Michigan dog fighting penalty increases

Seth Victor

As reported by the Detroit News, the Michigan legislature recently voted to increase the penalty for dog fighting. By finding dog fighting to be an organized criminal enterprise, the legislature has made it possible for dog fighting violators to be charged with racketeering, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, the property (real and personal) in question could also be confiscated as a nuisance if the House approves the bill. The racketeering classification amendment to the law is expected to be signed by Gov. Snyder soon. As the bill analysis reads:

Under the code, racketeering is defined as committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or aiding or abetting, soliciting, coercing, or intimidating a person to commit an offense for financial gain that includes any of the listed criminal acts. The bill would amend this list to include a violation of Section 49, concerning animal fighting.

 The bill proposal puts it bluntly; “Simply put, animal fighting is animal abuse on steroids.” By moving this crime into the same category as other criminal enterprises, Michigan is recognizing the vast infrastructure behind animal fighting rings. The amendment to the law will also allow prosecutors to go after repeat offenders in a more meaningful manner, rather than having to separately prosecute individual cases that carry less significant penalties. There is a concern that property seizure based simply on an allegation of such abuse might be extreme, and that is an aspect that certainlyshould  be  carefully considered in each case. Overall, this bill marks a considerable step towards greater penalties for animal abuse, and one that isn’t as particularly tailored as last year’s Schultz’s Law.

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Ohio’s Issue 2: Good for Animals?

Laura Schierhoff

On November 2nd, Ohio voters passed Issue 2, a constitutional amendment, which creates a ‘Livestock Care Standards Board’ to set standards for livestock and poultry care, food safety, disease prevention, farm management, and animal well-being.  The Board will comprise of 13 Ohioans appointed by the governor and the legislature with minimal oversight.  The Board will have the authority to establish the standards governing the care and well-being of livestock and poultry in Ohio.  As stated in my previous post on Issue 2, this ballot initiative was in response to the Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) having picked Ohio for the next State to target for agriculture legislation banning confinement treatment of farm animals.

The battle may have been won for Ohio, but the war is still on as far as HSUS is concerned.  With little money invested into defeating Issue 2 (Ohio farmers and agribusiness lobbies spent over $4 million), HSUS is gearing up for future legislation in Ohio and other states.  While Ohio lawmakers refused to work with HSUS on humane farming legislation, Michigan recently agreed on legislation on improved livestock-standards, requiring that egg-laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves must be able to stand up, lied down, turn around and extend their limbs.  The lawmakers, agribusiness interests, and HSUS came together to jointly agree on livestock-care legislation.  Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of HSUS said that “the solution forged in Michigan shows that open-minded and fair discussions among stakeholders can lead to good outcomes for farmers and for animal welfare.”  Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, said his group and others decided to work with the animal-rights groups rather than against them.  He said the decision was based on “a healthy dose of pragmatism.  In terms of public policy, it made sense to sit down with them.”  Michigan is the seventh state to act on livestock standards, including Arizona, California, Florida, Maine, Colorado, and Oregon.

Ohio farmers claim that the health and well-being of animals is at the forefront of this amendment and argue that unhealthy animals do not produce the healthy products.  This of course is false, and there is much evidence supporting the fact that very very unhealthy animals are indeed the types of animals that we find in our food.  The animals raised for human consumption are genetically designed for productivity, fed unnatural diets, and pumped full growth hormones and antibiotics, which can hardly be argued as a “healthy” way of raising them.  One of the biggest problems I have with letting farming interests decide on animal cruelty is that they certainly do not have the physical and mental well-being of animals at heart – ultimately they are a business and want to maximize profits.

While reading blogs and articles about Issue 2, I came across a farmer who phrased my opinion of this whole situation perfectly:  “We are stewards and caretakers of these animals and we have a moral obligation to treat them humanely.”  With the passage of Issue 2, I sincerely hope that conditions for farm animals improve in Ohio, as promised, but I really doubt that will be the outcome.

Michigan Farm Animal Welfare Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature

David Cassuto

The Michigan legislature has passed a bill that would give animals used in agriculture some breathing and living space.  Among other requirements, the bill requires that:

A FARM OWNER OR OPERATOR SHALL NOT TETHER OR CONFINE ANY COVERED ANIMAL ON A FARM FOR ALL OR THE MAJORITY OF ANY DAY, IN A MANNER THAT PREVENTS  SUCH ANIMAL  FROM DOING ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
(A) LYING DOWN, STANDING UP, OR FULLY EXTENDING ITS LIMBS.
(B) TURNING AROUND FREELY.

The bill also creates an “Animal Care Advisory Council” that is similar in many respects to the one proposed in Ohio’s Issue 2 (see Laura’s post for more on Issue 2).  It bears noting, however, that Issue 2 is a proposed constitutional amendment whereas the Michigan legislation, if enacted, would be a simple statute.  You can read a legislative analysis of the Michigan bill here.

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