Sen. Alting has introduced SB 474 concerning terms of probation for people convicted of an animal abuse offense. The legislation makes a list of animal abuse offenses (e.g. animal abuse, animal neglect, use of animals in fights) and then requires that the offender be prohibited from “owning, harboring, or training a companion animal.” It defines companion animal as an animal which is not a service animal under IC 35-46-3-11.5. My only concern with this legislation is with the drafting of the service animal bit.
First, (as I mentioned in a discussion of SB 169), I’m not confident that the definition of “service animal” in IC 36-46-3-11.5 tracks with the definition in the regulations surrounding the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the Indiana Code, “service animal” is defined in a way that the animal is servicing only a subset of people with disabilities (blindness, deafness, physical disability, or medical condition). I’m not sure how medical condition is defined, but this might exclude service of people with a mental disability. The ADA also includes as disabled, for example, a person with a mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities as well as someone who is perceived as having such an impairment. The Indiana definition of “service animal” says that it’s an animal that a person who is disabled (as described above) “relies on for navigation, assistance in performing daily activities, or alert signals regarding the onset of the person’s medical condition.” The ADA says that a “service animal” is “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” So, there are animals that would be “service animals” under the ADA but not under the Indiana definition and vice-versa. That’s bound to cause problems.
Second, if all you want to do is exclude service animals from application of this law, I think you probably just say that instead of creating the newly defined term of “companion animal.”
Those issues aside, I definitely support the intent of SB 474. Dave Bangert, writing for the Lafayette Journal and Courier, has an article highlighting the Tippecanoe County background of this proposed legislation. Several of the cases he mentioned are very familiar to me — as I handled the civil ordinance violation cases against Sanders, Hansen, and Kirts mentioned in that article and was able to obtain a civil injunction prohibiting at least Sanders and Hansen (can’t remember about Kirts) from having animals in Tippecanoe County for a set term of years and indefinitely thereafter unless they petitioned the court for permission.
I’m glad that Sharon Dull got a mention in that article. If the animals in Tippecanoe County have a bigger champion than her, I don’t know who that would be.