February 13, 2012
Animal Advocates Lobby West Virginia Lawmakers
During Humane Lobby Day 2012, citizens from across West Virginia met with lawmakers at the state Capitol and urged passage of measures to restrict exotic animal ownership, crack down on puppy mills, and support spay/neuter programs. Humane Lobby Day was co-sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA.
“West Virginia needs to enact strong restrictions on the ownership of dangerous exotic animals and clamp down on puppy mills,” said Summer Wyatt, West Virginia state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “We urge lawmakers to support common sense legislation that addresses public safety and animal welfare. We also hope lawmakers will make an effort to reduce shelter overpopulation and help pet-owners by funding the Spay/Neuter Assistance Program.”
West Virginia’s exotic animal laws are among the weakest in the country. The state currently does not regulate exotic animal ownership and even issues permits to keep wild animals native to the state as pets.
“While the animals pay the ultimate price, local governments and taxpayers are left to bear the enormous fiscal burden when dangerous wild animals escape or when they are seized due to neglect,” said Ann Church, vice president of state affairs for the ASPCA. “It’s important for West Virginia lawmakers to hear from their constituents and enact stronger laws to restrict exotic animal ownership and protect animals against inherently cruel puppy mills.”
HB 4344, sponsored by Rep. Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, and SB 477, sponsored by Sen. Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, would impose restrictions on exotic animal ownership.
Lawmakers were also urged to pass legislation to regulate and license large-scale commercial dog breeders. SB 406, sponsored by Sen. Kessler, and HB 2015, sponsored by Rep. Virginia Mahan, D-Summers, would limit commercial breeders to no more than 50 unsterilized dogs over the age of one, and require breeding facilities to be licensed annually and inspected twice a year. A similar bill passed the House last session, but was stymied in the Senate.
Finally, SB 479, sponsored by Sen. Kessler, would create a fund for the Spay Neuter Assistance Program of West Virginia in an effort to assist pet-owners and reduce the number of homeless animals in state shelters.
West Virginia is currently ranked number 38 in the country on animal welfare issues, according to a 2011 annual survey by The HSUS. Although the state received high marks for its strong animal cruelty laws and protections for companion animals, West Virginia’s weak puppy mill and exotic pet laws hurt its ranking last year.
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