Animal Cruelty Bill, Now Tabled, Sparks Controversy

January 30th, 2011 by Tracy Kennedy, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill that would redefine animal cruelty standards and enforcement procedures has animal rights advocates up in arms.

The controversy over House Bill 2482 got so heated that the sponsor, Delegate Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, agreed last week to hold off on the legislation for a year so people can study it.

HB 2482 would repeal the state’s ban on those convicted of animal cruelty from selling animals. It also would remove “disease progression” as a legal justification for seizing an animal from its owner for emergency veterinary treatment.

Under the measure, breeders and pet stores that fail to “adequately care” for their animals would be subject to seizure of their animals, but a court could return the animals to the owner upon conviction.

“My bill’s original intention is simply to ensure that the civil and property rights of honorable animal owners are protected against what could be construed as an over-zealous application, perhaps even a misapplication, of the powers of the state,” Ware explained in an e-mail.

But the Richmond SPCA has dubbed the bill “The Animal Abusers Protection Act,” arguing that it “it will eviscerate our 20-year progress on laws for the protection of companion animals in Virginia.”

On the bill’s page at RichmondSunlight.com, the measure’s proponents, including dog breeder Charlotte Jean Payne-Cyhanick of Staunton, got into a bitter argument with the proposal’s detractors, including the site’s founder, Waldo Jaquith.

“The laws in Va. are so vague and so easily manipulated that it is very easy for anyone with any agenda to persecute an individual simply because they don’t like them or disagree with their lifestyle,” Payne-Cyhanick wrote.

Payne-Cyhanick has first-hand experience with such laws: In December, a Staunton jury convicted her of mistreatment of animals and failure to maintain proper records. She was found guilty of two counts of selling immature puppies and one count of owning more than 50 dogs. The jury recommended that Payne-Cyhanick pay a $4,950 fine and give up some of her dogs.

Out-of-state residents joined the discussion on Richmond Sunlight.

“Folks in Maine are watching this bill very closely,” one man wrote. “We have similar laws. Congratulations to everyone involved for getting this important bill to this point. Good luck in your efforts. We are with you in spirit!”

Opponents of the bill were equally vocal.

“The more I look at this, the more I suspect that this is a bill that’s designed to create a larger gray area for the mistreatment of animals,” Jaquith wrote after noting the removal of disease progression as a cause for seizing an animal.

“I don’t know that’s the case, but it sure looks like it.”

On Jan. 21, the bill was assigned to the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee. Within a day, discourse on the bill devolved into insults and accusations.

When accused of being “in bed” with the Humane Society of the United States, Jaquith responded: “I see we’ve gone to crazytown. I think I’m done here.”

The Richmond SPCA’s chief executive officer, Robin Starr, even logged in to comment on the issue.

“I do not have the time to participate in all of this endless haranguing,” Starr wrote. “It is simply not productive because there is no rational dialog possible with the proponents of this bill. I will simply make this observation: these innumerable and endlessly long posts document the insanity, irrationality and paranoia of the people who are promoting this irresponsible bill.”

On Tuesday, HB 2482 was referred to a subcommittee of the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee.

Because of the controversy, Ware asked the subcommittee to table his bill for the year and study the implications it might have.

He said the study should examine “those instances in which it appears, on the surface at least, that some individuals were targeted for improper reasons and suffered financially and legally.”

15 Responses to Animal Cruelty Bill, Now Tabled, Sparks Controversy

  1. Anonymous

    January 30, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Any bill that can help in the defense of animal abuse can only help a little. There lies the problem or problems, the animals need so much more help across the board. They need for the laws to be enforces as well. Pet stores on the face lack very often the space for most any of the animals they sell to be humane, that’s how they appeal to the sympathies of people to buy the animals. Not everything about an animal is cute and fun; they are about life being living, breathing, and feeling mammals in the case of cats and dogs. Even criminals are allowed basic medical attention, and some diseases, such as ocular ones can be very painful to endure. In this economic climate, many people are not taking in or caring of their pets, so it would seem there would be a larger amount not sold.
    Why should the animals suffer more for a situation created by people? Please Help The Animals, even in so little a way.

