Update Feb. 20, 2011: The Virginia Senate quickly unanimously passed H.B. 1541 with amendments. The House of Representatives then adopted the amendments by a vote of 82-12.
The amendments would allow an "agricultural animal" as well as a companion animal to be placed with a rescue or sanctuary rather than simply sold or killed.
Update Feb. 1, 2011: The Virginia House of Representatives passed a substitute version of H.B. 1541 by a block vote of 98-0.
Instead of allowing horses and farm animals to be starved to "emaciation", but bill now provides these animals must be provided food to prevent "malnourishment". Water could still be withheld unless the animal is "dehydrated". Veterinary care would still be limited for horses and farm animals.
The Virginia Farm Bureau and state Veterinary Medical Association are lobbying for this bill. They have their well-paid lobbyists working overtime at the Capitol. The animals have you. President of VA VMA, William D. Tyrell, Jr., DVM, claims, "The current code of Virginia does not have ANY standards of care for agriculture animals and equine. The current standards in our code apply to companion animals ONLY, so this bill rectifies that situation and spells out specific standards for this important group of animals."
This is simply not true. Va. Code §§3.2-6500 and 3.2-6570 are explicit that right now under VA law horses and farm animals are entitled to "necessary food, drink, …or emergency veterinary treatment" and are not to be subjected to pain or "unnecessary suffering" which surely this new bill would allow.
The Farm Bureau and VA VMA also contend agri-business simply doesn’t want to be prosecuted for animal cruelty and thus they have proposed this bill to weaken standards. They are brazen in calling for laws that allow them to treat animals any way they want. This is not science or acceptable husbandry or farming practices. This is a blatant power grab to allow factory farms to maximize profit at the expense of animal care.
For more on the original H.B. 1541 which is identical to the pending current Senate version, S.B. 1026, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.
Update Jan. 26, 2011: A Virginia House of Representatives subcommittee has unanimously approved H.B. 1541 with some amendments.
Unfortunately, the bill is the work of the Farm Bureau, Agribusiness Council, Poultry Producers Association, Virginia Horse Council, and the Virginia Veterinary Medicine Association. The Animal Control Officers Association (VACA) as well as the Virginia Association of Counties which do not want to oppose agri-business.
The horses and farm animals have only you to stand up to protect them from a ridiculous bill that would allow agri-business to starve their animals to emaciation, leave them without water unless they are dehdrated and withhold veterinary care except in certain situaitons.
For more on this bill, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.
Original report: Virginia Delegate Robert Orrock has introduced H.B. 1541, a bill that, in effect, weakens requirements for the care and treatment of equines and farm animals.
A Senate version, S.B. 1026, has been introduced by state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett.
The bill would add a definition to the Virginia code for "Farming activity" which "means the raising, management, and use of agricultural animals to provide food, fiber, or transportation and the breeding, exhibition, lawful recreational use, marketing, transportation, and slaughter of agricultural animals pursuant to such purposes."
Then a new section of the Code would be created, § 3.2-6503.1 which basically states owners of "agricultural animals", meaning equines and farm animals, are not required to feed them except to prevent "emaciation" or to give them water except to "prevent dehydration". Veterinary treatment would be required only to "prevent impairment of health or bodily function when such impairment cannot be otherwise addressed through animal husbandry or humane destruction."
There are even exceptions for these meager requirements. Owners are not required to provide any feed or water when it is "customarily withheld, restricted, or apportioned pursuant to a farming activity"; if otherwise prescribed by a veterinarian; or if the owner is unable to do so due to an act of God. Act of God typically refers to a weather emergency.
Also, compliance with even these provisions is not required for "agricultural animals used for bona fide medical or scientific experimentation."
A violation is a Class 4 misdemeanor. Under current law, any ill treatment or act of cruelty or which inflicts pain on any animal, including failure to provide necessary food and water and emergency veterinary care, is a Class 1 misdemeanor.§ 3.2-6570
Also, the bill provides that "agricultural animals" that are found by a court to have been abandoned, treated cruelty or deprived of care must be sold instead of placed for adoption or with a sanctuary.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO
Let your veterinarian know that the VA Veterinary Medical Association supports this bill and urge him/her to write or call in opposition. Urge your local animal control officer and county or town officials to stand up and oppose this bill. Ask your family, friends and anyone you know in Virginia to help stop this. We are better than this; let Virginia’s legislature know that.
Photo credit: dan