The Campaign for Companion Animal Welfare Never Ends

Whatever “side” you were on this past general election, one thing is for certain: companion animals continue to need us to be their legislative voice.

Some of the catch phrases flung about during 2016’s divisive presidential campaign apply worldwide to our would-be animal companions. Though some dents have been made in Asia’s “free trade” of dog meat, many people refuse to curb their palates for otherwise potentially loving pooches. Millions of over-bred, abused and abandoned pets are in dire need of “sanctuary” in any city.

While a tough row remains to be hoed for our four-legged, shelled and feathered friends, Rescue Legacy celebrates its 100th blog by heralding some legal milestones of 2016.

In September, Portland, Maine, joined several other major U.S. cities in banning the retail sale of bred animals in pet stores. Though there are currently no such pet stores in operation within the city, the law would restrict new stores to offering rescued pets only.

Success in passing legislation at the local level came after a state bill passed by the legislature last year was vetoed by governor Paul LePage. Advocates are now setting their sites city by city, throughout the state. Albuquerque was the first major U.S. city to enact such a ban in 2006 followed by Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Diego, Los Angeles, Austin, and Las Vegas.

Under a new ordinance effective November 1, 2016, people convicted of animal abuse in Hillsborough County, Florida, must register with the county sheriff’s office. Shelters and retailers would be required to consult the registry and deny offenders pet ownership. The new law is reflective of a nationwide trend to track and punish animal abusers who, according to some research, also commit violent crimes against people.

Tennessee is so far the only state that has enacted a statewide registry. However - as with the curtailing of retail sales of companion animals - success has been realized at the local level throughout the U.S. New York state has been at the forefront with eight counties boasting abuse registries as has Cook County (Chicago, Illinois), the U.S.’s second most populous county.

As of last month in California, bystanders who smash car windows to rescue confined pets in imminent danger of heat stroke are immune from prosecution. It was already illegal to leave pets in a car on a hot day. However, AB 797, “The Right to Rescue Act,” now extends legal protection to citizens who break into a locked vehicle to extract companion animals in distress. Massachusetts passed similar legislation in September.

As noted in RL’s blog of August 21, 2016, there are currently 22 states that either prohibit confinement of an animal to a vehicle or provide civil immunity to rescuers who “break and enter” to save a life - under certain conditions. Those “conditions” vary from state to state. Of course, local law doesn’t mean squat to a convulsing animal and any conscionable person compelled to act.

Residents and representatives of “red” states and “blue” states should be proud of their collaboration across the aisle on behalf of companion animals. However, we should not become complacent to the point of inaction.

Not the least of our challenges is confronting a mindset that clings to the notion that companion animals serve as vessels for profit and receptacles for anger easily disposed of when whims are fulfilled.

It is the way we choose to engage this challenge that will reveal our true colors.