New Mexico's Pet Resource SUMMER 2005


ANIMALS AND THE LAW

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP 2005:
WHAT PASSED, WHAT FAILED

by Danielle Bays

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The 2005 New Mexico legislative session saw a plethora of animal bills, both good and bad. Here is a summary of what passed and what didn’t.

GOOD BILLS THAT PASSED

Scooby’s Law requires a bittering agent be added to antifreeze sold in New Mexico. The aim is to deter animals from ingesting the sweet- tasting poison and suffering a painful death. Named for a Bernalillo golden retriever whose death due to antifreeze poisoning made headlines, the bill was sponsored by Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) and Representative Kathy McCoy (R-Cedar Crest). Antifreeze manufacturers got behind the bill this year and helped secure its passage.

Dangerous Dog Act seeks to proactively reduce the number of dog attacks in the state. Under the new law, a court can declare a dog to be dangerous or potentially dangerous if the dog both exhibits aggressive behavior and poses a threat to public safety. The guardians of these dogs would be responsible for adhering to strict housing and handling requirements. For instance, a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog would have to be neutered and could not be chained up. Dogs are provided the same due process as humans, an improvement from a previous law that allowed authorities to impound any dog that bit a person. This legislation was sponsored by Senator John Grubesic (D-Santa Fe) and Representative Miguel Garcia (D-Albuquerque).

Horse Rescue and Retirement Facilities will now need to abide by operating standards to be set by the state livestock board. Legislation sponsored by Representative Patricia Lundstrom (D-Gallup) authorizes the livestock board to license and inspect horse sanctuaries to ensure they are providing appropriate care to the horses in their custody.

Conservation Funding got a boost with a five-million-dollar appropriation for the purchase of land and conservation easements. One million will go to protect endangered species, with another million going to protect farm and ranchlands in the middle Río Grande Valley from development. Three million will go for open space, wildlife habitats, and watershed protection and as matching funds for local governments.

Animal Assistance Act was updated to ensure that assistance animals would be cared for in cases of emergency. Be it a medical crisis or a natural disaster, assistance animals will be allowed to stay with their guardian.

Some Animal Rescue Groups may be investigated by the state Attorney General and District Attorney’s offices. This request was made via a memorial sponsored by Representative Patricia Lundstrom (D-Gallup) to assure citizens that funds donated to rescue organizations were being used to properly care for animals. Unfortunately, a number of animal hoarders have received their non-profit status, misleading the public that they are legitimate rescue operations.

GOOD BILLS THAT FAILED

Animal Sheltering Services Act seeks to improve the sometimes dire conditions at our state’s public animal shelters. An Animal Sheltering Services Board would be created to promulgate suggested minimum operating standards as well as to perform inspections and provide technical assistance to the shelters in their efforts to improve their services. The legislation also sets up training and licensing for euthanasia providers: those who have the difficult job of euthanizing the untold number of unwanted animals our state produces each year. While widely supported by legislators and local shelters, this was the second year the act died due to lack of time. Governor Bill Richardson and sponsor Senator Mary Jane Garcia (D-Doña Ana) have pledged to reintroduce the bill in 2006.

Cockfighting Ban lost the political brawl once again, with the Senate Conservation Committee again conspiring to block the bill. The initial hearing wasn’t scheduled until a month after Senator Mary Jane Garcia (D-Doña Ana) and Senator Steve Komadina (R-Corrales) introduced the bill and then was postponed, as the cockfighters had a high-stakes cockfight the same day. Senators Carlos Cisneros (D-Questa), Richard Martinez (D-Española), Phil Griego (D-Santa Rosa), Ben Altamirano (D-Silver City), John Pinto (D-Gallup) and Clinton Harden (R-Clovis) voted to continue cruelty in New Mexico. Meanwhile, the House passed a cockfighting ban, sponsored by Representatives Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) and Richard Cheney (R-Farmington), by a 50 to 15 vote. Governor Bill Richardson continues to support the status quo.

Horse Slaughter would have been banned by unsuccessful legislation proposed by Senator Steve Komadina (R-Corrales). The measure mimics a federal effort to prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption in foreign markets.

BAD BILLS THAT FAILED

Cougars were under the gun, literally. A bill sponsored by Representative Brian Moore (R-Clayton) would have removed all protection for the large cats, allowing them to be shot on sight by anyone with a gun in hand.

Canned Hunts, often called game parks in New Mexico, could have expanded from 3,200 acres to 15,000 acres if a bill sponsored by Senator Tim Jennings (D-Roswell) had passed. The effort to super-size canned hunts passed the Senate with little opposition before being sidelined in the House. The bill would have granted private ownership of the wildlife enclosed in the larger facilities, a frightening precedent considering wildlife has traditionally belonged to all citizens.

Big Bad Wolf was the stereotype that Senator Steve Komadina (R-Corrales) was promoting in a bill that would have made Mexican gray wolves guilty of crimes and hold government employees accountable for the actions of released wolves. The Senate Conservation Committee didn’t buy the fairy tale and tabled the bill.

Animal and Ecological Terrorism would have been a fourth degree felony under legislation introduced by Senator John Arthur Smith (D-Deming). However, the bill did not define what was meant by animal or ecological terrorism and thus failed in committee. Such vague laws could prove dangerous for any advocacy organization working to change the status quo.

Anti-Animal Protection was the theme of a memorial deceptively entitled “support for animal welfare and rights.” The measure asked legislators to oppose any effort to restrict animal use activities, which would include cockfighting. The memorial was sponsored by Senator Steve Komadina (R-Corrales).

Danielle Bays is the campaign manager for Animal Protection Voters. For more information on animal protection legislation contact Animal Protection Voters at 505-265-2332 or visit
www.apvnm.org.


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