Stay on Track with Laws/Legislation
When NAVS first launched the website AnimalLaw.com in 2001 as a project of the International Institute for Animal Law, the sheer volume of legislation introduced was a source of revelation as the small staff of lawyers, law students and a paralegal sorted through and posted thousands of bills on the website. Today, later the website has grown into a comprehensive resource for laws, legislation, case law, model laws and news updates on legal matters.
Every year thousands of bills are introduced in the 50 states and by the federal government dealing with animal issues. Our legislative search service identified 2,655 bills relating to animal issues during the first quarter of 2009, with 1,067 of those bills directly relevant to animal law issues. The number of bills concerning animals overwhelmingly address companion animal issues (430), specifically those involving animal cruelty and animal control. Wildlife and hunting were the next highest volume of legislation (289 and 248, respectively), dealing with licensing of hunters and amending lists of animals protected—and no longer protected—for purposes of hunting and trapping.
Even in the category of animals used in research, an area not subject to many legislative efforts, 15 new bills were introduced during the first two months of this year, including proposals to end the use of animals to test cosmetics, and of course the introduction of the federal Great Ape Protection Act, which would end the use of great apes for invasive research.
One of the effects of sorting through thousands of bills is that trends emerge even beyond the general categories of interest. This year there have been some “hot” topics in state legislation, including puppy mills, humane euthanasia, horse slaughter, and protective orders for companion animals. We have seen bills introduced to limit the ownership of exotic pets and to promote more humane methods of farming, generally impacting on living conditions for laying hens, calves raised for veal and pigs raised in confinement farming facilities (factory farms).
Many times these trends follow stories in the news: last year—and this—a spate of dog fighting laws were introduced increasing penalties for those convicted of fighting dogs—or organizing or watching dog fights. This followed directly after charges were filed against football player Michael Vick for running a dog fighting ring out of his Bad Newz Kennels. The attack of a “pet” chimpanzee on a friend of its owner resulted in renewed interest in restricting the ownership of exotic animals, as did the release of dangerous animals kept by an individual in Ohio before he committed suicide. The crash of a jet due to geese flying into the airplane’s engines meant the introduction of a few bills that would allow airports to take stronger measures to prevent birds from nesting near their runways.
Many of these measures have the attention of the legislators only as long as they are in the public eye. A federal bill introduced to require oversight of pet food ingredients failed to carry the momentum once the reported deaths of cats and dogs from contaminated food were no longer reported in news media. It is our job, as advocates, to keep the public—and legislatures—focused on the importance of passing good laws that make sense for our complex and changing society, even after the crisis has passed.
Other features of AnimalLaw.com, such as model laws and case law, are constantly being updated—although not until after the first quarter frenzy of legislation has passed! Model laws are added as new issues arise, when a request is made for a particular model law, or when a particular research assistant has a passion for a particular subject. Please don’t hesitate to ask if there is a particular law that you want to see passed—we will try to help if we can.
State and federal laws, the bedrock of AnimalLaw.com, have a different challenge. As legislative measures are passed they are of course reflected in the published law. But the true challenge is keeping up with changes by individual states in their own presentations, as they update their own databases or move to an altogether new system.
If you find links that don’t work, please let us know so that we can track down and repair broken or old links for the tens of thousands of statutory entries in AnimalLaw.com. Our users are our most reliable source for keeping information up to date.
Please visit us often—to check on legislation in your state, to review case law by topic, to find the language for a new bill you would like your own legislator to introduce. And don’t forget to check out the news section for weekly updates of what is happening around the world in the area of animal law.