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Mid-Session Legislative Update

Tuesday, April 18 was an important deadline in the Oregon legislature. With some exceptions, bills that did not pass out of committee and to the house or senate floor by that deadline died. The pronouncement that a bill is ‘dead’ means that the specific bill is not going to make any more progress towards becoming law in the current (2017) legislative session. The idea in the bill can still be worked into some other bill with an amendment and the same exact bill can still be introduced in future legislative sessions. Groups like Humane Oregon can never guarantee that a bill has been ‘killed’ permanently, but public opinion and political circumstances can render a bill consistently terminal even if it is introduced again.

We were tracking over 60 animal-related bills this legislative session; we believe 40% of these bills would positively affect animal welfare, 10% would negatively affect animal welfare, and the remainder were neutral. We are happy to announce that the worst of the bad animal bills are dead, though disappointed that many of the best bills have also died. None of the high-impact bills have passed both chambers and made it to the governor's desk yet. No more bills will be introduced this session because the deadline to introduce new bills has passed as well. Read on to learn what important proposed animal legislation is and isn’t moving forward in 2017.

Alive: Pets Trapped in Cars Bill

House Bill 2732 would allow a person to break into a motor vehicle without criminal or civil liability if they believe a child or pet inside the car is in imminent danger of harm. We testified in support of HB 2732 and are glad to see it moving forward, now awaiting a full house vote.

Alive: Pet Adoption Tax Deduction Bill

Senate Bill 1035 would make the cost of adopting a pet from an animal rescue entity tax deductible. It replaced SB 326, a bill which would have created a tax credit for the adoption cost. SB 1035 is technically alive even though it has not passed out of committee because the April 18th deadline did not apply to revenue bills. Nonetheless, SB 1035 is not likely to pass into law this session because the state currently has extreme budget problems and the proposed tax deduction would reduce state revenue. We nonetheless support SB 1035 because we think the revenue impact would be very small and because encouraging adoption from shelters could help reduce costs at government animal control facilities. We hope to see it revived in future years if it is not passed in 2017.

Alive: State Dog Debate

Two bills which would designate a state dog for Oregon are alive despite remaining in committee because they were exempt from the April 18th deadline. House Concurrent Resolution 16 would designate the rescued shelter dog as Oregon’s official state dog. We support this bill because the gesture would draw attention (and we hope adopters) to the fantastic shelter mutts who need us most, rather than glorifying a particular breed of dog. Conversely, Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 would designate the Border collie as the official state dog. We testified against SCR 4 (because we like HCR 16 better, not because we don’t like Border collies) and are waiting for a hearing to support HCR 16.

Alive: Anti-Poaching Bills

HB 2883 would permanently prohibit an outfitter or guide who is convicted of poaching from applying for or obtaining licenses, tags and permits under wildlife laws. We submitted written testimony to support this bill. HB 3158 would require the State Fish and Wildlife Commission to implement a program to encourage people to report poaching. We were neutral on this bill because the reward is permits to hunt other animals. Both bills are out of committee and waiting for a full house vote.

Alive: Good Animal Forfeiture Bills

A few bills that address highly specific loopholes in current animal law are out of the House Judiciary Committee and awaiting a full house vote. HB 3283, HB 3177, and HB2625 would close problematic gaps between the intention and precise current wording of laws dictating details of forfeiture of animals in animal abuse cases. We testified in support of these clarifications. These bills are out of committee and waiting for a full house vote.

Dead: Bad Cougar Bills

In 1994, Oregon banned the gruesome sport of hunting cougars with packs of dogs. Bills challenging this ban crop up every session. This year, four bills were introduced to weaken the ban: HB 2107, HB 2589, SB 458, and SB 371. None of these bills even got a hearing, which is the first step towards being passed out of committee. Happily, these cougar bills are not politically viable right now; it’s our job to keep them that way.

Dead: Challenges to Measure 100

In November 2016 Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 100, which will prohibit the purchase or sale of parts or products of animals of elephant, rhinoceros, whale, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, pangolin, sea turtle, shark, or ray species. This new law has not yet come into effect and already it has faced challenges in the legislature. Humane Oregon was one of the organizations that worked to pass this law, and we are thus very much opposed to weakening it. First, HB 2576 was introduced to both provide an educational exemption and to slash the number of covered species. HB 2576 was later narrowed down to the educational exemption and is moving forward; we are neutral on this bill as amended. Later, HB 3429 was introduced. It would have slashed the number of species covered by the ban and confound enforcement, but it died in committee on Tuesday after Humane Oregon and others testified against it.

Dead: Good Bills To Improve Animal Abuse Laws

Oregon law absurdly includes parrots in the definition of livestock animals. This means that the abuse of parrots cannot be prosecuted in the way abuse of other pet birds can. HB3282 would have edited the definition to only include parrots explicitly used as livestock. The bill had a hearing but died in the face of confusion over its effect and opposition from agricultural interest groups.

Two other bills would have amended animal abuse law more generally. HB2719 would have increased penalties for certain animal abuse crimes while HB2697 would have created the crime of animal abuse in the third degree. We testified in support of these bills. However, they faced push-back from agricultural interest groups, despite clear exemptions for farming practices, and did not move forward.

Dead: Good Trap-Check Bill

SB 6 would have shortened the period of time a trapped animal may suffer by requiring that trappers check their traps at least once every 24 hours for most game. Unfortunately, this bill was never given a hearing.

Dead: Good Factory Farm Bills

Two bills which could have reigned in some egregious factory farm practices were introduced this session but have died. HB 2396, which would have reined in factory farms’ dangerous nontherapeutic use of prescription of antibiotics important to human medicine, did not even get a hearing. SB197, which would close a regulatory gap by requiring the Department of Environmental Quality to regulate air emissions from dairy factory farms, got a hearing but nonetheless died on Tuesday. We submitted written testimony in support of SB 197, making the points that animals also benefit from clean air and that practices to reduce air pollution from dairies also tend to be good for the welfare of the cows.

Dead: Good Equine Soring Ban

Some show horse trainers apply injurious chemicals or other painful mechanisms to the hooves of show horses to adjust the way the horses walk; these painful gait adjustment techniques are called equine soring. SB422 would have made equine soring a crime. Unfortunately, this bill was never granted a hearing.

Read individual bills and track their progress here.

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