Animal welfare activists are preparing for a critical decision from the Senate this week in the push for stronger animal rights legislation in Alabama. In a Facebook message this week, Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation (AVRAL) called on its 7,000 members to reach out to lawmakers in support of Senate Bill 468, also known as the Alabama Dog Tethering and Outdoor Shelter Act. The bill would make it illegal for dog owners to tie their pets to stationary objects and says that any pet kept outside must have adequate food, water, and shelter.
An owner who violates the statute could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and face up to six months in jail, according to the Alabama criminal code.
The Senate Judiciary committee is scheduled to vote on Senate Bill 468 this Wednesday.
With the 2015 legislative session drawing to a close, the dog chaining bill could be the last of four closely-watched protections against animal cruelty before lawmakers this year:
- Earlier this month, a measure to set care, confinement, and breeding restrictions on Alabama puppy mills failed in the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee when chairman Rep. David Sessions refused to put the bill on the agenda. Rep. Paul Beckman sponsored House Bill 548 and told AL.com that the chairman thought it was a “’bad bill’ that makes criminals out of dog breeders.”
- Legislation filed by Rep. Patricia Todd and Rep. Howard Sanderford would ensure that only veterinarians can make surgical or medical decisions for animal treatment and allow veterinarians to work at nonprofit spay/neuter facilities. House Bill 563 is Rep. Todd’s third attempt at strengthening regulations on Alabama spay and neuter clinics. A House committee gave the bill a favorable report last week, but with so few days left in the session, Rep. Todd told AL.com the bill may not get much further. She indicated that she may try the legislation again next year.
President of Animal Advocates of Alabama Joey Kennedy said, however, that another bill may not be necessary. In a statement on the organization’s website, Kennedy said:
“The nonprofit spay/neuter clinics are operating now and can provide more services than would be allowed even under Todd’s bill. Plus, there is more scrutiny of the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, which has spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to shut down the clinics.” That scrutiny, Kennedy said, might be enough to protect the clinics.
- The fourth bill, Senate Bill 51, would force shelter operators to publish monthly census reports, detailing how animals enter the facility, the number of adoptions or transfers, and reasons the animals were euthanized. The companion bill was voted down in the House in March. AL.com reported concerns from members that the bill would encourage lawsuits from animal activists and that moving from yearly to monthly reports would add to shelter workloads.
Senate Bill 51 has passed the Senate and is now pending in the House committee on public safety and homeland security. The bill is not on the committee’s agenda for the coming week.