’t property.”
If you don’t feel like chaining is “natural” (or even if you do!) and want to weigh in, mark your calendar for Utah Humane Lobby Day on February 13th.
The Humane Society of the United States, The ASPCA, Best Friends Animal Society and Humane Society Utah invite our members and supporters to participate in the Utah Humane Lobby Day in Salt Lake City to help make a tremendous difference for animals.
This is an exciting opportunity to meet directly with your elected officials about legislation that will significantly impact the lives of animals. There will be a briefing with tips for citizen lobbying, and an overview of pending animal legislation which will prepare you to advocate for policies that will curb and end egregious acts of cruelty.
Legislators are most motivated when their constituents make time to meet with them face to face. By attending Humane Lobby Day 2013, you can be instrumental in improving animal protection in your state. RSVP today to lend your voice for animals and make a difference in Utah! Contact Heather Carpenter if you have additional questions.
Date: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Time: 8:30 AM – 1:30 PM
State Office Building Auditorium, Conference Room 1112, First Floor
350 North State Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84114