February 9, 2009
Animal Advocates Rally at Montana Capitol Urging Lawmakers to Protect Animals
HELENA, Mont. – Citizens from across Montana will assemble at the state capitol and meet with their lawmakers today to urge them to pass legislation to protect animals. The citizen lobbyists are participating in Humane Lobby Day, which is organized by The Humane Society of the United States and the Montana Animal Care Association.
After a morning legislative briefing, advocates will gather at the Capitol building to meet with their lawmakers. Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and Sen. Mitch Tropila (D-12) have been invited to address the gathering.
Citizen lobbyists are asking lawmakers to pass legislation to address the problem of animal hoarding. S.B. 221 specifies that someone who possesses 20 or more companion animals in severely overcrowded conditions, yet is unable to recognize the problem, can be ordered to undergo counseling.
"S.B. 221 will provide useful tools for law enforcement and prosecutors to address both the human and animal issues in the cruel cycle involved in animal hoarding," said Dave Pauli, director of The HSUS' Western Regional Office.
Nearly 250,000 animals are victims of animal hoarding each year. Sen. Tropila introduced S.B. 221 to alleviate this problem in Montana. Hoarding differs from other types of animal cruelty in that the perpetrators don't always accept or recognize the cruelty they inflict on their animals. Rather, animal hoarders usually ardently believe they are saving or rescuing the animals they imprison. Current Montana animal cruelty statutes require prosecutors to show that a person harmed an animal intentionally, and do not provide help for the underlying psychological issues behind hoarding.
Increased Penalties for Animal Fighting
Another bill Montanans are urging their legislators to support, H.B. 349, would make it a felony to be a knowing spectator at an animal fight. It would also increase penalties for animal cruelty, including prohibiting animal ownership after repeat offenses or an aggravated cruelty offense. The bill would allow forfeiture of animals in cases of aggravated cruelty.
Montana and Hawaii are the only two states where it is still legal to be a knowing spectator at a dogfight and a cockfight. Animal fighters can avoid punishment by claiming they were only present at a fight as spectators. This loophole makes it more difficult for law enforcement officials to effectively prosecute animal fighters. Spectators support animal fighting through admission fees and gambling.
Last year, state legislatures across the country passed 93 new laws for animals. The HSUS works with animal advocates and state legislators across the country to enact laws protecting animals from cruelty, combating animal fighting, halting wildlife abuse and more. Forty-one states are hosting Humane Lobby Days in February, March and April 2009.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization – backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.