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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

States Make Progress on Animal Fighting, Puppy Mills, and More

There’s been a lot of action on animal protection policies in state legislatures so far this year, just a few months into 2015. Some major priority bills have been enacted to help crack down on cockfighting, puppy mills, and other large-scale cruelties. Other major issues are on the move, and have cleared key legislative hurdles. We’ve also garnered some key vetoes of bills inimical to animal protection. Here are a few brief dispatches on the progress for animals—and some roadblocks—in the states so far in 2015.

Animal Fighting: Utah became the 42nd state to establish felony-level penalties for cockfighting, and Tennessee capped a seven-year campaign to fortify the state’s anti-cockfighting statute and make it a crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight. Anti-cockfighting bills are still pending in Ohio and South Carolina. Shamefully, Montana lawmakers voted down a bill to ban attendance at dogfights—retaining their status as the only state in the nation to have such a loophole.

Ivory: The Oregon Senate voted to ban the trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn in the state, and a similar bill advanced in California through the Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife. A coalition led by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, and supported by The HSUS and HSLF, launched a ballot initiative in Washington to ban the trafficking in rare species. If these measures are enacted, the west coast will join New York and New Jersey in cutting off the demand for elephant and rhino poaching.

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Virginia became the third state to restrict sources of pet-store puppies. Photo by Chris Keane/AP Images for The HSUS

Puppy Mills: Virginia strengthened its anti-puppy mill law, by prohibiting pet stores from acquiring dogs from commercial breeders with the worst violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and cracking down on unregulated sales of dogs and cats at flea markets, parking lots, and rest stops. It’s the third state to restrict sources of pet-store puppies, and the fifth to address unregulated outdoor sales, helping to drive the market toward responsible breeders and shelters and rescue groups.

Sharks: The Texas House passed a bill to ban the trade in shark fins and to help combat the brutal finning of sharks left to die slowly in the oceans. If enacted, Texas would join nine other states and three U.S. territories with similar policies to crack down on the killing of 26 to 73 million sharks each year, just for a bowl of soup.

Greyhounds: Unfortunately, the Florida legislature adjourned without finalizing a major gambling bill, which would have repealed the state’s mandate that tracks hold live dog racing. Florida is one of the last states in the nation to legally force business owners to hold dog races, resulting in hundreds of injuries to dogs each year.

Gas Chambers: The Kansas House passed a bill to ban the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers to euthanize dogs and cats at shelters, but the language was modified in a conference committee to require that the Department of Agriculture update euthanasia standards by the end of the year. The HSUS will follow this process closely to ensure that it results in a ban on gas chambers, and will continue working with shelters in the remaining gas chamber states to transition them away from this outdated killing practice. In South Carolina, a bill banning gas chambers has passed the House and is currently awaiting a hearing in the Senate.

Ag-Gag: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed a misguided and dangerous bill that would have hindered whistleblowing investigations into animal abuse on factory farms and bifurcated the state’s anti-cruelty statute—creating one set of rules for companion animals and another, weaker, one for farm animals and horses—after hearing from thousands of constituents who opposed this power grab by Big Ag. We are working to fight pending “ag-gag” legislation which seeks to stop whistleblowers and journalists from exposing abuses on factory farms in a number of states.

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The North Carolina House passed a bill that would ban the most dangerous wild animals from being kept as pets.Photo by Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Captive Wildlife: West Virginia passed a follow-up bill to last year’s law on dangerous wild animals as pets, ensuring that the private ownership of lions, tigers, bears, apes, monkeys, and other species will be prohibited in the state. And the North Carolina House passed a bill that would also ban the most dangerous wild animals from being kept as pets. These are two of the handful of remaining states with little to no restrictions on the keeping of dangerous wildlife. Also, a bill advanced in California through the Senate Committee on Public Safety to ban the use of bullhooks on elephants.

Unsporting Hunting Methods: The Indiana Senate voted down a bill that would have legalized captive hunting of deer, elk, and other cervids trapped behind fences—an unsporting and inhumane practice that also spreads deadly diseases to native wildlife and livestock. The Colorado, Oregon, and Washington legislatures all rejected attempts by trophy-hunting groups to repeal portions of citizen-passed ballot measures that prohibit the baiting and hounding of bears or cougars. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed a bill yesterday that would have dramatically liberalized the use of steel-jawed leghold traps and other body-gripping traps in the state.

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