Rep. Hatfield has introduced HB 1094 concerning animal cruelty. It enhances the penalty and creates some standards related to the offense. For example, it defines “adequate shelter” as, among other things, requiring four walls, a roof, and construction material that is impervious to rain. “Minimum care” is defined as, among other things, having access to sufficient food not less than once a day and continuous access to potable water that is not in the form of snow or ice. The term “neglect” is then amended to include a failure to provide that level of minimum care as well as failure to bring a dog into a temperature controlled environment when the temperature falls below freezing or above 85 degrees or during a heat advisory, wind chill warning, or tornado warning have been issued. Failing to provide adequate shelter or minimum care would be acts of animal cruelty, a Class A misdemeanor or a Level 6 felony if the person has a prior conviction.
It also defines “tethering” a dog and creates minimum standards and limited times when tethering is permitted. For example, the tether has to be at least three times the length of the dog, measured from nose to the base of the dog’s tail. If the dog is tethered at night — between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. — the dog can be tethered for a period not longer than necessary “for a person to complete a task” and, in any event, not longer than an hour. Improper tethering would be a Class C misdemeanor.
(As a pedantic matter, I object to the proposed amendment of existing law that says the term “mutilate” includes certain specified types of bodily injury. The amendment would say that the term includes, “but is not limited to” those specified types of bodily injury. The “includes, but is not limited to” formulation is fairly common in legal documents. But, as I recall, the legislative drafting manual discourages that formulation as redundant. “Includes” means a list is not exclusive. If you add this “but is not limited to” formulation, you run the risk of having lists in other statutes that do not have that formulation construed as being exhaustive rather than merely descriptive.)
I’m a dog person. We have two, and we very much treat them as members of the family. (In fact, my arm is contorted at an odd angle as I type this to accommodate a dog snuggled up against me.) So, in general I support requirements for humane treatment of dogs in particular. But, I think it’s worth at least recognizing that our attitudes toward dogs are evolving. There is going to be a clash of cultures when people like me who regard dogs as family members encounter, say, older people from a more rural background who regard dogs with the same sentimentality as I regard livestock. It’s probably not much different from how I feel about steaks as compared to the sensibilities of the “meat is murder” crowd. That doesn’t mean we can’t impose regulations that are more consistent with evolving norms. But, on some level we should at least recognize that the norms are evolving and haven’t been carved in stone for generations.