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Fighting pet crime with tougher laws and technology

To keep you informed on pet-related laws being considered or enacted across the US, we have provided a few summaries. This edition discusses new pet legislation occurring in District of Columbia, Ohio, Washington State, Illinois, and Federal legislation being proposed in our nation's capital.

District of Columbia: Congress Working Together To Pass Pet Protections 
Congress is doing its level best to come to some agreement about almost anything—and pets and pet owners stand to benefit. According to the Congressional Record, over a dozen new animal-related bills have been proposed ranging the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 3546), which aims to stop the breeding or possession of big cats by citizens, to the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act, (H.B. 1406), making it a federal crime to slaughter, ship, transport, move, deliver, receive, possess, purchase, sell, or donate dogs, cats or parts of these animals for human consumption. Finally, the PAWS Act also seeks grant funding for domestic violence shelters to accommodate victims’ pets. Animals are gaining more rights every day in the US with legislation that transcends party lines. 

Nationwide: New FBI Database Tracks State Information About Animal Abuse Crimes 
The FBI recently created a database—the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS)—to catalog and keep track of individuals convicted of animal abuse crimes. The system is comprised of state data categorized by crime and will assist all law enforcement agencies to detect patterns in criminal activity. Animal rights organizations will also benefit by using the data to reallocate resources and focusing their attention and finances on a specific region or demographic prone to animal violence. The four categories are as follows: crimes of neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse (such as cock fighting and dog fighting); and sexual abuse of animals. This undertaking highlights the "overwhelming evidence that [animal abuse] is linked to crimes against people, including violent crimes and domestic violence.” 

Washington: State Tackles Tethering Infractions With Powerful New Bill
Currently without any animal cruelty standards or penalties for when a dog is left tied up or tethered, Washington is the latest state to pass a law punishing dog owners who fail to humanely tether their pets. After a six-year-long struggle, animal rights supporters saw Gov. Jay Inslee sign the Unlawful Dog Tethering Act (SB 5812) into law on April 19th. This first-of-its-kind animal protection bill establishes guidelines for animal care and control enforcement personnel to give written warnings and issue infractions in cases where owners inhumanely tie up their dogs, leave them tethered for too long, or even in bad weather. In addition, owners must ensure that the animal is left in safe and sanitary area, protected from extreme temperatures, and be provided with sufficient space to comfortably sit, stand or lie down without tangling themselves in their tether. Twenty other states have enacted dog similar tethering laws. 

Ohio: Fairview Ordinance Protects Dogs And People On Public Property
The City of Fairview has passed an ordinance allowing dogs to be walked on public park property. Owners will be required to keep their dogs leashed and away from playground equipment, and ensure they clean up after them. The ordinance recognizes the rising trend in pet ownership—especially dogs—and since people already walk their dogs in city parks, it is hoped that the new ordinance will bring more self-monitoring by owners. The city will also be placing some police auxiliary members in parks to ensure the clean-up portion of the law is strongly enforced. Also, the ordinance includes public protection from pets: Those waking a dog must maintain control of the animal. 

Illinois: State Ranks 1st In Animal Protections For Ninth Consecutive Year
For the 9th year in a row, the Animal Legal Defense Fund ranks Illinois #1 in the US in their annual Animal Protection Laws Survey. An analysis of the last five years of rankings, clearly demonstrates that animal protection law is a growing trend across the nation, with over 40 states now having established some form of legislative protection for pets. Oddly enough, Kentucky, home of horse racing, has been in last place ever since the ranking began. There’s an old adage that may apply here: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink!”

David Chambers is a retired paralegal living in Chicago with his partner, Stephanie, and two fluffy cats, Jasper and Joy

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