Yesterday, the Oregon State House Judiciary Committee heard six bills which would improve Oregon’s judicial system for animals. We submitted written testimony in favor of each bill and testified in person at the hearing in Salem.
You can contact your state representative or senator on any of these issues at any time, though we will let you know with an action alert if there is a particularly good time for your comments. (Find out who represents you here.) You can also contact members of the committee, which considers whether to refer the bills to the full House of Representatives. (You can find the members listed here.)
House Bill 2732 is a good Samaritan bill that would allow a person to rescue a pet or child from imminent danger of harm in a parked car without fear of criminal or civil liability. We support this bill because it could save the lives of pets, particularly in hot parked cars. It was introduced in the hearing with testimony from three members of a local Girl Scout troupe, with a little help from Rep. Clem, the father of one of the Girl Scouts.
House Bill 2637 would create the crime of animal abuse in the third degree. For an abuser to be charged with second degree animal abuse he or she must act in a manner that “causes physical injury” to an animal. Animal advocates are sometimes unable to provide veterinary proof of injury even when abuse is well documented by video or witness testimony, especially if the exam takes place days or weeks after the documented abuse incident. We support this bill because we believe that a person who acts to physically abuse an animal should be convicted regardless of whether the claim of physical injury can be substantiated with a veterinary exam.
Just like second degree animal abuse and other animal crimes, the proposed crime of third degree animal abuse includes an exemption for “good animal husbandry”, a term which includes all accepted animal agriculture practices. Nonetheless, farm groups are opposing this bill claiming this term does not protect them sufficiently.
House Bill 3283 would help strengthen both animal law and may help animal rescue entities in future court cases.
HB3283 would increase the time for which a person convicted of felony animal neglect is prohibited from
possessing animals from five years to 15 years. To be convicted of a felony rather than a misdemeanor a perpetrator must already have taken the crime of animal neglect to an extreme. Animal abuse felons are already prohibited from possessing animals for 15 years. Felony offenders have proven that they are unfit to care for animals; Oregon law should recognize this and extend the time for which they are prohibited from possessing animals.
HB3283 would also clarify that donations made to animal rescue organizations are not intended to alleviate the financial responsibility of animal abusers to pay for the care of confiscated animals.
The other three bills correct other gaps in current laws that already have or may in the future make it more difficult for animal rescue groups to help abuse animals. House Bill 3282 would remove parrots from the definition of livestock, giving pet parrots some of the protections the law affords pets and does not afford livestock. House Bill 3177 would allow the confiscation of all chickens involved in cockfighting; in the past only the fighting roosters could be confiscated, leaving chicks and hens to create the next generation of fighters. House Bill 2625 would reduce the paperwork involved in mass animal neglect and abuse cases by not requiring a separate count of animal abuse for every individual animal.
To learn more about these bills, read this article by the Oregon Humane Society explaining real cases in which these laws would apply. You can also read the full bill text and all submitted written testimony on the Oregon State Legislature site. The Oregon State Legislature site entry for each bill is linked in the first mention of each bill above.