  2. Anonymous

    January 30, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Backtrack to the motives and money. Personally, I have no tolerance for any kind of animal cruelty or abuse from puppy mills to dog fighting to owner neglect. More power to the SPCA. Their motives are clear. However, as to the foxes in the hen house, who knows? Perhaps some of the “legislators” time and effort, and our money would be better spent, if they walked the dogs and fed the cats. But not the fat cats.

  3. Anonymous

    January 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    A good place for Republican Lee Ware to start is not to try and protect “property owners” but instead to remove animals from the realm of being “property” in the first place. Animals are not property in the same way a refrigerator is property. You are not “free” to hammer an animal to bits or throw it in the landfill as if it were an inanimate object and you must feed an animal and care for it. Abuse and neglect should never be allowed for animals even if you call them private property. At the very least, we need a new classification for animals other than property.

  4. Anonymous

    January 30, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Animals should not be considered property.

  5. Anonymous

    January 30, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Those of us who are involved in animal rescue don’t have to be told how atrociously inadequate our animal cruelty laws are already. They seldom work in favor of the animals, and usually tend to be too lenient on “alleged” abusers. The last thing we need is to repeal the few that actually do help protect animals.
    If there are some, such as Payne-Cyhanick, who choose to venture too close to the edge of the definition of ‘abuse’ and get caught, I think it’s better to err on the side of the animals who can’t speak for themselves or defend themselves.
    Let’s take the Payne-Cyhanick case for example: Is it a crime to sell puppies prematurely? It should be. Rescuers know that there is a significantly higher statistical chance that a puppy sold prematurely will end up in a pound or shelter because they never acquired the vital social skills in the litter that they will need to become well-adjusted and well-behaved adult dogs. Worse yet, they are also statistically more likely to be afflicted with health issues – some of which are tragically cruel and painful, because of overbreeding or premature breeding, both of which are irresponsible.
    We have a name for irresponsible breeders who breed a lot of dogs and sell them as quickly as possible to turn a profit with little thought or care toward the health and well-being of the dogs: They’re called puppy mills, and the name, while some may take offense, is appropriate. It’s not the kind of “Michael Vick” animal cruelty that gets the 6 o’clock news headlines, but it’s still a form of abuse nonetheless. Any law that allows animal control officials to take action to help control some of these ‘borderline abuse’ situations is badly needed, and should NOT be repealed. I, for one, am glad this ill-advised bill has been tabled.

  6. Anonymous

    January 30, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    The most surprising thing about the reaction to HB 2482 is that not a
    single one of the usual public media has printed a straight description of the bill. The Richmond Times-Dispatch story and the one here are balanced and accurate on the ‘play’ concerning the bill but said almost nothing about the content.

    Either a lot of people are taking the Richmond SPCA/Robin Starr feed as factual or they’re inventing their own mistakes.

    To some extent this is understandable. If you don’t know what’s going on now it would be hard to see the need for reform. The following may help understand the current situation.

    ================

    A PARABLE — If traffic laws/enforcement were like pet animal laws

    (Flashing blue lights in your rear view mirror. You pull to the curb and stop. A cop stops behind you and approaches. He goes to the front of your car, breaks a headlight with a lug wrench and comes back to the window.)

    “Lady, didn’t you see the speed limit sign back there?”

    (You struggle to control your anger.)

    “Ah, no, officer. But I was only going about 25.”

    “The sign says ‘DON’T DRIVE TOO FAST OR TOO SLOW.’ That’s how we do the speed limits in this town.”

    “OH … I didn’t know that. But I was only going about 25.”

    “You were, ahhh … (looks around) going too slow. And you’re driving an unsafe vehicle with a broken headlight.”

    “I’m sorry. I didn’t hurt anything. I’ll be more careful next time.”

    “Good idea, lady, now get out of your car.”

    “What?”

