Pet lovers howl at classifying dogs as livestock
Canine friends may be safe this year, but their legal status in the commonwealth may be questioned again next year.
Animal welfare advocates recently voiced concerns over legislation to redefine livestock animals in state law to include hunting, show and breeding dogs. Senate Bill 610, sponsored by Sen. Richard Black, R-Sterling, also sought to place all animal care oversight under a single state agency – the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Several hundred people converged on the Capitol on Jan. 26 for Virginia Humane Lobby Day to oppose SB 610, said Robin Starr, chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA, one of the event’s organizers.
The next day, Black announced that he was pulling the bill for this session. On Feb. 2, the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee formally voted to postpone consideration of the measure until 2013.
According to his legislative aide, Chris Lore, Black may seek approval of the bill during the General Assembly’s next session.
“This is a bill that we’re actually going to pass by for the year. It’d be easier to wait and look over it over the summer because there are various issues with dogs that people are concerned about,” Lore said this week.
SB 610 states that “ ‘Agricultural animal’ or ‘livestock’ means any domestic animal raised, herded, or farmed as an agricultural product or associated with agriculture, including equids, cows, calves, yearlings, bulls, oxen, sheep, goats, lambs, kids, hogs, pigs, poultry, gamefowl, fowl, hunting dogs, working dogs, and show dogs.”
It goes on to say that the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services “occupies the entire field of regulation of the care, control, and handling of agricultural animals. No political subdivision, locality, or humane society shall regulate the care and handling of agricultural animals.”
The bill’s impact statement said the measure would increase the administrative and regulatory responsibilities of the agriculture department, making it “the sole regulator of the care and handling of agricultural animals.”
“Currently, VDACS is not responsible for regulating, inspecting, or monitoring dog shows, but under this legislation the department may assume that role,” the statement said.
Agriculture department officials estimate that they would need about $185,000 a year to carry out the additional duties.
Animal welfare advocates oppose SB 610 because it would effectively remove dogs from the jurisdiction of humane societies and animal shelters.
“I don’t see how the Richmond SPCA could support the bill next year,” Starr said.
“The bill in its current state would set the standard for dog care back literally decades. The standards of dog care are already minimal, and the intention of the bill is clearly to lower the standards even further. Agricultural animals simply do not have the same rights as companion animals.”
Myra Jennings of Beagles to the Rescue, a nonprofit group based in Virginia Beach, agreed.
“We don’t want the bill at all,” Jennings said. “All dogs are companion animals. As bad as the situation with puppy mills is now, can you imagine what it would be like without regulations? Dogs suffer enough as it is with the mills as they are now.”
Dogs wouldn’t be the only animals put in jeopardy by SB 610, animal welfare advocates say. They said the legislation also is a threat to chickens, ducks, turkeys and other poultry.
United Poultry Concerns, an activist group dedicated to “promoting compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl,” opposes Black’s proposal.
“Farm animals in this state already have no rights,” stated Dr. Karen Davis, the organization’s president. “Birds are just as sensitive and just as alive and just as deserving as dogs and other animals. We do not support the bill now or next year.”
The Children's Clothing Closet at Highland Springs United Methodist Church will be open Saturday, Aug. 27 and Tuesday, Aug. 30 to provide free new or nearly new children's clothing for families in need, prior to the start of the school year. The Clothing Closet will be open from 10 a.m. to noon both days. The church is located at 22 North Holly Avenue. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 07/18/2016
Good Vibrations choral group is looking for all voices with some musical experience to sing with the volunteer choir. The season runs from August to November. Genre includes patriotic and inspirational. > Read more.
It’s a great weekend to get outside! The Pocahontas Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society is offering two events this weekend. Accompany the group to find and document native plants present and blooming in Echo Lake Park on Saturday or take a “Sunday Stroll” at Dorey Park to observe the seasonal changes taking place. Other outdoor events this weekend include the final summer concert at West Broad Village and “Fridays on the Patio” at James River Cellars Winery in Glen Allen. If you’re going to be outside, don’t forget the insect repellent! To learn more about avoiding those pesky mosquitos, check out Henrico County’s “Fight-the-Bite TODAY” event tomorrow. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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CalendarRing in the new school year at the Teen Back 2 School Nite at North Park Library at 6 p.m. Play games, catch up with friends, make cool crafts for… Full text