Friday, January 25, 2013
Sen. Davis Previews Animal Protection Bills
News Conference - Noon, Sunday January 27 - Humane Society of Utah
State Senator Gene Davis (D-Salt Lake City) will be joined by national and local animal welfare groups at the state capitol Sunday at noon to review three animal protection bills the Senator is sponsoring in this yearʼs legislative session which opens Monday, January 28.
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 bills. According to HSU Executive Director Gene Baierschmidt, “we hope this unprecedented collaboration will lead to signiﬁcant changes that will better protect the animals of our state.”
The first bill would make cockfighting a felony in Utah, just as it is in our neighboring states. 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.
The second bill would place restrictions on the tethering of dogs. This proposed legislation would make it illegal to tether a dog for more than 10 hours per day. The bill would also facilitate law enforcement ofﬁcers access to vehicles when dogs or other animals 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.
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 animal welfare groups uniting behind Senator Davis hope to improve Utahʼs national standing with regard to animal rights. The 2012 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings published by the Animal Legal Defense Fund ranks Utah 46th among all 50 states. Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands all rank higher than Utah.
Monday, January 21, 2013
Animal Welfare Groups Unite With Humane Society Of Utah!
Powerful Advocates Backing HSU In Utah's Legislature!
The upcoming session of the Utah State legislature will be marked by an unprecedented collaboration between Americaʼs most powerful national animal welfare groups and the Humane Society of Utah. This coalition is the result of an historic meeting on October 31, 2012 when representatives from three highly inﬂuential animal welfare groups discussed legislative strategies with HSU staff members The 2012 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings published by the Animal Legal Defense Fund may have provided some of the impetus for this gathering, as Utah was ranked 46th (in the bottom tier) of all 50 states. Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands were all ranked higher.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States, and the Best Friends Animal Society have agreed to coordinate efforts with the HSU to back three pieces of legislation beneﬁtting Utahʼs animals. According to HSU Executive Director Gene Baierschmidt, “We are honored and look forward to working with these other prominent groups. Through this unprecedented collaboration, we hope to affect signiﬁcant change that will better protect the animals of our state.”
Utah Senator Gene Davis (D-Salt Lake City) has agreed to sponsor all three bills, including legislation that would make cockﬁghting a felony in our state. Utah has a long, sad history of cockﬁghting dating back to the late 1800ʼs. On January 26, 1888 an article in “Ogden Briefs reported “cocks were fought just north of this city...” A similar “Local Briefs” story in the Salt Lake Herald on May 13, 1988 read, “A genuine cockﬁght took place...in the vicinity of Warm Springs yesterday...” Unfortunately, this unsavory practice still exists in modern times. On January 6, 2003 the Salt Lake Tribune reported “an estimated 150 to 200 people in Utah actively raise chickens for ﬁghting competitions...”
Down through the years the Humane Society of Utah has received reports of, or been involved with “busts” of cockﬁghts in many Utah locations including areas in or near Bluffdale, Delta, Elberta, Fairview, Highland, Hyrum, Lakepoint, Lindon, Midvale, Ogden, Riverton, Salt Lake City, Slaterville and West Valley City.
Conducted primarily for the purposes of gambling and “entertainment,” cockﬁghting attracts participants from surrounding states, many of whom carry ﬁrearms and other weapons due in part to the large amounts of cash on the premises. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has documented a strong connection between this “blood sport” and violent crime...including homicide...as well as the distribution of illegal drugs.
While cockfghting is illegal in all ﬁfty states, Utah is not among the 33 states and the District of Columbia that have made this spectacle a felony. Since it is a felony in many surrounding states and only a misdemeanor in Utah, the Beehive state has become a magnet for cockﬁghters willing to risk a slap on the wrist for participating in this illegal activity. The intent of our newly formed animal welfare coalition is to have lawmakers take the same action as was taken against dogﬁghting and pass a new law making cockﬁghting a felony in Utah.
The second bill sponsored by Senator Davis would place restrictions on the tethering of dogs and also allow law enforcement ofﬁcers access to vehicles when dogs or other animals are deemed to be in distress. This proposed legislation would make it illegal to tether a dog for more than 10 hours per day. The Humane Society of Utah regards this practice as inhumane and dangerous...not only to the dog that is conﬁned, but for other animals and humans as well.
Dogs continuously chained can become bored, frustrated, anxious, neurotic, and agitated. Some actually suffer from collars becoming embedded in their neck. Understandably, dogs living in this condition often become aggressive. While all animal welfare groups would prefer to see a total ban on tethering it is the belief of the HSUʼs new coalition that a 10 hour time limit would reasonably allow people who are employed sufﬁcient time to go to work and then return home and take their dog off the tether.
With regard to facilitating access to animals in distress, under this proposed law ofﬁcers would be able to enter a parked vehicle to rescue an animal without the ownerʼs permission, assuming the owner cannot be located. It has become an all too common occurrence in Utah where dogs are often seen locked in parked cars on hot days. In a matter of minutes, a dog can suffer heat stroke in a vehicle with interior temperatures exceeding 75 degrees. Unlike humans, dogs do not have the ability to sweat and reduce body temperature. This has led to countless tragedies, many of them documented by the media (“Heat Kills Dog Left In Truck by Owner”-Salt Lake Tribune June 6, 2006...”Labrador Dies of Heat Stroke in Parked Car”-Deseret News July 13, 2005).
Fortunately, a handful of Utah communities have already passed ordinances with provisions preventing people from leaving dogs in vehicles for prolonged periods of time and allowing law enforcement ofﬁcials to act once they are made aware of such situations. The Humane Society of Utah and itʼs coalition of national animal welfare groups would now like to see a state law enacted to protect dogs throughout Utah.
The third bill backed by Senator Davis and supported by our humane coalition would prohibit the sale or distribution of dogs (speciﬁcally puppies) in public areas such as shopping mall parking lots, etc. In the past few years, pups being sold in front of “big box” stores have become an all too common sight. Typically, these dogs are unsterilized and are often unhealthy. Purchased on an impulse, the well intentioned buyers may soon realize the dog is ill, carries a disease or has genetic defects. The Humane Society of Utah frequently receives calls from distraught purchasers who are now confronted with the parvo virus, auto-immune diseases and a variety of physical maladies. Sadly, many of these animals end up in shelters where the best or only option is to humanely euthanize the puppy and end itsʼ suffering.
The law which is being proposed would keep these parking lot puppy merchants (who may pay no sales tax and typically cannot be contacted after the sale) from selling or giving away puppies 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. This legislation would not only protect puppies, but well meaning citizens who purchase on an impulse, only to suffer ﬁnancial and emotional hardship when the dog becomes sick and they are confronted with medical bills and the possibility that the pup theyʼve fallen in love with may have to be put to sleep. For these unsuspecting consumers, there is seldom any recourse.
Once the legislative session begins on January 28, 2013 the HSU will keep you apprised of all developments as these bills progress through the state Senate and the House of Representatives. It is the fervent hope of all the animal welfare groups banding together that Utahʼs lawmakers show compassion for the animals in our state, and that Utahʼs national ranking with regard to animal protection laws will show dramatic improvement.
You can help us help the homeless animals in Utah. Please go to Utahhumane.org and register your e-mail address. Go to the top of the page and click “Signup/manage email.” During the legislative session we will send you updates on these bills and you will be able to send your Representative or Senator a message in support of these proposed laws. Legislators value their constituents opinions and passage of a bill is often tied directly to the feedback they receive from people who voted them into ofﬁce. This will only take a minute of your time and you will have the satisfaction of knowing you have potentially affected change that will improve the treatment of animals in Utah for years to come.