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Legislature Adjourns - The Good And The Not So Good

The Oregon Legislature adjourned its 2015 Regular Session on July 6, 2015. (The Legislature meets in odd numbered years for a maximum of 160 days and in even numbered years for a maximum of 35 days.)

The session was a mixed bag for animals. Several good bills were passed and several bad bills were defeated. However, some good bills failed to make it through the process. (We are happy to say that no bad bills passed.) Here is a recap on the animal-related bills we considered most significant:

New Laws That Will Help Animals

Senate Bill 175 reinstated enhanced penalties for certain egregious wildlife crimes – primarily repeat offenses for poaching. The enhanced penalties had expired under a “sunset clause” in prior legislation. Humane Oregon testified in support of this bill.

Senate Bill 614 authorizes a police officer to enter a motor vehicle to take custody of an animal, or to provide the animal with food, water and emergency medical treatment, if the police officer has probable cause to believe the animal is being abused or neglected (as when a dog is left in a hot car for too long). Humane Oregon testified in support of this bill.

House Bill 2693 makes it a crime to possess visual recordings of sexual abuse of an animal. The bill also increases penalties for sexual abuse of an animal, which was already illegal.

House Bill 2694 allows state-regulated social workers to report animal abuse and neglect that they witness in the course of their work, and to have protection from civil liability when they do that.

House Bill 2888 adds properties where animal crimes are occurring (including abuse and neglect) to the list of statutory “nuisances” that a citizen can sue to stop.

Proposed Laws That Would Have Harmed Animals But Were Defeated (Which Is Good)

House Bill 2050 would have allowed individual counties to exempt themselves from the law (passed by ballot meaure in 1994) that prohibits hunting cougars with packs of dogs. (The dogs eventually chase the cougar up a tree and the “hunter” shoots the cougar out of the tree at close range.) Humane Oregon helped encourage state representatives to take a stand against this bill and the bill died when it became apparent that not enough representatives would vote for it.

House Bill 3212 would have defined a law changing a “farming practice” (including a practice related to treatment of farm animals) as a “land use regulation” that requires government to pay compensation if it reduces the value of real property. Humane Oregon submitted testimony opposing this bill because we believed it would have a chilling effect on possible future proposals to improve conditions for farm animals. This bill was passed by the House of Representatives but died in the face of strong opposition in the Senate.

Proposed Laws That Would Have Helped Animals But Did Not Pass (Work To Be Done)

Senate Bill 913 would have prohibited buying and selling ivory and rhino-horn products in Oregon. Supporters, including Humane Oregon, believed this would help diminish the incentive for poaching elephants and rhinos in other parts of the world. Federal law already bans trade in elephant ivory and rhino horns to some extent, but the federal bans are complicated, easily exploited and difficult to enforce. Humane Oregon testified in support of this bill and met with individual senators to encourage their support. The bill passed the Senate but was not given a vote in the House of Representatives.

House Bill 2537 would have substantially increased penalties for poaching, particularly if done with an intent to sell animal parts (such as bear gall bladders and cougar paws, which some cultures believe to have medicinal value). Humane Oregon testified in favor of this bill and participated in a work group to develop amendments but the bill drew too much opposition and was not passed by the House committee to which it was assigned.

House Bill 3141 would have required businesses leasing pets to make the same disclosures as businesses selling pets – disclosures about the medical history of the pet and whether it came from an inhumane mass breeding operation. Humane Oregon testified in support of this bill. The bill drew strong opposition from a large pet leasing businesss, however, and was not passed by the House committee to which it was assigned.

House Bill 3494 would have limited “declawing” of cats and devocalizing of dogs. (Declawing is really amputating the front digits of a cat’s paws; devocalizing is surgical removal of an animal’s vocal cords.) Humane Oregon supported this general concept but testified against the bill as passed by the House of Representatives because the exceptions were too broad. (The exceptions included devocalization if “behavioral modification to correct excessive vocalization has failed” and declawing if “[a]ttempts to prevent the animal from destructively using its claws have failed.”) A Senate committee amended the bill to make it stricter, but the amended bill faced too much opposition and was not put before the full Senate for a vote.

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