The Oregon Legislature adjourned its 2017 Regular Session on July 7. As usual, this session was mixed for animal welfare. Several good bills passed and several bad bills were defeated. However, some good bills failed to gain traction or otherwise did not make it through the long and complicated process to become a law. We are happy to say no really bad bills passed. Here is a recap of what happened on the animal-related bills we considered most significant. For more information on any of these bills, including the exact wording, go here and click on the bill number.
Good Bills That Passed
Dogs in Hot Cars. House Bill 2732 allows any person to break into a motor vehicle to rescue a child or animal in distress. From an animal-welfare point of view, this will deal most obviously with the situation of a dog trapped in a hot car. Some important requirements: First, you need a "good faith and reasonable belief" that the child or animal is in "imminent danger of suffering harm." Second, you need to notify law enforcement before entering the vehicle (or as soon as possible thereafter if you can't reach law enforcement right way). Third, after rescuing the child or animal, you need to wait for law enforcement to arrive, or for the driver to return. We supported this bill with testimony in both the House and the Senate and suggested some amendments, which were adopted, to make the law more clear and allow people who intervene to leave the scene when the driver returns if law enforcement cannot be reached or does not respond.
Animal Abuse and Neglect. We supported several bills, filed at the request of the Oregon Humane Society, to clarify and tighten the laws for prosecution of animal abuse and neglect. House Bill 2625 will allow law enforcement to take ownership of animals seized in abuse and neglect cases even if those animals are not the specific subjects of criminal charges. (Criminal charges sometimes are based on only some of the animals seized to make the cases more manageable.) House Bill 3177 allows seizure of hens and chickens (in addition to roosters) in law enforcement actions against cockfighting operations. Otherwise these birds become the "starter kit" for the next operation. House Bill 3283 extends, from five years to 15 years, the time that a person convicted of felony animal neglect is prohibited from possessing domestic animals. This bill also clarifies that money raised by organizations caring for impounded animals does not offset restitution obligations of people convicted of animal abuse and neglect. Finally, the bill removes parrots from the definition of "livestock," which gives them greater protection under animal abuse and neglect laws. Unfortunately, in a move seen as intended specifically to benefit the controversial Hannah Pet Society business, this bill also was used at the "eleventh hour" to exempt renting or leasing pets from the definition of "insurance." We think this issue should have received separate consideration and a full set of hearings.
Wildlife Poaching. House Bill 2883 increases penalties for "outfitters and guides" who kill wildlife in violation of the law. We submitted written testimony supporting this bill as a way to help reduce poaching. House Bill 3158 will also help reduce poaching. It directs the Department of Fish and Wildlife to implement a reward program to encourage reporting of wildlife crimes.
Bad Bills Defeated
Hunting Cougars With Dogs. Several bills, including Senate bills 371 and 458, and House bills 2107 and 2589, were introduced to weaken Oregon's prohibition, through Ballot Measure 18 in 1994, on hunting cougars with packs of dogs. (The dogs chase the cougar up a tree or into a corner so the "hunter" can come shoot it at point-blank range.) Bills like these are introduced every legislative session and fighting them typically takes significant energy from animal welfare advocates. This session, forceful and early opposition from animal-welfare and environmental groups, and help from friendly legislators, meant that none of these bills even received a hearing.
Wildlife Trafficking. House Bill 3429 would have substantially reduced the number of species protected by Measure 100, the ballot measure passed in 2016 to prohibit trade in the parts of 12 endangered animals from other parts of the world (elephants, rhinos, big cats, sharks and rays, for example). We were part of the coalition that helped pass Measure 100 and testified in opposition to weakening it. Meanwhile, House Bill 2576 created an exemption from Measure 100 for educational institutions. The primary sponsor of Measure 100 found this change acceptable so we did not take a position on it.
Good Bills That Did Not Become Law
Trapping. Senate Bill 6 would have required most traps to be checked at least once every 24 hours, reducing the time that trapped animals must suffer. It also would have required warning signs for traps on public land and the reporting of more information by trappers. We strongly supported this bill. However, it was sidelined as too controversial and distracting to other priorities including the state's fiscal issues.
Animal Abuse and Neglect. House Bill 2637 would have created a crime of animal abuse in the third degree. This crime would have required prosecutors to show abuse, but not to prove an obvious physical injury, which may be difficult to find even in obvious cases of abuse, especially if the animal is not examined immediately. We testified in support of this bill. We understand it was stopped primarily by opposition from the animal agriculture industry.
Pet Adoption. We supported several bills that would have helped encourage people to adopt their pets from animal shelters and rescues. House Concurrent Resolution 16 would have made "rescued shelter dogs" the official state dog of Oregon. We testified in favor of this bill and many of our supporters testified or submitted written comments to support the bill. We were hopeful for this bill until the end of the session. However, legislative leaders decided not to give it a vote this session. We also supported Senate Bill 326 and Senate Bill 1036, which would have allowed a tax credit or tax deduction, respectively, for the expenses of adopting a pet from a rescue or shelter. While we thought these bills could help reduce costs at government animal shelters, legislators focused on the lost state revenue in tight fiscal times and were not inclined to advance the bills.
Factory Farming. Senate Bill 197 would have required the Department of Environmental Quality to implement air quality regulations for the dairy industry. We supported this bill because we believed the regulations would improve conditions for dairy cows on large industrial dairy farms - by making the air better for them, and indirectly by requiring practices that give the cows more space and time outside.
Funding for "Wildlife Services." The governor's proposed budget eliminated state funding for "Wildlife Services," a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that kills predators and other animals to benefit hunting and agricultural interests. Unfortunately, this funding was restored in the legislative budget process.
Other Bills of Note
Urban Deer Populations. House Bill 373, which passed into law, directs the Department of Fish and Wildlife to adopt a "pilot program" for reducing urban deer populations found to constitute a "public nuisance." We did not take a position on this bill but will be watching and commenting on the implementation.
Game Meat Donations and Lead Ammunition. House Bill 2525 would have expanded the list of inspectors who could approve game meat for donation to charitable organizations for human consumption. It also would have expanded the list of game that could be donated. This bill passed the house but stalled in the Senate after amendments were proposed to require the meat to be free of lead ammunition. Some hunting and gun interests saw this as a threat to lead ammunition, which they oppose eliminating even though it is toxic to people and the environment.