We are thrilled to report that the tumultuous lame duck period at the end the 2017-18 legislative session has brought some tremendous victories for Michigan’s companion animals.
SB 416 – Passed and signed by Governor Snyder
MHS has been working for years to update Michigan’s animal fighting law. While progressive in many ways, there were two troubling deficiencies in the existing animal fighting law. First, it required that any animals known to have been bred or used for fighting and their offspring be euthanized. Often, the animals were required to be held as evidence for months or even years before ultimately being euthanized. This was due to the law’s second significant deficiency, its lack of an effective provision to place responsibility on the owner to either pay for the costs of the animals’ care or surrender them to the agency that seized them.
To correct these problems with the law, MHS drafted SB 416. The bill amends MCL § 750.49 to allow the possible adoption of alleged former fighting animals and their progeny if certain conditions are met. The proposed changes to MCL § 750.49 (g) (i) and (ii) would protect the public by requiring that the animals be deemed fit for adoption and requiring that certain information be provided to adopters while giving the individual animals the benefit of an evaluation before a disposition determination is made. The bill also includes an improved forfeiture/bond process regarding animals seized in connection with alleged animal fighting. The proposed revisions to the forfeiture/bond process would prevent animals from being held for the duration of the criminal proceeding unless the animal’s owner posts a cost-of-care bond.
MHS is deeply grateful to the bill sponsor, Sen. Tory Rocca, and all the Senators and Representatives who voted in support of the bill, which passed almost unanimously. The bill was enacted on December 28, 2018 and becomes law 90 days after that date. Read the full text of SB 416.
HB 5916 and HB 5917 – Vetoed by Governor Snyder
The Michigan Humane Society (MHS) strongly opposed HB 5916 and HB 5917 and has fought them with your help since their introduction in May 2018. These bills would have prevented local government from regulating pet stores and would have imposed rules that would apply to all Michigan pet shops regarding the sale of puppies from wholesale commercial breeding operations (puppy mills). Unfortunately, those rules would have relied on the USDA licensure and regulation process, which is very lax. In the absence of effective federal oversight, we believe it is best for local government to be able to regulate pet shops and stop the sale of puppies from wholesalers. Puppy mill puppies often suffer from illnesses, parasites, and behavioral and genetic problems, and they are sold to unsuspecting members of the public through pet shops. Some of these diseases can be – and have been – transmitted to humans.
Unfortunately, these bills passed both the House and the Senate and were sent to the Governor. MHS wrote a letter to the Governor explaining our opposition to the bills and asking him to veto them, as did many other animal welfare organizations and advocates. We are thrilled to report that the Governor vetoed the bills, citing the need for local control on this issue. Read Governor Snyder’s letter on his veto decision of HB 5916 and HB 5917.
HB 4332 and HB 4333 – Passed and signed by Governor Snyder
MHS is grateful to Rep. Tommy Brann for taking up what became HB 4332 and HB 4333 in this legislative session. These bills, which were drafted several years ago by a prosecutor when he was a member of the Animal Protection Unit in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, have been pending in the last few legislative sessions. These bills make important changes to Michigan’s animal anticruelty and neglect laws.
HB 4332 explicitly extends MCL § 750.50 (prohibiting animal neglect) and MCL § 750.50b (prohibiting animal cruelty) to breeders and pet shop operators; enhances graduated penalties under those statutes based on the number of animals abused or neglected and/or the number of the defendant’s prior convictions; creates a felony penalty for breeders and/or pet shop operators with five or more prior convictions under these statutes; empowers the court to include at least five years of prohibition of animal ownership as part of a sentence for a conviction involving 25 or more animals or three or more prior convictions; establishes first, second, and third degrees of killing and torture of an animal under MCL § 750.50b; and increases the maximum penalties for first- and second- degree offenses.
HB 4333 revises the Code of Criminal Procedure regarding sentencing guidelines for animal neglect or cruelty and regarding the scoring requirements for several offense variables, which will provide for potentially increased sentences.
A Victory for Animals in Michigan
As the process with these bills demonstrates, legislative advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. Perseverance is one of the keys to success. Equally important is the support we receive from all of you who are willing to call their elected officials and urge them to enact legislation that makes Michigan a better place for people and animals and to oppose legislation that does not improve animal welfare. You are the animals’ voice, and we are grateful to all of you! We can all celebrate these tremendous legislative improvements for animals.
If you are interested in receiving updates and calls to action regarding our legislative activities, join our Legislation Action Network!
Photo credit: Pixabay