Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/03/1998 03:40 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 284 - CRUELTY TO ANIMALS SENATOR DAVE DONLEY, sponsor of SB 284, came forward to present his bill. SENATOR WARD moved the adoption of a committee substitute for SB 284. Without objection, it was so ordered. SENATOR DAVE DONLEY explained the bill makes it easier to prosecute existing crimes of cruelty to animals. SENATOR DONLEY said SB 284 does not criminalize anything new but only simplifies the prosecution of existing crimes by changing the standards of proof required in such cases. He indicated that the bill changes "intentionally" to "knowingly", as well as requiring only "severe" or "prolonged suffering" of an animal, and not both. SENATOR DONLEY said also "reckless neglect" is changed to "criminal negligence," but stressed that the bill will not result in more prosecutions, only an increased ability for prosecutors to obtain convictions for existing crimes. SENATOR DONLEY also said the bill alleviates concerns that the bill would criminalize additional procedures by clearly stating that accepted veterinary and animal husbandry practices are legal. SENATOR MACKIE asked if this bill would affect an Iditarod musher in the case of a dog's death and SENATOR DONLEY repeated that nothing currently legal would become illegal under this bill, SB 284 only regards the standard of proof used for prosecution. SENATOR DONLEY did acknowledge a letter of support from a mushing organization for the bill. SENATOR MACKIE said his concern was that knowingly is a much lower standard than intentionally. SENATOR DONLEY said he is not aware of any Alaskan musher who has been prosecuted under the existing law and again repeated that no one who was not prosecuted under the existing law would be prosecuted under this new law. CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there is currently an exemption for mushing and if SENATOR DONLEY believed it would be appropriate to include one in this bill. SENATOR DONLEY said he would have no objection to such an exemption and believes there are strict standards within the sporting community itself. CHAIRMAN GREEN suggested inserting the word "mushing" after the word hunting in the list of activities in the bill. SENATOR MACKIE asked why the last version dropped the term ranching and CHAIRMAN GREEN replied that the words animal husbandry had been substituted and because it is an equivalent, more easily defined phrase. SENATOR DONLEY agreed. MR. HERB SIMON, a farm owner and operator from Nalchina and president of the Alaska Livestock Producers Co-op, testified that he has a copy of the committee substitute and sees no problem with it. MR. BOB FRANKLIN, president of the Alaska Farm Bureau, also has no problem with the recent changes and believes the farm community generally supports the bill. MR. BILL GODEK, representing Kenai animal control, said this is a good, streamlined bill and thinks the language will really help juries. He indicated that his support also for the language changes and the inclusion of mushing. MR. HARVEY BASKIN testified via teleconference from Mat-Su. MR. BASKIN said he likes the intent as well as the bill itself. He asked, in case an abuse is alleged, who would be the person to investigate. MS. ANNE CARPENETI, representing the Department of Law, assumed it would be someone from the community such as an animal control officer or a state trooper. SENATOR MACKIE said he believed the concern was that animal rights' groups would be investigating, but stated this would not be the case. CHAIRMAN GREEN added that different communities would have different responses. MR. BASKIN said regardless of who the investigator is, they need to have some expertise since someone's freedom may be on the line. MR. BERT GORE, a veterinarian, testified via teleconference from Mat-Su. MR. GORE voiced some concerns he had heard from the farms he works with. He believed that some of the daily operations of dairies can be seen from the road system and might be construed as cruelty. MR. GORE said farmers were concerned that a complaint might be investigated by an animal rights group unfamiliar with routine farm practices. He also commented that the troopers do not have an adequate farm background. Since they would conduct investigations in unorganized boroughs, he has generally been called upon to provide expert testimony. He suggested including a provision in the bill about who will conduct these investigations in the unorganized areas in the state. MR. HARVEY BASKIN repeated his support for the bill and the new language in it. DR. GORE agreed. SENATOR DONLEY asked MS. CARPENETI for her opinion on the change in language and she replied that the Department supports the change in paragraph A regarding the culpable mental state. SENATOR WARD asked if the old Dutch pig farm, where the pigs never actually touched the ground, would be considered cruelty to animals. SENATOR DONLEY replied that would be considered an animal husbandry practice. CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there was any way they could address HARVEY BASKIN's concern and SENATOR DONLEY said the existing law is the same and currently the troopers rely on expert testimony from MR. GORE and he feels this is appropriate. MR. GORE explained that in his investigations in unorganized boroughs, he writes up the deficiencies he finds in a facility, along with a correction plan and does a follow up to check progress on the corrections before negligence charges are filed. He said it is a long process that would be better expedited. MR. HERB SIMON expressed that his interpretation of the committee substitute implies that no one less than a veterinarian would be qualified to determine if a condition met the standards set out in the bill. CHAIRMAN GREEN reminded him that the bill read veterinary or animal husbandry practices. MR. SIMON argued that a veterinarian would be the expert and the troopers would not. SENATOR MACKIE said this issue can't be legislated. He said it is incumbent upon law enforcement to provide expert testimony when necessary and as currently happens in the investigation of all types of crimes. CHAIRMAN GREEN thinks the concern is that farmers might be under unnecessary review and she would want to fix that if appropriate. SENATOR DONLEY agreed with SENATOR MACKIE that the troopers will seek expertise in areas when it is necessary. CHAIRMAN GREEN asked again about including mushing on page 2 of the bill. MR. GORE clarified that animal control officers perform investigations in the organized boroughs within the state. CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if he thought the bill allows for better evaluation and resolution and MR. GORE replied that the new terms will make it easier for those who investigate allegations. CHAIRMAN GREEN then asked if the bill provides enough protection for ranchers and MR. GORE replied he did. MR. HARVEY BASKIN commented that good animal husbandry is defined in textbooks and he did not see the necessity for a veterinary opinion in most cases. SENATOR MACKIE moved the inclusion of: ", mushing, " on page 2, line 1. SENATOR DUNCAN objected to say, according to the letter submitted by the organization Mush With Pride, no specific exemption is required in the bill. SENATOR DUNCAN also believed that mushing is already protected. SENATOR MACKIE withdrew his amandment. SENATOR MACKIE then moved SB 284 out of committee with individual recommendaitons. Without objection, it was so ordered.