    “I said, get out of your car. Take your purse and cell phone but leave the keys in the ignition.”

    “WHAT?”

    “You heard me. DO IT, or I’ll arrest you.”

    (Cop gets in car. You start to lose it.)

    “WHAT THE HXLL?”

    “Better call a cab; my partner has to get the cruiser home in time for his dinner.”

    “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I’M CALLING A LAWYER.”

    (Cop laughs)

    “Yeah, lady, you do that. Hey, nice wheels. See you!”

    (Drives off in your car, followed by cruiser.)

    Less than an hour after you get home you get a call: “I’d like to scratch your eyes out and leave you tied in the highway waiting for some driver with no headlights to come along. Have a great life, scumbag!” People call your mom and dad with threats, your children are harassed at school and the Brownie Scout troop where you’ve been a leader for
    years says “We can’t have such a dangerous driver around little girls.”
    Every day you get some new kind of harassment.

    Former friends no longer speak to you.

    (Continued in Part 2)

  7. Anonymous

    January 30, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    (Parable, Part 2)

    Less than two weeks later having been trashed as an ‘abusive driver’ — “Her car was in deplorable condition” — in three newspaper articles you go to a hearing in front of a judge. You are required to forfeit your car and pay all costs. Several days later the Prosecutor charges you with ten counts of driving a vehicle in unsafe condition and nine counts of driving too fast.

    Your attorney explains that the loss of your car was a ‘civil forfeiture’ — you were using the car to violate the law, so the state had the right to take it away. NOW you are being given criminal charges for your actions. Since each 0.1 mile is a separate violation and the cop followed
    you for a mile, you’re up for 19 Class 1 misdemeanors. Bad — if convicted you could spend up to 19 years in jail. The good news is that you’re being offered a plea bargain: If you plead guilty to two counts of driving too fast they’ll let you off with just a fine — no jail time.

    “I thought the charge was driving too slow.”

    “I donno — the cop says you were going way too fast. You’re lucky he didn’t check his speedometer until he’d been following you for a bit, or it would have been an even 20 Class 1′s.”

    “Can’t I fight the charges?”

    “Sure — but can you prove you weren’t going too fast? Can you prove that your headlight wasn’t broken? When juries aren’t sure, they often split the verdict. They might find you guilty on 10 counts for the headlight but not for the speeding.”

    So you take the plea bargain. You agree to two years supervised probation, you are barred from ever driving again, and given a ten year jail sentence, suspended on good behavior. Your fine is $2000 plus $3231.37 in court costs. Blue book for your car is $6500. You lose your job because you can’t get to where you work by public transportation. Your attorney — retainer $5000 — says “Well, that’s the law.” He explains that the cop had the required two weeks of training but like a few others on that town’s force, he had lost a loved one to a reckless driver, so “He really doesn’t like people who don’t obey speed limits.”

    You see an ad in the paper where the garage owned by the cop is selling your car for $7500.

    (Continued in part 3)

  8. Anonymous

    January 30, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Impossible and stupid, right? Couldn’t happen, right? RIDICULOUS, right?

    All of that. Our traffic laws leave much less to judgment than our laws for animals; our state police and sheriffs deputies get most of a year of training before they start work instead of 92 hours sometime during the first two years on the job; there are no unpaid volunteers (equivalent to VA’s humane investigators) doing traffic enforcement; traffic officers are generally well supervised; and there is no serious and well-funded anti-driving movement.

    The average driver has more money and a better understanding of her rights than the average breeder of dogs. And all the officials for whom she votes are automobile operators who understand both traffic laws and citizens’ rights. One event like the parable above would end several careers and be the last for a very long time.

    However that IS the way Virginia’s laws work for owners of companion animals. We could go point by point in that ridiculous story with things that are part of our law for animals AND HAVE ACTUALLY HAPPENED. In fact, MOST of that story happens to MOST people who are raided as ‘puppy mills.’ And yes, NEARLY ALL OF THEM ARE INNOCENT OF ANYTHING THAT EITHER DID OR SOON WOULD HARM AN ANIMAL.

