WA Gov Signs Shark Finning Bill

The Washington legislature has passed and Gov. Christine Gregoire has now signed into law S.B. 5688 that makes unlawful shark finning a crime.

The introduction to the new law explains the "practice of shark finning, where a shark is caught, its fins are sliced off while it is still alive, and the animal returned to the sea severely and almost always fatally wounded, constitutes a serious threat to Washington’s coastal ecosystem and biodiversity.

"Sharks are particularly susceptible to overfishing because they only reach sexual maturity between seven to twelve years of age and hatch or birth small litters. The destruction of the population of sharks,  which reside at the top of the marine food chain, is an urgent problem that upsets the balance of species in the ocean ecosystem….

"Shark finning condemns millions of sharks every year to slow, painful deaths. Returned to the water without their fins, the maimed sharks are attacked by other predators or drown, because most shark species must swim in order to push water through their gills. Shark finning is therefore a cruel practice…The market for shark fins drives the brutal practice of shark finning. Shark finning and trade in shark fins and shark fin derivative products are occurring all along the Pacific Coast, including the state of Washington.

"The consumption of shark fins and shark fin derivative products by humans may cause serious health risks, including risks from mercury."

What the law prohibits

Under the new law the crime of "unlawful trade in shark fins in the second degree" includes anyone who "sells, offers for sale, purchases, offers to purchase, or otherwise exchanges a shark fin or shark fin derivative product for commercial purposes; or …prepares or processes a shark fin or shark fin derivative product for human or animal consumption for commercial purposes".

The crime is a gross misdemeanor means loss of a commercial fishing license for 1 year.

If the market value of the fins or derivative product is $250 or more, then the crime is elevated to unlawful trade in shark fins in the first degree. The crime will also be charged in the first degree if the shark was taken illegally or by an unlicensed person, or if the violation is within 5 years of a prior conviction for this crime or any other gross misdemeanor or felony involving fish, not including "recreational fishing" violations.

Unlawful trade in shark fins in the first degree is a class C felony.  Conviction means suspension of any commercial fishing privileges that requires a license for one year.

Research and education exceptions 

Licenses or permits, however, can be issued to take or possess sharks or the fins for "bona fide research or educational purposes".


Advocates Continue to Oppose PA Town’s Anti-Cat Ordinance


May 12, 2011: Since the Jane Velez Mitchell show aired a segment on HLN cable network about the Monessen cats on May 6, advocates have continued the fight to save the cats. 

The next city council meeting is May 18, 2011. Stay tuned for more details. 

Follow the fight to save the Monessen cats on Facebook

For more on this, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

Update April 28, 2011: Several dozen people came to the Pennsylvania mill town of Monessen yesterday to protest a harsh anti-cat ordinance that so far has meant the deaths of nearly 3 dozen cats, simply for being outside. 


Let Monessen’s mayor and city officials know that you want humane policies for cats. Follow this effort on Facebook

Go to council meetings, send letters or call town officials listed below and urge them stop the needless, costly and cruel roundup and killing of cats simply for being outside. Urge them instead to (1) implement a program to have owners tag or micro-chip cats and make sure owners are contacted if a cat gets loose so the animal can be returned, and (2) implement a trap neuter return program and allow homeless cats or feral cats to live in colonies under the care of a caregiver. These steps will go further in reducing feral or stray cat populations than catch and kill. Studies prove this.

Please be polite! You will get further if you are polite and can do damage to your cause if you are rude and angry.   

Mark Shire, City Solicitor, Shire Law Firm 724-684-8881;

Mary Jo Smith, Mayor; John Harhai, City Clerk, 724-684-9712

Council Members–(contact thru City Clerk at 724-684-9712 or write:  

1 Wendell Ramey Way
Eastgate 8, Suite 400
Monessen, PA 15063

Dr. Martin Dudas

Josh Retos

Geral Saksun

Lucille Dalfanso

For more information on the ordinance, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

Original report: The town of Monessen, Pennsylvania passed an ordinance last August, 2010 that declares any cat found running loose outdoors to be a public nuisance. (A copy is attached below for downloading.) Just for being loose outside. 

February, 2011 amendments (attached below) to the ordinance command animal control to impound cats running at large; animal control is not required to return the cat to his or her family but may do so if the owner’s identity can be "readily" ascertained. Animal control can decide not to return the cat particularly if the cat or other cats belonging to the owner have run at large previously.

The amendments also state the owner can then claim the cat upon showing proof of ownership and rabies vaccination and payment of a $50 fee. If the cat is not returned to the owner, the cat is to be placed with the "Humane Society" for euthanasia.

It is not clear what is required for proof of ownership. There may also be fines between $75-$300 for violations of the ordinance as it relates to cats and restitution.

Nowhere is there provision for spay/neuter and return of cats for care in a managed colony.

The result of such a harsh ordinance has not been to increase owner responsibility but has instead meant the deaths of dozens of cats – so far.     

