A bill has been introduced in the House that would establish an animal welfare division within the agriculture agency and require the agency to release a report on improving and centralizing animal welfare rules. – being animal from Vermont.
H.504 “An Act for the Reorganization, Improvement, and Enforcement of Animal Welfare Requirements in the State,” was introduced early in the session by House Rep. Butch Shaw, R-Pittsford.
“It’s a reporting bill,” Shaw said Wednesday. “And that gives the Agriculture Agency some guidance on what it should be looking at for animal welfare requirements.”
In its introductory form, the bill would require the Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets, by January 15, 2023, to submit a report to several House and Senate committees dealing with the ” reorganizing, improving and enforcing animal welfare requirements in the State.”
The report would summarize existing animal welfare requirements in Vermont and list the entities responsible for enforcing them. He would compare the state’s rules to those of other New England states, especially Maine. The bill also calls for a bill to consolidate and improve Vermont’s animal welfare rules so that they are in line with or better than other New England animal welfare laws. The bill would establish an animal welfare division within the Agriculture, Food and Markets Agency to oversee and coordinate an animal welfare programme. The legislation would define adequate shelter, food and water for all domestic animals and livestock, and it would address the role of law enforcement in animal cruelty issues.
The Agriculture Agency is also expected to study the costs associated with the proposed bill.
Shaw, whose district includes the city of Brandon, where animal welfare issues have been discussed in recent years, said he introduced the bill at the request of voters, who wanted much broader legislation. and more extensive.
This is the second year of the biennium, which means that any bill that does not pass by the end of the session will have to be reintroduced. Shaw said he spoke to the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee about the bill, but doesn’t know if it will be taken up again this session. Shaw said he scaled back the bill, hoping it would make him more likely to advance sooner, but what he’s asking for, namely the new division, could cost between $750,000 and $1 million. , making it a “hard-to-crack nut”.
Several animal rights groups support the bill, but say much of the reporting and research has already been done.
Joyce Cameron, president and CEO of the Humane Society of Chittenden County, said Thursday that legislation passed about five years ago called for the study of state animal welfare laws and the formulation of recommendations for improvement.
“And what we really need is a separate department, agency, division, whatever you want to call it, to house everything, all the components of animal welfare” , she said. “At the moment they are scattered everywhere. And so as a result, there is a lack of oversight.
Cameron serves on the board of the Vermont Humane Federation. She said the group sent a letter to several Senate and House committees calling for the centralization of animal welfare issues. This echoes sentiments found in this year’s legislative report from the Animal Cruelty Inquiry Advisory Board, which was created by a section of Bill 155 in 2016.
“As we have indicated in several of our previous reports, animal welfare laws and regulations, the violation of which could lead to cases of cruelty, are currently a patchwork affair that desperately needs centralization” , reads the report. “Some are housed at the municipal level, others at the county level; some at the state level. Some come under law enforcement, some come under the justice system, some come under the Agriculture Agency, and some come under the Ministry of Children and Families.
The report mentions H.504, saying the advisory board agrees with it in spirit, but notes that much of what it asks has been done, except for the creation of a Animal Welfare Division.
“I have to say, when we delve into these things like we have in the past, you would think it’s a simple operation,” Shaw said. “It usually ends up being very controversial.”
Distinguishing between pets and livestock is difficult, Shaw said, as is enforcement jurisdiction. Many would like to see less enforcement by the police and more by an animal control officer. What each city and community wants for itself also varies.