Animal welfare legislation appears to be the one bipartisan bright spot in Alabama.
Animal welfare groups had high hopes for the 2012 legislative session with bipartisan support in both chambers for bills addressing cockfighting, animal abuse, animal shelter policies, and low cost spay/neuter clinics.
Unfortunately, those bills also encountered bipartisan opposition, with Democratic Senator Bobby Singleton filibustering anti-cockfighting legislation and Speaker Mike Hubbard killing the spay and neuter clinic bill.
Some of these bills have already been filed again for 2013.
HB17 and SB25: Allows low-cost spay and neuter clinics to hire veterinarians to perform surgeries at the clinics. Rep. Patricia Todd sponsored the House bill and a bipartisan group of senators (including Del Marsh and Roger Bedford) are co-sponsors.
This bill would have easily passed last year, if Speaker Mike Hubbard hadn't killed it by refusing to bring it to the floor. Expect more nefarious activities by the notorious Athens vet Dr. Robert Pitman, who is on record opposing low-cost clinics because it cuts into both his income from running a veterinary practice and also the income he derives from operating a for-profit animal shelter called, appropriately enough, "The Dog Pound."
HB27: Raises the penalties for animal abuse, neglect, and animal torture.
This bill would add acts that are done knowingly or with criminal negligence to the prohibition and make the crime a Class A misdemeanor.
This bill would provide for the crime of aggravated animal cruelty when the act of cruelty or neglect was heinous, atrocious, cruel, or involved infliction of torture to the animal. Aggravated animal cruelty would be a Class C felony.
HB51: Defines the terms "animal cruelty" and "torture" and institutes reporting requirements.
Under existing law, there is no requirement to report torture or cruelty to an animal.
This bill would require certain persons to report torture or cruelty to an animal.
This bill would provide that a person with direct knowledge to make a report of animal abuse may not be subjected to civil or criminal liability.
This bill would provide that a person or entity who fails to report torture or cruelty to an animal would be subject to a fine.
As yet, Senator Cam Ward hasn't re-introduced his bill to make cockfighting a felony instead of slap-on-the-wrist. Rep. Craig Ford's anti-bestiality bill passed the House last session, but died in the Senate when Senator Jabo Waggoner found a dark place to stick it. Ford hasn't (so far) re-introduced his bill either.
The best way to keep track of animal protection legislation as it moves through the legislature is to join Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation (AVRAL). It's a bipartisan group that works to highlight important bills, educate the public and legislature about animal welfare, and lobby on these issues. Learn more at the AVRAL Web site and join the AVRAL Facebook page.