September 6, 2017: Legislators return to Lansing today after a two-month summer recess. Here’s a review of select, animal-friendly legislation that awaits their action.
Please get involved by contacting your Michigan Senator and Representative and voicing your support for these bills and request that they are moved. This is particularly important if your legislator is in a leadership position or is a committee chair. All bills discussed below list the committee to which they were assigned. Most still await a hearing.
Two bills need immediate attention:
This bill strengthens the animal fighting prohibitions currently in the law and, importantly, allows for the alleged former fighting animals to be adopted, based on a case-by-case behavioral evaluation. Current law requires these animals to be euthanized.
This bill has taken on added importance over the summer with the seizure of 53 dogs used for fighting in Ingham County, and a grass-roots effort to save them. Read about this case and the efforts to save these dogs, scheduled for euthanasia here.
Notably, officials are looking for ways to essentially circumvent the existing law that requires these dogs be euthanized. Read the details in this story about some of the dogs whose destiny is in the hands of the court right now.
Legislators need to take notice of this and respond. We recommend that SB 416 be amended to make it retroactive, thereby giving the Lansing dogs a chance.
“We recommend that SB 416 be amended to make it retroactive, thereby giving the Lansing dogs a chance.”
But to do this, quick action is necessary. Introduced by Sen. Tory Rocca in late May, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard the bill in early June, and reported it favorably without amendment on June 8, where it sits. AFA’s board voted to support the bill, and testified at the June 6 hearing.
Introduced over the summer by Sen. Curtis Hertel, and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, this bill addresses the hot button issue of leaving animals in vehicles. It sends a strong message by making it a crime to leave an animal confined or unattended “under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of the animal.” Punishment is graduated: from a misdemeanor for first offenders, to a felony punishable by up to 5 years and a $5,000 fine if the animal dies.
So far so good. However, there needs to be a companion bill which would allow for “Good Samaritans” to rescue animals in danger. Such a bill was introduced in the 2015-16 legislative session, and we urge that a similar bill be re-introduced so that it can be considered along with SB 496. Only by having a mechanism to allow the public (and law enforcement) to rescue animals in danger without fear of liability, will these animals truly be protected.
“…we urge that a similar bill be re-introduced so that it can be considered along with SB 496.”
The bill awaits a committee hearing. AFA’s board voted to support SB 496 with a recommendation that a “Good Samaritan” bill be introduced.
Since the new legislative session began in January 2017, the following animal-friendly bills have been introduced. None have been signed into law:
Introduced by Rep. Robert Kosowski, this bill increases the penalty for animal abuse committed in the presence of a minor. AFA’s board voted to support it, noting the well-established harm to children who witness animal abuse. It awaits a hearing in the Committee on Law and Justice.
This bill amends the law creating the Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board to include animals and to provide the potential for services to be extended to animal victims of domestic violence. AFA’s board voted to support this bill, also introduced by Rep. Kosowski. It awaits a hearing in the Committee on Law and Justice.
Introduced in both the House and Senate, these bills substantially strengthen animal cruelty law, by creating first, second, and third degrees of killing or torturing an animal, and increasing the maximum prison terms. Crimes against animals in connection with domestic violence could result in a 10 year prison sentence. The bills also bring breeders and pet shops under the law and provide additional protections for companion animals.
Rep. Tommy Brann and Sen. Steven Bieda are the sponsors. Both bills have passed out of committee (SB 276 with an amendment), and await action on the respective floors.
This important legislation is supported by AFA.
This package of bills has bi-partisan support. They acknowledge the fact that animal abuse and child abuse are connected. If passed, Animal Control Officers would be required to report suspected child abuse and Child Protective Services workers would be required to report suspected animal abuse.
Representatives Kosowski, Lucido and Leutheuser introduced these bills, all assigned to the Judiciary Committee where they await a hearing.
AFA supports these bills with recommendations.
This bill strengthens the penalties for animal fighting, with mandatory imprisonment for a person who had prior conviction(s) for the same offense. It also would allow, instead of require, a humane society or other animal welfare agency to apply to a court for a hearing to euthanize a seized animal that been used or trained to fight (as does SB 416, discussed above). The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office was instrumental in drafting this bill. Sen. Margaret O’Brien is the sponsor.
AFA supported the bill and testified at the Judiciary Committee hearing in early June, after which it passed out of committee. It awaits action on the Senate floor.
Introduced by Rep. Hank Vaupel with input from the Michigan Humane Society, HB 4813 amends the Public Health Code to mandate new training procedures and other requirements to administer euthanasia drugs to animals. The bill was introduced over the summer and assigned to the Committee on Regulatory Reform. AFA’s board voted to support.
This is the first year of a two-year legislative session. We encourage — and challenge — legislative leaders, committee chairs and individual legislators to move these bills forward. AFA will continue to follow these bills and others as they are introduced, and report back to you.