By:  Date: 02/28/2001

New legislative sessions bring new bills
that affect animal owners

A plethora of new bills affecting animal owners are being dropped into state and federal legislative hoppers as the 2001 sessions get underway. Many communities are looking at breed bans or restrictions and pet number limits while states pursue animal cruelty bills, limits on exotic animal ownership, protection for hunters and animal enterprises, and trapping restrictions, and the federal government examines proposals to ban cockfighting and the transport of 'downed' livestock, designate a huge wilderness area in the northern Rockies, amend the Endangered Species Act, limit the sale of bear parts, and reauthorize acts banning the sale of elephant, tiger, and rhinoceros parts.

Local efforts
The City of Cleveland, Ohio
, would like to limit pet owners to four dogs or cats and charge pet owners with a misdemeanor if they neglect their animals by failing to provide needed veterinary care or clean quarters. The city's dog warden would like even tougher laws that mandate veterinary visits for checkups and vaccinations and penalties for leaving pets outside in sub-zero weather. The pet limit would apply to all dogs and cats over the age of three months. The proposal will face review by council committees and public hearings before a vote.

The City of Baltimore, Maryland, is considering three bills affecting ownership of bull-and-terrier breeds. The bills contain variations of bans against so-called "pit bulls," licensing requirements for ownership (including criminal background checks in two of the proposals and mandatory microchip implantation in another). The city health commissioner is put in charge of the regulations and can add breeds to the dangerous dog list at his discretion.

Broward County, Florida, approved a measure to ban pit bulls in cities within county boundaries that must be okayed by the state legislature before it becomes law. Current Florida law does not allow breed-specific laws, but Ft. Lauderdale city officials asked for permission to ban the dogs.

Clark County, Nevada, is considering an ordinance to regulate exotic animal ownership. Las Vegas is in Clark County.

State proposals
New Hampshire and Massachusetts both have proposed bills that will affect dog ownership. Massachusetts lawmakers are also considering a bill to prohibit captive elephant acts in the state.

Texas and Washington exotic animal owners are concerned about proposed restrictions on private ownership of exotics. Both states have attempted to pass bans in the past, but these proposals have been defeated.

Utah's House of Representatives has approved a bill to increase penalties for crimes against animal interests. Utah has been plagued by terrorist acts against various businesses, including a mink feed co-op, mink farms, and a store that sells leather goods. See the Visit NAIA library for more on Utah's battle with animal rights activists.

Virginia legislators are also considering an anti-terrorism bill to protect animal enterprises. Washington lawmakers are looking at a bill to amend its trapping ban so homeowners can trap critters that tunnel through their yards.

Washington voters approved a trapping ban last fall that opponents said would prevent people from protecting their property against moles and gophers, but proponents of the measure pooh-poohed the objection. Then a homeowner was cited for setting mole traps and charged with a gross misdemeanor, an infraction that brings a $500 fine. In a strange twist, HSUS favors the amendment while trappers oppose it. HSUS said the amendment will clarify the law; trappers claim it is foolish to exempt animals that damage urban and suburban lawns while maintaining the ban against trapping animals that damage livestock, crops, and orchards because those animals have fur that can be sold. The trappers have filed suit against the law.

Oklahoma lawmakers are examining a bill to approve a ballot initiative to protect the right to hunt, fish, and trap within the state. The bill states that Oklahoma citizens have the right to participate in these activities and that no laws shall be written to curtail that right. If it passes the legislature, the ballot initiative will be filed with the Attorney General for presentation to the voters.

Maryland legislators are looking at a bill that would ban pit bulls from their state. Dogs of the proscribed breeds (American Bulldog, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, and any mixed breed that looks primarily like one of these breeds) currently living in the state would be legal only if they are purchased prior to the bill's enactment and are sterilized; all others would be killed unless removed from the state.

California lawmakers are considering mandatory pet identification by microchip.

Federal proposals
The US Congress
is considering bills to outlaw interstate transport of chickens for fighting; a bill to ban marketing of livestock that cannot walk; and a bill to designate a Northern Rockies Ecosystem wilderness area.

The Bush Administration has placed the last-minute executive orders of the Clinton Administration on hold. This action affects implementation of USDA regulations affecting swim-with-dolphin programs, placement of impounded animals in non-licensed facilities, and regulations affecting roads in wilderness areas.

Terrorism moves to Britain's front burnerAnimal rights activists in Britain are waging a campaign of harassment and terror against employees, officials, and customers of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a research company with headquarters in England and a branch in the US. So successful were the activists that British investors withdrew their support from Huntingdon, leaving the company faced with bankruptcy until an American investor bailed them out. Activists have planned to bring their campaign to the US as a result.

Terrorist crimes were not limited to actions against Huntingdon and its supporters. In January, bombs were found in a variety of businesses ranging from a fish and chips shop to a pet store, a farm supply business, and an estate agent with livestock-raising clients. Several people were injured, including a six-year-old girl who opened a package bomb. Activists also stole beagles from a hunt club and were implicated in the beating of a 63-year-old hunt master and his wife.

Britain was so shaken by the vehemence of the radicals' activities that Parliament passed an anti-terrorism law that took effect February 19.

ELF in the US Houses have been torched in New York and Arizona, allegedly by the Earth Liberation Front, a shadowy group that opposes development. ELF's most spectacular crime was the burning of a $12 million Colorado ski resort in 1998, but the damage done to luxury homes under construction or newly finished is mounting.

ELF members are notoriously difficult to track down, but one teenagers from Long Island's Suffolk County pled guilty to arson and he and two others have agreed to cooperate with authorities in the cases involving burning or attempted burning of nine homes and property damage to several other sites, including an experimental corn field used by genetics researchers.

ELF claims responsibility for these crimes and others with the excuse that they are necessary to stop the "rape of the earth."

Authorities in Arizona have not been able to catch the people responsible for burning 11 homes since 1998 to a tune of $5 million in damage. A Phoenix newspaper has caused a stir by interviewing a man who claimed responsibility for the fires without either notifying authorities or publishing the man's name. ELF has not claimed the Arizona arsons as its work.




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