Even as many local schools closed due to winter weather, dozens of animal advocates braved snowy roads to come to the state capitol today and talk to their legislators as a part of Humane Lobby Day.
Attendees received a briefing in four issue areas by Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection’s Christine Coughlin and Humane Society of the United States’ Howard Goldman. The group was also treated to an appearance and remarks by Senate President Sandra “Sandy” Pappas (DFL-65). In addition to sharing her support for a variety of animal welfare issues, Senate President Pappas offered lobbying tips, advising the group to limit their chit-chat with busy legislators, get to the point in a timely manner, and not be shy about “making the ask” for support of the issue.
Advocates were instructed to talk about four main issues including the Dog and Cat Breeder Bill (Senate File 36/House File 84), legislation to reinstate the 5-year moratorium on wolf hunting (Senate File 666/House File 1163), the Dog-Safe Trapping Bill (Senate File 452/House File 456), and “Ag-Gag” Legislation (no bills pending).
The House version of the Dog and Cat Breeder Bill (HF 84) has passed two committees thus far, the House Civil Law Committee and the House Public Safety and Finance Committee. Several witnesses testified both in support and in opposition to the measure in today’s Government Operations Committee. HF 84 was laid-over for vote this evening. A six-year work in progress, HF 84, authored by State Representative John Lesch (DFL-66B), would offer licensure, inspection, and enforcement of the commercial dog and cat breeding industry, as well as imposing civil, administrative, and criminal penalties for violators of the law.
SF 666/HF 1163, to reinstate the 5-year moratorium on wolf hunting, have been assigned to the Senate Environment and Energy Committee and the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee, respectively. According to the Humane Society of the United States, a wolf management plan passed by the state legislature in 2001 required a 5-year moratorium on wolf hunting after federal delisting. The wolf came off the Endangered Species list in January 2012. However, the Minnesota state legislature removed the 5-year moratorium on wolf hunting in 2011 during a state government shut down, during which time the public could not make their voices heard in opposition to the wolf hunt. “All we’re saying is let’s take a step back; let’s get all the data on the table,” says Humane Society of the United States Minnesota State Director Howard Goldman, “We also need public feedback.”
The Dog-Safe Trapping bills, SF 452/HF 456, were designed to place restrictions on body-gripping traps, sometimes known as Conibear traps. According to bill proponents at Dog Lovers for Safe Trapping Minnesota, too-often dogs are getting caught in these traps, with fatal results. The bills do not ban the traps, but rather place restrictions on them to lessen the likelihood dogs will be caught and killed. These include placing the traps at least five feet above the ground, submerging the traps in water, or setting the traps in a manner that will protect domestic dogs, as providing in rules set by the Department of Natural Resources. House Environmental and Natural Resources Committee Chair David Dill (DFL-3A), to whom the House version of the bill has been assigned, has publicly announced his intention to refuse to place HF 456 on his Committee’s agenda for consideration. It is unknown whether Senate Environmental and Energy Chair John Marty (DFL-66) will consider SF 452 before the March 15 deadline for bills to be voted out of their house of origin.
The “Ag-Gag” issue, as it is often called, describes attempts to prohibit currently legal methods of investigative reporting at factory farms, slaughter plants, and commercial breeding facilities. While there has legislation introduced on this issue in Minnesota in previous years, there is currently no pending legislation. Humane Lobby Day participants asked their state legislators to oppose any future legislation that might be introduced on the issue.