November was maybe the busiest and most significant month thus far for animal policy in the Michigan Legislature. A significant win at the federal level was the passage of H.R.724, The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act which became law on November 25th. This bill has been consistently pushed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Humane Society of the United States, and a number of other animal welfare groups for several years. It makes a specific form of animal cruelty a federal crime and extends the ability of the federal government to become involved in animal welfare cases. Historically, state and federal laws have been slow criminalize animal abuse or neglect and the PACT act is another step forward in this fight.
Significant Previous Bill Updates
In Michigan’s Legislature, unfortunately, HR 6487, which would reverse a ban on deer baiting put in place by Michigan’s DNR, has been passed by both the House and the Senate. As previously discussed, this bill restricts the ability of the DNR to control the spread of both bovine tuberculosis and cervid chronic wasting disease, both of which can be spread by nose to nose contact of deer that occurs at baiting sites. Fortunately, it has sat on the Governor’s desk for some time now and there is talk that it likely will be vetoed in its current form.
A significant win for veterinary medicine has been a change in language to SB 429 which would have required veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse or neglect or face a misdemeanor penalty. Issues arising from this bill were discussed previously. Importantly, language stating veterinarians “shall” report has now been changed to “may” report suspected animal abuse or neglect. Additionally, all language of a misdemeanor penalty has been removed. These changes remove all teeth from this bill and for all intents and purposes would not alter current law in any way.
SB 174 an amendment to the Animal Industry Act which has been working its way through the legislature over the past two years has finally passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law on November 21st after egg producers in Michgain and animal rights groups were able to come to a compromise. This bill will clarify regulations within the Animal Industry Act as well as ban caged laying hens in the State and require that all eggs imported for sale come from cage-free sites in other states. This likely will not have too significant of an impact on the laying industry of Michigan as most major laying operations have already begun to shift their production to cage-free.
New Bills Introduced in November
HB 5239 introduced by Representative and veterinarian Hank Vaupel, would create a Michigan Equine Promotion board. Essentially, this act would create a checkoff program for the Michigan equine industry somewhat similar to checkoff programs for livestock species. In other species, a portion of the sale of crops, livestock, or other agricultural products are directed to a federal program. This program can use these funds for marketing (think the “Got Milk” campaign), research, or other specific purposes. An example of this fee would be the dollar that is transferred to the Beef Checkoff program every time a beef animal is sold.
The checkoff program for the Michigan Equine Promotion program is designed somewhat differently. In this program, funds will be drawn from $5.00 per ton of horse feed sold and $3.00 from each test for equine infectious anemia, colloquially known as a Coggins Test. Of issue, it is the responsibility of the veterinarian to charge this $3 and pay the state. This directly increases the prices veterinarians have to charge, potentially reducing vaccination across the state, and creates more work for veterinarians with essentially no return value. There is a small amount of reimbursement that veterinarians can request for their time, but this is unlikely to make up for time spent. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture.
HB 5203 introduced by Angela Witwer would create a state small farm coordinator. Although livestock are not specifically listed within the bill, such an office would make more resources available to those starting and operating hobby farms. This may increase livestock ownership in Michigan. HB 5203 has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture.
Updates on bills included in the October Update
HB 5085 allowing veterinarians to speak with clients about the use of CBD in pets has not moved; however, there is hope that this bill will find traction in late 2019/early 2020.
HB 5125 regulating the aerial spraying of pesticides has not moved.
HB 4910 defining an Emotional Support Animal and reducing falsification of such animals has not moved. A bill summary states that this bill should have no fiscal impact on state or local governments.
HB 4496 regarding the adoption of dogs used for research purposes has not moved but has moved from the Committee on Regulatory Reform to the Committee on Agriculture.
HB 4941 which alters how long an animal is held during a criminal trial has not moved.
HB 4931 making a dog sitting on a driver’s lap while driving a misdemeanor has not moved.
HB 4860 expanding the authority of the Large Carnivore Act has not moved.
HB 4833 regulating the transport of deer both inter- and intra-state has not moved.
SB 429 which would require reporting of suspected animal abuse by veterinarians was discussed above.
SB 352 mandating reporting of animal abuse or neglect by child protective services employees, and SB 353 which would make false reporting by such employees a felony have not moved. The aforementioned analysis of this bill(352) states that it also would have a negative fiscal impact for the same reasons as SB 429. Additionally, it lists that the Department of Health and Human Services may also incur increased costs due to the necessary training of employees to spot animal abuse and neglect.
SB 419 requiring state registration of animal rescues has not moved; an analysis of this bill has been released. Significant discussions have also been made between the bill’s sponsor and rescue groups making it likely that any future discussed bill will be edited from its original form.
HB 4687 and SB 37 allowing for deer baiting have passed both the Hosue and Senate and were discussed above.
SB 174, an amendment of the Animal Industry Act, has become law as discussed above.
SB 316 regarding animals for fighting has been moved out of committee but not yet taken under consideration by the Senate. A bill analysis states that this bill would have a negative fiscal impact due to increased resource demands on law enforcement.
HB 4592 which would allow animal advocates in court has not moved.
HB 4593 regarding canine vocalization has not moved.
HB 4594 regarding the ownership of non-human primates has not moved.
HB 4595 regarding carrier pigeon regulations has not moved.
HB 4596 regarding community cat programs has not moved.
HB 4610 regarding community vaccination has not moved.
House Bills 4659, 4603, 4604, 4606, 4607, 4608, and 4609 have not moved. Of note, a bill was passed in New York with similar language as that of HB 4659, requiring information about Lyme Disease to be posted in state parks. Additionally, a fiscal analysis is now included with this set of bills.
HB 4092 regarding leaving pets in cars has not moved.
SB 63 regarding income tax deductions for service animals.
HB 4035 regarding the prohibition of breed-specific legislation has not moved.
HB 4217, SB 254, SB 248 have all been amended, however, the veterinary exemption has remained intact in all forms. Senate bills have been referred to the Committee of the Whole as HB 4217 has been referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
HB 4455 designating the shelter pet as the state pet has not moved.