"Agricultural animal" or "livestock" means any domestic animal raised, herded, or farmed as an agricultural product or associated with agriculture, including equids, cows, calves, yearlings, bulls, oxen, sheep, goats, lambs, kids, hogs, pigs, poultry, gamefowl, fowl, hunting dogs, working dogs, and show dogs.
The Department occupies the entire field of regulation of the care, control, and handling of agricultural animals. No political subdivision, locality, or humane society shall regulate the care and handling of agricultural animals.
So, you ask, what does this mean?
First -- Hunting, working and show dogs would no longer have the protection afforded companion animals under the law. They basically would be treated like herd animals or animals that we eat (and let's face it, we all know the standard of care for those animals is not high).
Second -- This bill seeks to take away all authority from our local Animal Control Officers to investigate complaints regarding the care of these dogs and ALL agriculture animals in general. Right now -- it is our Animal Control Officers that are the ones helping these animals, often saving them from starvation and ensuring that they get adequate veterinary attention. They are the only ones on the front line doing this. What this bill seeks to do is to rip authority away from those officers -- leaving essentially no oversight at all. The "Department" is the "Department of Agriculture" which does not have the resources to enforce these regulations; thereby resulting in NO PROTECTION at all for these animals.
Remember the case just a couple of years ago in Orange County, Virginia -- After receiving complaints, local deputies and animal control officers investigated the care of some horses. What they found: 20 dead horses on the property and others "in dire need of assistance." Read news story here. In King and Queen County, VA, it was again local police and animal control officers that saved the lives of the horses at one property by confiscating 33 of them from a couple charged with 20 counts of animal cruelty -- Read this story.
What can you do?
Send an email today to the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee and tell them that you OPPOSE SB 610. Below is an example of a response:
Dear Members of the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources:
Please Oppose SB 610.
Hunting Dogs, Show Dogs and Working Dogs are NOT agricultural animals. It is not uncommon for some hunting dogs to be treated poorly by irresponsible owners. Legalizing irresponsible dog ownership is not the answer. Local governments (and local tax dollars) are already burdened with the care of these hunting dogs, as Virginia animal shelters are packed with hounds and hunting dogs. Additionally, these hunting dogs often come into the shelters emaciated, injured, neglected and inevitably are not reclaimed placing the cost of care for these dogs on the localities. Lowering the standard of care for these dogs is tantamount to legalizing animal neglect for hunting, show and working dogs which will only make this existing problem worse, place an unreasonable cost on local governments to care for these dogs, and further the high euthanasia rate for these dogs in our local shelters. We expect that as our State legislators, you should be trying to solve these problems not make these problems worse.
Taking authority from local governments to address issues of animal neglect and cruelty in their own backyard is just another step backwards. It is the local police and animal control officers that are in the best position to investigate and bring charges of cruelty and neglect. The Department does not have local resources to investigate local claims of failure to care for Agricultural animals. You should oppose this subtle attempt to essentially eliminate oversight for the care of Agricultural animals.
As a citizen of Virginia the care of animals in our Commonwealth is important to me, and I ask you to strongly Oppose SB610.
Over 30% of the Dogs at the SPCA are hound dogs.
Some are shut down and scared of people.
Others are in bad condition (examples below) when they enter the SPCA.
Take action today to help these sweet dogs.