I started this blog with the hope that people could come together to share ideas about various legal issues impacting animals, and that we could all learn from each other’s input. I am thrilled to see this start to happen. The one post has generated the most comments, and got me thinking the most in response, is about Virginia’s proposed standards for agricultural animals.
The proposed standards are basic, to say the least. Water to prevent dehydration. Food to prevent starvation. And very basic veterinary care. With a maximum penalty of $250.
My initial feelings were, “Well, at least it’s a start.” After all, the General Assembly has been tweaking the comparable statute for companion animals, recently making certain subsequent offenses jailable.
Many of the comments demonstrate that people are, understandably, vehemently opposed to these proposed standards. If you want your opposition to be heard, you should act now. The House’s version of this bill, HB 1541, is slated for a Subcommittee Meeting on Monday, January 24. The Senate’s version, SB 1026, has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources.
So what specific suggestions can you make to your legislators? Here are some options:
- Oppose the bill, and urge the General Assembly to take another year to think about the standards. This is not such a bad idea, and in the meantime, animal control officers still have tools like the animal cruelty statue at their disposal.
- Oppose the bill, and urge the General Assembly to adopt the same standards for agricultural animals as exists for companion animals, at least as to adequate water, food and veterinary care. This is an excellent idea in theory, but I fear will never make it past the farming industry lobby.
- Oppose the bill, urge the General Assembly to take another year to think about standards for agricultural animals, but in the meantime, change the law to categorize horses with companion animals instead of agricultural animals. This would extend the standards for companion animals at least to horses, and would go a long way, considering the number of recent abuse cases involving horses.
- Support the bill, and hope for the best that the General Assembly will use the standards as a springing board for tougher laws in the future. This is sounding less and less like an option to me.
On a positive note, it is not all doom and gloom this legislative session. In fact, the General Assembly has proposed some great legislation. HB 1716 would allow judges to prohibit harm to companion animals in protective orders. HB 1930 would establish a statewide animal abuser registry, much like the first public registry started in Suffolk County, New York last year. HB 2195 would require veterinarians to keep records of devocalization procedures, and would make it a felony to perform devocalization procedures on cats or dogs unless performed to treat illness, disease, injury, or a congenital abnormality causing the animal pain or injury. And SB 842 would allow judges to appoint new humane investigators.
Feel free to reach out to your legislators to let them know how you feel about the agricultural animal standards – and don’t forget to mention your support for these other bills. If you need to find out who represents you in the General Assembly, go to the Who’s My Legislator? page on the General Assembly’s Legislative Information System site and type in your address and find your state delegate and senator.