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December 28, 2010

Top 12 State Victories for Animals in 2010

We’ve had a strong year on animal protection in state legislatures, just the latest indicator of forward movement in the policy-making realm for our cause. This year, 97 new state laws and regulations were enacted to protect animals, and since 2005, it’s been 537 laws passed and a number of other rules and regulations.

  • Missouri is home to an estimated 3,000 puppy mills breeding hundreds of thousands of puppies, far more than any other state in the country. The HSUS

Puppy Mills: Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma

Dogs in puppy mills saw major victories this year as the top three puppy producing states enacted sweeping puppy mill reforms. Perhaps the biggest victory was the passage of Proposition B in Missouri, the nation’s biggest puppy mill state. Nearly 1 million Missouri voters sent a powerful message through the ballot box to shed the stigma of being the puppy mill capital of the country by approving Proposition B, a statewide ballot initiative to establish basic standards for the care of dogs in large-scale commercial breeding facilities.

In Iowa, HF 2280 — sponsored by Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, and Rep. Jim Lykam, D-Davenport—gives state officials the authority to inspect mass-scale puppy production facilities that are federally licensed by the USDA upon complaint. Of the states that require kennel inspections, Iowa was one of only two, along with Kansas, where state officials were not able to inspect federally-licensed puppy mills. Until now, state officials were only permitted to inspect dog breeding facilities that sell puppies directly to the public. In Oklahoma, S.B. 1712 — sponsored by Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid — passed into law requiring puppy mills to be licensed and inspected. The Commercial Pet Breeders Act will help crack down on puppy mills in a one of the largest puppy mill states in the country.

Greyhound Racing: New Hampshire and Rhode Island

Both New Hampshire (H.B. 630 sponsored by Rep. Mary Cooney, D-Grafton) and Rhode Island (H.B. 8070 sponsored by Rep. Steven Constantino, D-Providence) passed legislation that effectively ends live greyhound racing in each state. Greyhounds at commercial racetracks are usually housed in small cages and are forced to race in even the most extreme weather. Thousands of greyhounds suffer from injuries such as broken legs and necks, paralysis, and cardiac arrest as a result of racing. Many are often killed once they are no longer used for racing. With the passage of these bills and the end of live dog racing in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, there are only seven states left where greyhound racing still occurs.

Antifreeze Safety: Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Utah and Wisconsin

Legislation aimed at reducing the ingestion of poisonous antifreeze and engine coolant by children and animals passed in a number of states this year. Lawmakers passed legislation to require antifreeze and engine coolant to include a bitter flavor agent to prevent animals and children from being poisoned by the sweet-tasting liquid in Illinois (H.B. 4722 sponsored by Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago and Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora), Massachusetts (H.B. 4285 sponsored by Rep. John Scibak, D-South Hadley), New Jersey (S. 979 sponsored by Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland), Utah (S.B. 218 sponsored by Sen. Michael Waddoups, R, Salt Lake), and Wisconsin (A.B. 842 sponsored by Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee and Sen. Jeff Plale, D-Milwaukee). Poisoning occurs because children and animals are attracted to the sweetness of antifreeze and engine coolant, which inadvertently spills in our driveways or is left in open containers in garages. The bill will require manufacturers to add bitter-tasting denatonium benzoate to antifreeze and coolant sold in the state.

Alaska: Animal Cruelty

Alaska lawmakers passed legislation to significantly upgrade the state’s anti-cruelty law by making the most egregious acts of cruelty to animals a felony on the first offense and also prohibiting the sexual abuse of animals. H.B. 6, sponsored by Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, was introduced on the heels of several high-profile cases of bestiality in Alaska. As originally drafted, H.B. 6 prohibited the sexual abuse of an animal, photographing or filming sexual conduct with an animal, and causing another person to engage in sexual abuse of an animal. H.B. 6 was amended to include language introduced by Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, and Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, which will make egregious acts of animal cruelty a felony on the first offense. Passage of this legislation is the culmination of a multi-year effort by lawmakers in Alaska to impose felony-level penalties for the worst forms of animal abuse the first time a perpetrator is convicted.

