Four bills to be presented to protect animals
Published 3:29 pm Friday, January 20, 2012
On Feb. 7, the Humane Federation is prepared to present four bills to state legislators in hopes to make some changes in Alabama.
Mindy Gilbert, vice president of the Humane Federation, a board member of the Animal Control Association and state director for the Humane Society of the United States presented the bills at the monthly Butler County Humane Society meeting.
The bills that will be presented include strengthening penalties for cock fighting, protecting spay neuter clinics, mandatory abuse reporting and bestiality.
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The cock fighting bill gains traction every year according to Gilbert and the Federation has been involved in a very lengthy, undercover investigation into several cockpits in Mobile and Chilton Counties.
“I’m talking about bricks and mortar facilities that have computerized scoreboards, computerized weigh ins and 1,000 people every other Saturday,” Gilbert said.
Cock fighting is already illegal in Alabama, but the penalty for someone fighting a bird is $50.
“The bill makes it a Class A misdemeanor with a $6,000 fine if you are fighting the birds, if you are a spectator, if you are promoting the event and it makes it a felony crime if you cause a minor child to attend,” Gilbert said.
In the process of the investigation, Gilbert said she was most surprised by the children present, handling birds and pit-side gambling.
“What I am now aware of is that there is a whole other generation of little Alabamians about to be grown up who have no regard for the law, who are desensitized to the suffering of animals, who thinks it’s OK to have fun and make money by causing animals to suffer,” Gilbert said.
The group that opposes the bill is the Alabama Game Foul Breeders Association and it is registered as a nonprofit. The amount of money transacted at the pits is larger than one thinks, Gilbert said.
“Let’s say it’s one of these deals where 1,000 people come,” Gilbert said. “You have to buy a membership card to this nonprofit association and you have to be sponsored by one of their board members so their name is on the membership card that is also one of the registering agents with the secretary of state.”
For those entering birds in a derby, the minimum is six birds at $400 each, Gilbert said.
“There are generally at least 100 entrants, which means 400 to 600 birds at each derby at $400 a piece and there’s a tremendous amount of side bidding that goes on. It is nothing for a derby winner on a Saturday afternoon to walk out with $50,000 and that doesn’t even to begin to cover all of the other money that is being made there.”
Gilbert said the Federation is working to shut down the nonprofit, because it is illegal for a nonprofit to be knowingly involved in criminal activity.
The second bill is to protect the four spay neuter clinics that exist in Alabama.
“This summer, the State Vet Board tried to close one of those clinics because of a paragraph in the Veterinary Practice Act,” Gilbert said. “It said that a veterinarian cannot work for someone who is not a veterinarian, and the exemptions to that are if you are working for a government agency, working for a research facility or if they are working for someone who owns all of the animals that they will be providing care to.”
The law states the veterinarians cannot work for a nonprofit organization, and the board did not renew the Irondale, Ala. lease for the clinic.
“We have drafted a bill that adds a fourth exemption and that is a licensed veterinarian can choose to work for a non-profit,” Gilbert said. “It is the same regulatory authority that initially permitted all of these clinics to operate,” Gilbert said. “It’s a different interpretation of the sitting board so rather be at the mercy of whomever that board is from year to year, we want to clear up the gray area.”
The third bill addresses that if officials find out that there is abuse occurring through one of his or her clients, it is mandatory the he or she report it.
“Professionals can be medical personnel, clergy, teachers, veterinarians, law enforcement officers, whatever relationship that they have with the client before them, if they become aware through that conveyance of information that animals may be getting abused that they are no obligated to report it within 24 hours to the appropriate agency,” Gilbert said.
The last bill to be passed will be in efforts to make bestiality a crime in Alabama.
“There was actually a high-profile case in Mobile County this year that has not come to trial yet,” Gilbert said. “While the evidence is overwhelming, the perpetrator can really only be charged with criminal trespass because bestiality is not a law. In this particular assault, a miniature pony died and another one suffered some rather serious injuries.”
The Federation is attempting to make Alabama the 31st state to make it a crime.
“We have one of the shortest legislative sessions in the country,” Gilbert said. “It’s 30 calendar days. In 30 calendar days, our legislators evaluate between 1,200 and 1,600 bills to determine if they are going to pass. It’s very difficult to pass legislation because the whole idea of them evaluating 1,600 bills is not to pass 12 or 1,600 bills but to chuck out as many as they can.”
Gilbert asked community members to reach out to his or her legislators or contact her with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-471-5541
In Other Business:
*For the year, the total inflow was $39, 570.90 and the outflow totaled $43,202.24
*On the calendar the total entry fee was $1,343 and the sale of the calendars so far is $3,735 at the end of 2011.
*The Dogutante Ball will be March 3 at Cambrian Ridge
*The Humane Society received $3,500 donations from three different groups of people at the end of 2011.
* The BCHS has opened up a booth at the new Hidden Treasures Antiques & Flea Market in Greenville to raise money for its “Second Chance Rescue.” The booth is open to the public to bring items to be donated in boxes or bags marked “for Butler Co. Humane Society.” Items can include house wares, bric-brac, china, furniture, artwork, kitchen/dining items, linens, small appliances & electronics (working) and clothes: blue jeans only. Info: Kim Kent at 334-368-1535 or email@example.com