The Oregon Legislature adjourned its 2019 Regular Session on June 30. As usual, the 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 are some of the highlights. For a full list of the bills we were tracking and what happened to them, go here.
Good Bills That Passed
Research Animals. Senate Bill 638 requires research labs using dogs and cats for experiments to make them available for adoption after they are no longer needed for research. We supported this bill as a step in the right direction and hope that in the future at least some other animals used in research can also be made available for adoption and that use of animals in research generally can be reduced or eliminated in favor of other alternatives. Special thanks to Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward and Representative Mitch Greenlick for leading the effort to pass this bill.
Predators. Senate Bill 580 banned use of M44s (devices that discharge cyanide) to kill wildlife deemed a nuisance. In addition to causing an inhumane death to their targets (generally coyotes), these devices also can cause serious injury and death to non-target species (including dogs) and even people. Special thanks to Senator Floyd Prozanski and Representative David Gomberg for leading the effort to pass this bill.
Egg-laying hens. Senate Bill 1019 will generally require eggs and egg-products sold in Oregon to come only from cage-free hens. Special thanks to Senator Michael Dembrow and Representative Courtney Neron for leading the effort to pass this bill.
Animal Abuse. House Bill 2500 will allow private parties to sue animal abusers to recover the cost of treating the abused animals. Special thanks to Representative Marty Wilde for leading the effort to pass this bill.
Wildlife. House Bill 2834 will require the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Department of Transportation to develop a Wildlife Corridor Action Plan to help preserve and restore important wildlife corridors in the state. The bill also could lead to more structures giving wildlife safe passage over or under highways at critical crossing locations. Special thanks to Representative Ken Helm for leading this effort.
Bad Bills Defeated
Hunting Cougars With Dogs. Several bills, including House Bill 2795 and House Bill 3118, 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.) In general, these bills would have given counties a chance to "opt out" of the ban on using dogs or expanded use of "agents" allowed to use dogs for cougar "management" purposes. 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, kept these bills from advancing.
Fish and Wildlife Commission. House Bill 2747 would have required that members of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, which oversees wildlife management in Oregon, come from specific interest groups - generally hunting, fishing and ranching. We helped fight this bill on grounds it would worsen the Commission's under-representation of the vast majority of Oregonians who do not hunt, fish or ranch, but who care deeply about Oregon's wildlife.
Good Bills That Did Not Become Law
Coyote-killing Contests.The biggest disappointment of the session was that Senate Bill 723, which would have banned cruel contests to see who can kill the most coyotes, did not make it through the legislative process. We worked hard with other groups to get this bill through the state Senate and to line up votes for passage in the House of Representatives. Sadly, the bill got bogged down in last-minute deal-making to bring Senate Republicans back to the Capital after they left the state to keep the Senate from having a quorum to pass a bill addressing climate change.
Pet Adoption. We supported several bills that would have helped encourage people to adopt their pets from animal shelters and rescues. House Bill 2804 would have prohibited retail pet stores from selling dogs and cats - both to encourage people to adopt pets from shelters and rescues and because retail pet stores tend to get their animals from breeding "mills." Sadly, strong opposition from retail pet stores made this bill too controversial to advance after a public hearing. Meanwhile, House Concurrent Resolution 12 would have made "rescued shelter dogs and cats" the official state pet of Oregon. Unfortunately, this bill did not receive a public hearing. We also supported Senate Bill 268, which would have allowed a tax deduction for the expenses of adopting a pet from a rescue or shelter. The first committee to consider this bill recommended approving it. However, while the bill could help reduce costs at government animal shelters, legislators later shied away from the potential impact of another tax deduction on state revenue.
Factory Farming. Senate Bill 103 would have put a moratorium on new and expanded industrial dairies (generally more than 2,500 cows) until problems were addressed with the impact of these facilities on air quality, water quality, family farms and animal welfare. We joined several conservation and animal-welfare groups supporting this bill at a public hearing, and participated in a legislative "work group" on this topic, but Senate Bill 103, and alternative bills proposed to address some of the issues, could not overcome strong opposition from the dairy industry.