Four bills from Virginia’s 2010 legislative session got plenty of discussion, but not enough traction to become law. Three of the bills never made it beyond the House, and were continued by voice vote to the 2011 Session. One of the bills made it through the Senate, but got stuck in the House and was also continued by voice vote.
Two of the House bills were sponsored by Delegate James Scott (D) from the 53rd District, which covers Falls Church, Merrifield and parts of McLean. The first of these is HB 285, which was co-sponsored by Delegate Charniele Herring (D) from the 46th District, covering parts of the City of Alexandria and Fairfax County. HB 285 would allow a court to include companion animals in protective orders if the evidence shows harm to the companion animal with intent to threaten, coerce, intimidate or harm the petitioner or the petitioner’s family or household members.
Delegate Scott’s second bill is HB 1143, which would allow the appointment of new humane investigators. Under Virginia Code Section 3.2-6559, humane investigators have the ability to investigate violations of laws and ordinances regarding the care and treatment of animals and disposal of dead animals within the investigator’s locality. As of now, existing humane investigators may be reappointed, but no new humane investigators can be appointed. The bill would also require the administrative entity that oversees animal control in each jurisdiction to supervise humane investigators and maintain and annually update a list of those eligible for appointment as humane investigators. Additionally, circuit courts that appoint a humane investigator must notify the administrative entity if a humane investigator’s term expires and he is not appointed to a succeeding term before or within thirty days.
Next is HB 1056, sponsored by Delegate Ward Armstrong (D) of the 10th District, which covers Patrick County, the City of Martinsville and parts of Carroll County and Henry County. HB 1056 would clarify animal control officers’ duties and responsibilities, and makes all sheriffs, police officers, conservation police officers, or other peace officers ex officio animal control officers. This bill would grant animal control officers and deputy animal control officers the power to issue a summons or obtain and execute a search warrant or a felony warrant. As things stand now, felony warrants have to be executed by police officers. The bill would require localities to notify the State Veterinarian within thirty days of any change in the employment and training status of their animal control officers.
Last, SB 249 was sponsored by Senator Roscoe Reynolds (D) of the 20th District, including the cities of Martinsville and Galax, Carroll County, Floyd County, Henry County, Patrick County and parts of Grayson County and Wythe County. SB 249 would require the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs to adopt regulations to permit the non-commercial, intrastate transportation of animals by law-enforcement officers, animal control officers, and releasing agencies by vehicles that are not enclosed, provided that the primary enclosure is affixed to the vehicle and complies with specifications set out in the federal Animal Welfare regulations; the duration of transport does not exceed two hours; and the animal is protected from the elements during transport. This Senate passed this bill with a vote of 39-0, but the bill never made it out of the House.