Animal Advocate Bills Move To Rhode Island Governor

Legislation will authorize vets to enter premises or grounds if they suspect animal cruelty.

Companion legislation in Rhode Island that would allow representatives of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to act in court as animal advocates in cruelty and neglect cases has passed both houses of the Rhode Island legislature and awaits action by Governor Lincoln Chafee.

The Washington, D.C.-based Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council alerted the industry of the pending legislation today, noting its opposition to “the establishment of a non-governmental third party to serve as a legal advocate for ‘custodial’ rights for animals. Legal designation of an entity for assuring proper care and disposition of animals should rest with an appropriate governmental agency for which proper accountability and oversight exists.”

The legislation would also allow the state’s Department of Environmental Management’s director to appoint one or more veterinarians employed by the department to serve as an animal advocate in cases in which “the custody or well-being of an animal is at issue.”

The legislation also ensures that a licensed veterinarian from the Department of Environmental Management is “made available to the Rhode Island society for the prevention of cruelty to animals at the request of the state police for the purpose of examining any animal which those agents believe to have been involved in animal fighting.”

The legislation also authorizes department veterinarians to enter premises or grounds, with search warrant as required, if they suspect animal cruelty.

The legislation, HB 7139 and SB 2034, exempts animal care facilities licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or holding a public health service assurance of compliance.

PIJAC encourages those concerned with “inappropriate legal authority in the hands of nongovernmental entities serving as legal ‘guardians’ of animals” to contact the Rhode Island governor’s office in opposition to the bill and request that the governor veto legislation that grants “such excessive authority.”

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