Bill Undermining WA Ballot Initiative Signed

Update May 12, 2011: Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire has signed S.B. 5487 into law.

For more on this bill and the effort to undermine the ballot initiative to give egg laying hens more room, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.

Original report April 12, 2011: A bill that would seem to protect egg laying hens, S.B. 5487, passed the Washington House of Representatives yesterday, April 11, 2011, by a vote of 70-27. The bill has already passed the state Senate.

Instead of protecting egg laying hens, however, the bill, S.B. 5487, would actually protect the system of keeping egg laying hens in battery or colony cages where they are crammed together, each with barely the space of a piece of 8 1/2" x 11" copy paper.

The bill would allow egg producers and dealers to obtain a license or a renewal of a license if they establish by August 1, 2012 "current certification under the 2010 version of the United Egg Producers animal husbandry guidelines for United States egg  laying flocks for conventional cage systems or cage-free systems as applicable, or a subsequent version".

The United Egg Producers is an industry trade group. Go here to take a look at the  guidelines that UEP calls "humane".  Basically, this means egg producers and dealers would be free to continue to keep egg laying hens crammed in battery cages with little or no room to move around. Ever.

Also, under the bill, only those cage systems installed after August 1, 2011 would be required to be approved by or convertible to the American Humane Association Facility System plan for "enriched colony housing". Battery cage systems installed prior to August 1, 2011 would not be affected. 

And, American Humane Association’s so-called  "enriched colony housing" is not really much different than a battery cage:

AHA colony housing    






"Certifying" barely improved cruel industry practices, may mean more fundraising dollars from egg producers for AHA. It just doesn’t mean much for the chickens. 

Under the bill egg producers or dealers with fewer than 3,000 egg laying hens would be exempt from all of these requirements.

The House version is H.B. 1813.

Why S.B. 5487 Now

The bill is an effort by the United Egg Producers to stop a citizens’ ballot initiative that would mean farm owners and operators would be required to give egg laying hens enough room to flap their wings and turn freely and could not stack their cages.  The initiative is well underway and is expected to be on the 2011 ballot. The initiative would mean an end to the cruel factory farming practice of cramming egg laying hens into battery cages or colony cages where they are forced to spend their lives.

 Schoesler,  Brian Hatfield, Steve Hobbs, Jerome Delvin, Jim Honeyford, Randi Becker, and Paul Shin, are the senate sponsors.

Read more about the animal welfare issues addressed by 1130.

In 2009 Michigan joined California in banning cruel confinement for egg laying hens as well. A bill is pending in New York to end cruel confinement for egg laying hens in that state.


Suffolk County Strengthens Animal Abuser Registry Law

happy dog Update May 10, 2011: Less than a year after creating the world’s first animal abuser registry, Suffolk County lawmakers have agreed to give the measure even more bite by requiring pet stores, breeders and animal shelters to determine if prospective pet owners appear on that registry before allowing the animals to be purchased or adopted.

The law, sponsored by Legislative Majority Leader Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) would require all pet stores, breeders and animal shelters operating in the County to ask for photo identification from prospective owners and adopters. They would then be mandated to check those names against the animal abuser registry created by Cooper last October. Exempt from Cooper’s law is the requirement to check names if the prospective buyer is purchasing feeder animals (which typically are mealworms, crickets or mice) for another pet.

“I’m thrilled that my colleagues joined me in giving my animal abuser registry law some real teeth with the adoption of this companion bill,” says Cooper. “This will go a long way towards keeping new victims out of the hands of disturbed individuals who derive pleasure from the suffering of innocent animals.”

For more on this landmark ordinance, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

Original report: This past week the Suffolk County, New York Legislature passed an ordinance that if approved by County Executive Steve Levy, will require all adults convicted of an animal abuse crime in New York state to register as an animal abuser.

The registry will contain the offender’s name, any aliases, current address and a photo. Each offender must pay $50 annually and remain on the registry for 5 years following the last conviction for animal abuse.

Animal abuse is defined as "animal fighting, as defined in the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law (hereinafter "A.M.L.") §351; overdriving, torturing and injuring animals; failure to provide proper sustenance, as defined in A.M.L. § 353; aggravated cruelty to animals, as defined in A.M.L. §353-a; abandonment of animals, as defined in A.M.L. § 355; failure to provide proper food and drink to impounded animal, as defined in A.M.L. §356; interference with or injury to certain domestic animals, as defined in A.M.L. §361; harming a service animal in the first degree, as defined in New York State Penal Code §242.15."

Failure to register could mean a year in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

A number of states including New York introduced bills this past session to establish statewide registries but none of the bills passed. Suffolk County is the first to establish an animal abuse registry that will make animal abusers known to the public and make it easier to track them should they relocate. Animal control and law enforcement around the country can check the registry to determine who now living in their area was previously a resident of Suffolk County and convicted of animal abuse or fighting in New York.