    They are most often guilty of ‘breeding while not being a great housekeeper.’ The exception is Jean Cyhanick who was a perfect doggy housekeeper but was guilty of ‘breeding while not having every dog in absolutely perfect health.’

    She was also guilty of making two mistakes and of not knowing exactly which dogs would be counted toward the limit for not being legally a commercial breeder.

    Are YOUR dogs all in absolutely perfect health? Have YOU ever made a mistake about dogs?

    Is it possible that Ms. Cyhanick and other raid victims are being targeted by people who don’t want anyone breeding dogs? Or who want to make a profit by selling those dogs themselves?

    Because not one Virginian in 100,000 has been on the short end of those laws the need for the basic procedural protections of HB 2482 wasn’t obvious to everyone.

    Of course the targets are nearly all dog breeders and it’s not likely that
    even one Virginian in 1000 has done that. If you don’t breed you are fairly safe, for now. And for now, you’ll be able to get your next pet from someone — either in state and not yet driven out of breeding or in another state whose laws aren’t yet as bad as Virginia’s.

    However the HSUS campaign is nationwide; in ten years or so those laws will be everywhere (look for a federal law within five years) and we’ll be making do with dogs that are bred or imported illegally at much higher prices.

    You think HSUS will stick to dog breeders with these campaigns and not move on to farmers? Researchers who use animals? Both are already being nibbled around the edges with both legislation and litigation.

  9. Anonymous

    January 31, 2011 at 2:35 am

    Those of us who work with animal rescue don’t need to be told how atrociously inadequate the animal cruelty laws are. The last thing we need is a bill that repeals more of them. Many of the laws still favor the alleged abuser, and do little to protect the hundreds of thousands of animals which are abused every day. Not all of the cases are the “Michael Vick” variety that appear on the 6 o’clock news, but they are still abuse.
    People like Payne-Cyhanick who choose to push the legal envelope in the name of profit need to be held accountable. You might think I’m being hard on her, and that selling puppies prematurely and owning too many dogs aren’t very serious crimes. But consider this: Statistically speaking, puppies removed from their litter too early are far more likely to end up in shelters because they were deprived of the vital social development they need to become well-behaved adults; And puppies bred in puppy mills like the one Payne-Cyhanick runs are far more prone to health problems.
    We need laws in place to give animal control officials some authority to police irresponsible breeders, owners, and pet retailers. As for me, I’m glad to see that this bill has been shelved. It should be discarded all together.

  10. Anonymous

    January 31, 2011 at 6:55 am

    This bill was evidently about “people abuse”. It appears that withing the vegan animal rights movement people can drop off the earth as long as animal are saved, unfortunately under bills like these many more animals die. Was it not PETA said, better dead than fed. The animal rights movement has really done a good job of making anyone involved in the animal industry from farmers to pet owners, “murders”, everyone who breeds a dog is a “puppy mill”, “abuse lists,” “because people who are charged with abuse may go on to kill a person” – Not since Hitler enforced the animal rights laws in 1933 when we saw people arrested for practicing a religious freedom of animal slaughter. Now it seems that those who raise meat to feed the USA are called “murders of millions of animals, eating meat itself is “murder”. Animal welfare is one thing and animal rights is something entirely different, Animal rights is a vegan social movement who believe in no use for animals for anything even life saving medical research built on moral thinking and moral laws. Animal welfarest believe in good care for animals but they can be “used”, as the animal rights term, for food, and pleasure and lifesaving research but do believe in the good care of the animals but knowing a for instance a dog will get muddy or get a few fleas is a dog acting naturally and not abuse. The animal rights social movement seems to be about no one owning an animal for anything ever by gloom and doom, threatening, and emotion or moral values and not science. Ask how many people have had death threats via internet or phone threats from the animal rights activist. Ask how many people have had their homes raided animals taken and coerced to sign over, and no charges ever brought. Seem like this is a license to steal, doesn’t it? Not many people can afford twenty thousand to over one hundred thousand dollars to get their animals back. Seems confiscated animals are resold or killed. There are now only a few hundred of some breeds of purebred dogs which are AKC registered, so what will happen in the future? Maybe have a look at ALF, Negoation is Over, and learn the words abolition, how dog ownership is “slavery”, vivisection if you want to understand the social movement built on morals of a group of 10 percent of the population. Not everyone has to own a dog but a mistake was made when it is clear that the vegan animal rights social movement wants to take food out of the mouths of every citizen -eventually. What is needed is our government officials to realize what HSUS and PETA and other animal extremist are really about. Not making this up folks, just read one of many books on the animal rights movement.

