Oregon legislators recently approved a host of bills backed by OHS that will strengthen the state’s efforts to fight animal cruelty. The bills, which are now awaiting the Governor’s signature, would increase penalties for animal cruelty, crack down on cockfighting, streamline the process of forfeiting pets who have been victims of cruelty, and give “Good Samaritan” protections to individuals who rescue animals left unattended in vehicles.
“The passage of these measures sends a strong signal that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in Oregon,” said OHS President and CEO Sharon Harmon. “The police and the courts will have stronger tools than ever to protect those least able to protect themselves.”
OHS worked hard for the passage of the four bills, particularly HB 3283, which increases the length of time a person convicted of felony animal neglect is barred from possessing an animal of the same type that was neglected. The current restriction is five years; the new measure extends the prohibition to 15 years. “Five years does not seem long enough in cases when a felony is committed. These crimes involve the serious injury or death of an animal,” said Harmon. Although the bill is still in process, it has been passed by both the House and Senate.
Getting Pets Out of Legal Limbo
HB 2625, also approved by the Oregon House and Senate, helps resolve situations, often involving large rescues, when animal victims are stuck in legal limbo. In a case where 100 or more animals are seized, for example, prosecutors may choose to only file charges related to a dozen animals. The animals not listed in the court indictment fall into a gray area. The new law would remedy this by allowing counties and animal agencies to file forfeiture petitions for all animals seized, not just those listed in the charging documents. Courts could then order forfeiture of these animals based on evidence of cruelty and if the defendant is unable to post a bond to care for the animals during the court proceedings.
In cockfighting cases, HB 3177 would strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to put illegal operations out of business. Currently, someone convicted of cockfighting must forfeit their fighting birds. The new bill would expand forfeiture to include “source birds,” meaning hens and chicks that would be used to produce the next generation of fighting birds
HB 2732, also backed by OHS, would expand protections for children and animals trapped in parked vehicles and at risk of heat-related health issues. Oregon gave law enforcement officers the power to rescue at-risk pets locked in hot cars, and the new bill helps empower public citizens to do the same.
“We should be doing everything we can to protect our most vulnerable, and that includes animals and children,” said Sen. James Manning (D-Eugene), who sponsored the bill in the Senate. “I don’t care if somebody has to rip the door off a car if that’s the only way they can rescue a child or animal from potentially deadly harm.”
Under the new law, members of the public would not be liable for damages resulting from entering a vehicle if they believed that an animal or child was in imminent danger of suffering serious harm.
All of the bills have been passed by the House and Senate and are expected to be signed into law by the Governor.