As the new Virginia state director for The Humane Society of the United States, I’m proud to have been introduced to humane advocacy by the wonderful people and pets at the Richmond SPCA. For six years, I’ve been a member of the Fur Ball Committee supporting the Richmond SPCA’s Cinderella Fund. Now, I’m hoping you’ll join me to advocate for animals in every Virginia community, including Richmond.
We’ve made incredible strides through the legislative process to protect animals in Virginia, but there is so much more we can do to advance our shared mission of compassionate treatment of all creatures. Be it companion animals, farm animals raised unethically for consumption, or wild animals kept inhumanely in the confines of roadside zoos and menageries, our journey toward a more humane Virginia must continue.
As the General Assembly convenes in Richmond, I want you to consider two issues I know you’ll care about:
1) Prohibiting the sale of dogs in Virginia pet stores who have been bred inhumanely in other states
Over the years, Virginia’s legislature has advanced laws to protect puppies and shut down the cruel puppy mill industry that have become models for the nation. The HSUS ranks Virginia in the top ten states in the nation for animal welfare in part because of our no-tolerance approach to the inhumane breeding and selling of puppies. However, the laws that protect puppies bred in Virginia have had an unforeseen consequence: Virginia pet stores are buying and selling dogs bred in other states, often in horrible conditions.
A November 2014 investigation by The HSUS into 18 Virginia pet stores revealed that at least 12 of the stores were selling dogs bred in out-of-state puppy mills, many of which had been cited for violations of the Animal Welfare Act; most of the other stores wouldn’t reveal their sources at all, in apparent violation of state law. The investigation also found many of the stores were even buying from puppy mills that had been listed by The HSUS in a report highlighting 101 horrific puppy mills in the country.
SB1001, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Glade Hill, Galax, Martinsville, Danville, will prohibit the sale of puppies in Virginia pet stores if acquired from breeders that don’t meet Virginia’s kennel standards, or that have violated the Animal Welfare Act in the preceding three years. It will also ban the sale of dogs at flea markets. Of course, this will not apply to Virginia’s wonderful shelters that adopt many pets into loving homes at outdoor events.
2) Restricting the private ownership of primates
Did you know that you can legally keep a primate of any size as a pet in Virginia? The state restricts the private ownership of several wild animals including big cats, bears, and many reptiles, but it does not prohibit the private ownership of primates like chimpanzees, baboons, macaques, and others. These animals pose a serious risk to public health and safety and in private hands, they are typically denied mental stimulation, sufficient exercise, proper diets, interaction with others of their kind, and the ability to express natural behaviors.
SB1315, sponsored by Sen. Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomack County, would restrict the private ownership of primates as pets and at roadside zoos. It will also prohibit the breeding and sale of these animals in Virginia.
If you think these issues are important—and I know you do—I hope you’ll join me for Humane Lobby Day on Thursday, January 22, at the General Assembly Building in Richmond to lobby your legislators and illustrate for us the enormous grassroots support that exists for the humane treatment of animals.
You can register for Humane Lobby Day at http://action.humanesociety.org/site/Calendar?id=114041&view=RSVP&s_src=em_sd_hld_2015.
I hope to see you there.
Guest blogger Matthew Gray is the Virginia state director for The HSUS. Stay tuned for further General Assembly updates this week detailing additional bills of importance to the Richmond SPCA.
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