  11. Anonymous

    January 31, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    You can see the seething hatred and twisted paranoia in posts like IFarm. His venomous rant betrays the truth about those who selfishly see things in his cruel way.

    They crave the freedom to hurt animals. Animals are not living things to them – just property.

    Let’s take a stand for these fellow living things, since they cannot, and since we as humans must take the lead in doing so. Pass strong animal-protection laws to help animals survive and thrive amidst hateful predators such as IFarm.

  12. Anonymous

    January 31, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    No laws are perfect and neither is the judicial system. That is because there are gray areas that are left up to interpretation, WHEN necessary. Its a trade off. It may appear that some people have been unnecessarily harassed due to the existing laws. That IS unfortunate but the laws DO protect the majority of animals that suffer genuine neglect or abuse. Harassment is uncomfortable but neglect and abuse are criminal. Point made.

  13. Anonymous

    February 1, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Right on. I firmly believe that God put animals on this earth for their use and not abuse.[quote name="IFarm Clearly Sicko"]You can see the seething hatred and twisted paranoia in posts like IFarm. His venomous rant betrays the truth about those who selfishly see things in his cruel way.

    They crave the freedom to hurt animals. Animals are not living things to them – just property.

    Let’s take a stand for these fellow living things, since they cannot, and since we as humans must take the lead in doing so. Pass strong animal-protection laws to help animals survive and thrive amidst hateful predators such as IFarm.[/quote]

  14. Anonymous

    February 3, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    ‘Indefense’ said:
    No laws are perfect and neither is the judicial system. That is because there are gray areas that are left up to interpretation, WHEN necessary. Its a trade off. It may appear that some people have been unnecessarily harassed due to the existing laws. That IS unfortunate but the laws DO protect the majority of animals that suffer genuine neglect or abuse. Harassment is uncomfortable but neglect and abuse are criminal.

    This is good thinking but misses a key point: Animal laws must leave much more to judgment than (say) traffic laws do.
    I tried to illustrate that with the parable. I’m sure everyone thought it would be stupid to have a law saying “Don’t drive too fast or too slow” but our animal laws really DO require “adequate food” and a whole lot more things where some human will have to say what’s okay.

    So what happens if animal laws ALSO make it nearly impossible to defend yourself in a courtroom when a humane investigator who doesn’t think anyone should breed dogs just makes stuff up (busts out a headlight …) to charge you with serious offenses? The judgment calls in animal laws are unavoidable but basic protections in enforcement procedure are VERY important in the resulting situations.

    Virginia has a serious problem in this area. The parable could actually happen to any animal owner in our state and unless she was rich, there wouldn’t be a thing she could do about it.

    HB 2482 was a first effort to rebalance things to make it harder to convict people who really did nothing wrong or at least nothing that hurt an animal.

  15. Anonymous

    February 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    To you animal rights nuts; First of all animals have four legs if you didn’t know. The protection of animals can mean many different things. Animals and fowl are property and it’s not your right to intervene on someone’s liberties, that’s what the law and code enforcement is for. The reason that 98% of animal rights groups exist is because jobs and money. The math is this we have over 800 animal groups that say they protect animals but the motive for all of this is mnoey and power. These bills like hb1541 and sb 1026 will close the loop holds on HSUS and others, and that’s why they are so upset. Thank you law makers.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login