The weather is miserably cold and nasty, so it has to be time for the General Assembly to be in session again. The 2014 session began on January 8 and will last for 60 days. During that time, several very important bills for the well being of animals will be considered. I and other members of our staff are making every effort to support those bills and encourage people who care about animals to contact their delegates and senators and encourage their positive votes.
There are four bills on which we are focusing our efforts – two of them being on the same topic, the abhorrent practice of fox penning.
Bailey’s Law, SB 228
First, Senator Chap Petersen is the patron of Senate Bill 228 which is being referred to as Bailey’s Law. Since Virginia adopted a fairly strong puppy mill law a few years ago, pet stores in the state have been buying many puppies from out of state puppy mills where there are no meaningful protections (primarily Missouri, Pennsylvania and Ohio) and dreadful foreign puppy mills. This bill requires a pet dealer to provide an animal history certificate so that they may no longer mislead consumers about the source of the puppy mill dogs they are selling. This bill also requires a pet dealer to reimburse certain veterinary fees when a consumer has bought a pet that proves to be ill and allows the buyer to retain the pet. Current law only requires the pet dealer to refund the purchase price or exchange the pet for one of equivalent value. The bill also extends the return or reimbursement period to 14 days and eliminates the condition that the animal be pedigreed. This bill was reported out of Committee and will proceed to the Senate floor for a vote soon. We are very hopeful about this bill which would be a great addition to the protections for both animals and people from unscrupulous and inhumane puppy mills.
View the report below on Bailey's Law from WRIC 8News Anchor Amy Lacey that aired on Jan. 23 and features Lottie Dula, a puppy mill victim who found a loving adoptive home after being rescued by the Richmond SPCA.
SB 42 and HB 1188
We are also strongly supporting two bills that would criminalize the horrific practice of fox penning. Senator Marsden, who has been working with dedication for years to seek to ensure that fox penning is outlawed, is sponsoring Senate Bill 42 which makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to maintain an enclosure for fox penning or to engage in the chase of animals in fox pens. Delegate Albo is sponsoring House Bill 1188 which would criminalize the receipt of money or the wagering of money on fox or coyote penning. The House bill would include fox penning under the animal fighting statute which is rewarding to us as we have always believed that fox penning is indistinguishable from other forms of animal fighting which have been made felonies in Virginia. While it does not forbid the simple practice of fox penning, it would take away all of the economic incentive for it, which would certainly result in a great diminishment if not an end to the practice in the state. Both of these bills would provide crucial and long hoped for protections for the foxes who live in fear and die in fox pens, the other wildlife that mistakenly gets trapped in the pens and dies and the dogs who are horribly abused as well by the fox penners.
Lastly, our own Board member Jennifer McClellan has sponsored a bill (House Bill 740) which would amend an archaic statute that allows the owner of livestock, and actually requires an animal control officer, who sees a dog chasing or attacking livestock to kill that dog on sight – the current law makes no mention that the method of killing must be in any way humane nor does it allow the animal control officer to use judgment about using a non-lethal method of stopping the attack. The amendment Delegate McClellan has proposed would allow localities in urban areas to limit or eliminate the duty of a local animal control officer to kill a dog found in the act of injuring noncommercial poultry and to alter the rights of certain persons to kill dogs found chasing livestock or poultry. This bill is a good one because there are many densely populated areas that now permit residents to have chickens, and it is not wise or humane to permit them, or to require animal control officers, to kill neighboring dogs.
We would be deeply grateful if you would contact both your delegate and senator and ask them to support each of these bills both in committee and in any vote on the floor of the Senate or House of Delegates. Email messages are helpful, but by far the best way is to place a phone call or visit them in person at their offices. Speaking with their legislative aides is fine and is often the best way to discuss the issues in some specifics. Please be sure to just contact the delegate or senator who actually represents you rather than others. You can find out who that is here: http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/VGAMain?openform
The process of bills making their way through the General Assembly is a slow and often frustrating one, and it is easy to feel that nothing productive for animals ever happens. But, after working for important measures for animals over time, we do achieve great breakthroughs such as the felony animal fighting bill and the 2008 puppy mill bill. When we finally get an important piece of animal welfare legislation through the General Assembly and it becomes law, the prospects for a life without cruelty for the animals we all love improve dramatically. It is well worth the time and effort and patience it requires.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires both your first and last name to be used as your screen name.