  • Voters sent a strong message to the Arizona Legislature in November by rejecting Proposition 109. The HSUS

Arizona: Power Grab Defeated

In November Arizona voters rejected Proposition 109, a referendum that would have amended the Arizona Constitution to give the legislature “exclusive” authority over wildlife issues while seeking to also block citizen initiatives to protect wildlife. The NRA-backed measure would have created a constitutional right to hunt—but also would have taken power away from citizens and put it in the hands of politicians. It would have established that hunting is the “preferred means” of dealing with wildlife and could have repealed the voter-approved ballot measure on trapping, legalized canned hunting, and protected outrageous practices like hound hunting of bears.

California: Sale of Eggs from Battery Caged Hens

In 2008, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 2, to phase out production of eggs from hens crammed into tiny cages. And this year, lawmakers passed legislation to require that shelled (whole) eggs sold in California comply with these same modest animal welfare and food safety standards. A.B. 1437, sponsored by Assemblymember Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, will effectively prohibit the sale of eggs from battery caged hens in California. Hens from battery cages spend their entire lives in cages so small they can’t even turn around or stretch their limbs.

Florida: Fox Penning

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission banned the practice of fox penning in Florida. Fox penning is a blood sport in which dozens of dogs compete in a fenced in area to chase and sometimes rip apart foxes and coyotes. Trapped in the wild and sold to fox pens, the fox or coyote must run for his or her life inside fences as dogs attack. In 2009, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement arrested 12 people on a total of 46 citations for illegal activity related to fox pens.

Florida: Large Constrictor Snakes

In response to the death of a 2-year-old Florida girl by a Burmese python and the exploding population of pythons in the Florida Everglades, Florida lawmakers passed legislation to address the trade in certain dangerous reptiles as pets. S.B. 318, sponsored by Senator Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, and H.B. 709, sponsored by Representative Trudi Williams, R-Ft. Myers, prohibit the import into the state, breeding, sale and possession as pets of the large constrictor snakes and Nile monitor lizards considered "reptiles of concern" in Florida. 

  • Hawaii became a leader in shark and ocean conservation with the passage of landmark legislation. The HSUS

Hawaii: Shark Finning

Hawaii became a leader in shark and ocean conservation with the passage of landmark legislation to prohibit the sale, possession or distribution of shark fins and fin products. Shark-finning involves cutting off the fins of sharks and then throwing the shark back into the ocean, often while still alive. Numerous species of shark are threatened or endangered, with some species on the brink of extinction due to the cruel and exploitive shark fin industry. S.B. 2169 was championed by Sen. Clayton Hee, D-Kahuku, La'ie, Ka'a'awa, Kane'ohe, and Rep. Angus McKelvey, D-Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea, Kihei.

Illinois: Primates as Pets

This year, Illinois joined more than 20 other states by passing legislation to prohibit people from keeping primates as pets. H.B. 4801, introduced by Rep. Daniel Burke, D-Chicago, and Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, added primates to the state Dangerous Animal Act. Keeping primates as pets threatens public health and safety as well as animal welfare. Primates can inflict serious injuries, as demonstrated by last year's tragic chimpanzee attack in Connecticut, and spread life-threatening diseases. The average pet owner cannot meet their basic social and physical needs in captivity. Often acquired as infants, these animals can quickly grow too difficult to handle and may end up confined to small cages, isolated from others of their kind.

Louisiana: Attending Cockfights

In 2008, Louisiana became the last state to ban cockfighting. Just two years later, Louisiana lawmakers took steps to strengthen their cockfighting law. S.B. 38, sponsored by Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, prohibits attending a cockfight, a crucial element in cracking down on this cruel activity. Spectators at cockfights finance the fights through gambling and admission fees, and make this activity profitable for the organizers.

Utah: Pound Seizure

Prior to the 2010 Utah legislative session, Utah was one of only three states where animal shelters were required to turn over their animals to research facilities. So-called “pound seizure” is a betrayal of public trust. Animal shelters and animal control facilities have come a long way from the days when they were virtually hidden warehouses used for the temporary holding of unwanted and stray animals. These facilities now play active roles in communities all over the country and offer humane education, low-cost spay/neuter, progressive adoption programs, behavior evaluation, flexible visiting hours, tours, training classes, and much more. The sale or relinquishment of shelter animals, in most cases former beloved pets, to research laboratories can cause serious setbacks to the progress animal shelters and animal control facilities have strived so diligently to achieve. H.B. 107 removed this requirement for Utah shelters and was sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City.

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