March 2017 Bar Bulletin
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March 2017 Bar Bulletin

Animal Welfare Issues on Legislative Agenda

By Kay Joubert

 

We all know that creating change, especially on a state level, is a long, complex challenge. Fortunately for the animals and those who want to create more humane communities, there is a network of professional animal welfare agencies leading this effort.

The Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies (www.wafederation.org) — referred to as the Federation — works collaboratively with legislators, animal control officers and national animal-focused agencies, as well as prosecutors, county auditors and the Animal Law Section of the Washington State Bar Association to review and create new laws that focus on the animals.

The 2017 legislative session started on January 10, and prior to the session representatives from the Federation, PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society), the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other humane agencies, worked with Sen. Joe Fain (R-47) to craft a bill that will address the inhumane practice of long-term tethering of dogs.

This is not the first time this issue has come up for legislative review. In fact, efforts started in 2010, involving stakeholders from the Prosecutors Association, Washington Animal Control Association, Pasado’s Safehaven, Pierce and King counties, and representatives from sled-dog groups. All of this effort resulted in the development of SB 5356, to address the tethering of dogs, improving their quality of life, and providing animal control officers with more effective enforcement options.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Law and Justice Committee, and a hearing was scheduled for the week of February 13.

While SB 5356 is the major focus for this year’s session, animal welfare professionals also recognize that the agencies doing this work need protection, too. This is why the Federation worked with Senator Fain and Sen. Guy Palumbo (D-1), and the Department of Revenue, to develop SB 5063 to clarify taxation provisions with regard to pet adoption fees. The Department of Revenue has maintained a policy that adoption fees do not need to include a retail sales tax, and SB 5356 will codify that policy. This bill was referred to the Committee on Ways & Means and voted out of committee on February 9.

Other bills that are aiming to improve the quality of life for animals in Washington include:

HB 1110 protects horses from the inhumane practice of slaughtering them for human consumption or transporting them for that purpose. Horses are raised significantly differently from cows or other animals that are commonly consumed; and there are severe health risks for people who eat horse meat due to the types of drugs commonly used on horses. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee and is awaiting a hearing to be scheduled.

Two bills focus on “breed specific legislation.” HB 1090 prohibits a city or county from prohibiting the possession of a dog based upon its breed, imposing requirements specific to possession of a dog based upon its breed, or declaring a dog dangerous or potentially dangerous based upon its breed unless certain conditions are met. It is awaiting a hearing. SB 5094 had a hearing on January 17 in the Local Government Committee, and is awaiting the committee’s vote.

The animal welfare community also supports bills that will protect people in addition to animals. During this session, HB 1118 had a hearing on January 17 and was scheduled for an executive session on February 26. This bill is designed to provide a person with immunity from civil liability for any damage or injury that results from his or her entry into a vehicle for the purpose of rendering assistance to an animal, minor or vulnerable adult present in the vehicle.

HB 1095 would change RCW § 19.94.540 regarding the requirements for wholesale containers of 55 gallons or more of engine coolant or antifreeze to have bittering agents to protect children and pets from accidental ingestion. This bill had a hearing on January 24 and was referred to the Rules Committee in February.

The animal welfare community welcomes the support of Washington attorneys on these and other bills that may come before the Legislature this year. You can keep up-to-date by visiting www.wafederation.org or https://www.paws.org/get-involved/take-action/legislative-watch/.

Kay Joubert is the director of Companion Animal Services for the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).


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