Full Title Name:  Overview of 2008 State Animal Law Changes

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Rebecca F. Wisch Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Publish Year:  2009 Primary Citation:  Animal Legal & Historical Center

This overview examines the changes to state animal laws in 2008 as well as the animal-related ballot proposals that appeared in the November election.

2008 represented a year of a small number changes to existing animal laws. Perhaps the most notable change resulted from California’s passage of Proposition 2 ("Prop 2"), a ballot initiative that will create more humane agricultural standards. Specifically, California's Prop 2 requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely. Exceptions are made for transportation, rodeos, fairs, 4-H programs, lawful slaughter, research and veterinary purposes. The law provides misdemeanor penalties, including a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or imprisonment in jail for up to 180 days. The measure passed in November by a margin of 63% to 37%.

Other ballot proposals posed critical questions to voters concerning animals. In Massachusetts, voters were asked whether dog racing where any form of betting or wagering on the speed or ability of dogs occurs should be outlawed in the state ( MA Question 3 ). Voters answered a resounding “yes” to this question by approving the measure  65% to 35 %. Oklahomans voted in the affirmative on a proposed constitutional amendment directed at preserving hunting as an inherent state right. Finally, Alaska defeated an initiated state statute that would have prohibited the aerial hunting of wolves, grizzly bears, and wolverines.

With regard to statutory amendments, several states strengthened or added provisions to their existing cruelty laws. For example, Nebraska added sections that prohibit the intentionally tripping, lassoing, or roping of the legs of any equine for sport or entertainment purpose. NE ST § 28-1009.02 . The section goes on to state that this type of activity “shall not be considered a commonly accepted practice…with rodeos…” NE § 28-1013.01 . The new sections of Nebraska's cruelty laws are not limited to horses, however. In fact , “no person shall intentionally trip, cause to fall, or drag any bovine by its tail by any means for the purpose of entertainment, sport, practice, or contest.” NE ST § 28-1009.03 . Violation of any of these sections is a Class I misdemeanor.

Hawaii joined the majority of states that have felony animal cruelty provisions. Not only did the state amend HI ST § 711-1108.5 to include a felony cruelty provision, but the associated legislative commentary voiced a new recognition for the importance of anti-cruelty laws:

Hawaii - COMMENTARY ON § 711-1108.5

Act 114, Session Laws 2007, created the offense of cruelty to animals in the first degree, making it a felony to intentionally or knowingly torture, mutilate, or poison or cause the torture, mutilation, or poisoning of any pet animal resulting in serious bodily injury or death of the pet animal. The legislature found that violence, whether against humans or animals, must be not tolerated in our society. Evidence suggests a link between animal abuse and the commission of violent acts against humans. Hawaii is only one of nine states in the United States without a felony offense for domestic animal abuse. The legislature also found that pet animals provide a close emotional bond and relationship with their owners and family members and friends. Violence and harm committed against the animals have a significant emotional impact on their owners and family. The felony provisions of Act 114 protected pet animals. Conference Committee Report No. 29.


HI ST § 711-1108.5  This commentary, while not actually part of the law itself, does reflect a broader understanding of the animal cruelty-human violence connection. However, it should be noted that the new felony cruelty provision only applies to the intentional or knowing torture, mutilation, or poisoning of “pet animals” or equines that results in serious bodily injury or death to those animals. HI ST § 711-1108.5 .

New Hampshire joined a number of states that require the forfeiture of animals used in connection with animal fighting. Under the new provision that went into effect January 1, 2009:

all animals used or to be used in training, fighting, or baiting, and all equipment, paraphernalia, and money involved in a violation of this section may be forfeited to the state at the discretion of the court. . . Proceeds of any such forfeiture shall be used to reimburse local government and state agencies for the costs of prosecution of animal fighting cases. Proceeds which are not needed for such reimbursement shall be deposited in the companion animal neutering fund. . .

NH ST 644:8-a . The new law also allows a court to issue an order prohibiting a person convicted under the chapter from owning or possessing any animals of the species that was subject to the conviction, or any animals that are kept for fighting or baiting.

Ohio also added a section that allows for the seizure and forfeiture of dogs kept for fighting. Under OH ST 959.161 (B) a peace officer may seize and impound a fighting dog that the officer has probable cause to believe has been involved with an animal fighting violation. Further, this impounded dog may be humanely euthanized if during the seizure it is necessary because the animal is suffering or during the impoundment based on a veterinarian's assessment.  Maryland also enhanced its animal fighting laws in 2008. Maryland increased the penalties for attending a dogfight or cockfight from 90 days jail to one year, and increased the fine from $1,000 to $2,500. MD CRIM LAW § 10-605 .

A couple of states passed some rather unusual animal laws.   Tennessee joined Louisiana by enacting provisions relating to the “chemical capture” of cats and dogs. Chemical capture is the capture of a cat or dog found running loose by means of approved tranquilizing drugs (usually Telazol). It is a method of last resort and, under Tennessee law, may be used “only in accordance with written protocol and only when all other methods of capture have failed.” TN ST § 44-17-601(d) . Under Tennessee’s new law, only animal technicians certified by the board of veterinary medical examiners in chemical capture may perform this function. TN ST § 63-12-144 . Notably, "[i]t is a Class B misdemeanor for any person or entity to engage in the chemical capture of animals or imply that the person or entity has been granted a certificate as a certified animal control agency with a premises permit unless the certificate and permit have been granted under this title.” TN ST § 63-12-144(2) . This part of the law is likely aimed at new business that may have sought to take advantage of the new chemical capture market.

Likewise, Massachusetts enacted a law to prevent a new enterprise from establishing roots in major metropolitan areas. In 2008, Massachusetts became the first state to outlaw the business of “dog renting.” This new section of the cruelty laws, § 80 I , prohibits the business of renting or leasing dogs.

(b) No person shall engage in the business of leasing or renting a dog. A dog held for such leasing or renting may be seized or impounded by an organization or agent thereof that is authorized to seize or impound animals under the General Laws. A violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100 for the first violation, not less than $500 for the second violation and $1,000 for subsequent violations. Fines may be levied on both the business that is leasing a dog and the person that has entered into a rental agreement. . .

MA ST 272 § 80I . This law was in direct response to a pet-rental business that was seeking to set up shop in the Boston area. Animal activists and veterinarians alike expressed concerns about the pets' acclimation to varying environments of the owners and the potential safety issues inherent in renting pets. This testimony about the law was heard by the state legislature. To hear from State Representative, Vincent Pedone, who spoke with Good Dog! Podcast  about the Massachusetts law, listen at h ttp://smarterpodcasts.com/gooddog/goodDogBlog/?p=39.

Lastly, Virginia, in addition to renumbering its entire animal law chapter, passed a comprehensive set of directed at commercial breeders of dogs.   These laws establish a minimum standard of care regarding care, exercise, feed, shelter, space, and water. VA ST § 3.1-796.66 (2008) . Violation of the provisions constitutes a Class 4 misdemeanor. The law only applies to those breeders who maintain 30 or more dogs, so the law is more directed at puppy mills rather than what is often termed “backyard breeders.”

Significant advancements have been made in recent years with regard to animal protection laws. Animal fighting is now illegal in all 50 states and the majority of states have enacted a statute that allows pet owners to establish pet trusts to care for their companion animals after death. It is evident that state legislatures no longer view animal issues as merely “pet projects,” and instead have given voice to growing animal concerns in many communities.

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