Dear Friends and Neighbors,
YOUR ACTION IS NEEDED!
I need your help. I've just been made aware of proposed legislation that could have drastic consequences for animal owners in Eastern Washington. Unfortunately, this is another example of urban legislation having unintended consequences for our more rural lifestyle.
Senate Bill 5065 is a bill sponsored by an urban Republican Senator to help address animal cruelty. It looks to me like this bill is trying to look out for that little poodle chained up in a backyard during 20 degree weather or in the middle of a snowstorm. But for those of us who own and ride horses or other animals, it may have a significant affect.
The bill seeks to strengthen existing animal cruelty laws by enacting stricter penalties (including a gross misdemeanor for repeat offenders) and by laying out specific definitions. Here is part of the new section in law:
NEW SECTION. Sec. 6. A new section is added to chapter 16.52 RCW to read as follows:
(1) An owner who, under circumstances not amounting to animal cruelty in the first or second degree, fails to provide an animal with necessary food, water, shelter, ventilation, rest, sanitation, space, or medical attention has committed the infraction of failure to provide care.
(2) Failure to provide care is a class 2 civil infraction under RCW 36 7.80.120(1)(b).
One of the concerns I have is that the above directives are left up to quite a bit of interpretation. If someone walks by my tethered horse as we're getting ready for a parade or other ride, and they don't see “necessary food” or “water,” am I going to be reported and an animal cruelty investigation started? The bill requires the food and water to be “easily accessible to the animal.” But who's to say that my daughter didn't just give the horse food and water just a few moments ago?
And what about “shelter”? The law defines shelter as “a constructed or natural structure that keeps the animal dry and protected from the elements, allows the animal to turn around freely, sit, stand, and lie without restriction, and does not cause injury, disfigurement, or physical impairment to the animal.” Again, I think about my husband taking our horses out hunting and tethering them up together. Is he now going to have to construct shelter for them while out on his hunting trips?
Another concern I have is that the bill includes a specific exemption for the “accepted animal husbandry practices commonly used in the commercial raising and slaughtering of livestock or poultry.” While I certainly agree that animal husbandry should be exempt, the problem is, as soon as you put a specific exemption like this into statute, it begs the question: “Who isn't exempt?” I fear many of us in Eastern Washington who own a few horses for recreational purposes or raise a few animals for non-commercial use would NOT be exempt.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
I'm working with the bill's sponsor and with appropriate committee chairmen to write up an amendment to address some of my concerns. But I need you to share your concerns with me so I have more information – more ammo – to help our case. You can e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call the toll-free Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000. The bill passed the Senate and is being heard in the House Judiciary Committee next Tuesday, so I need your comments by Monday afternoon.
If you need more information on the bill, you can click here where you can view the bill and the bill report.
Thank you so much for your efforts.
427A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7908 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000