As visions of sugarplums are dancing in some heads this season, Humane Dominion is hard at work getting ready for our 2021 Virginia legislative session. Our Legislative Leaders program, under the direction of Molly Armus, is now 20-plus members strong.
They’ve been working with our board to learn the priority issues, set up (virtual) meetings with legislators and reach out to other advocates in their districts to build up our advocacy team. We’ve got leaders from Arlington to Wise County and we’re always looking for more! Please contact [email protected] if interested. The animals need your voice!
We’re also drafting factsheets and seeking co-patrons for a number of animal welfare bills. This session will be a challenge for attention for all stakeholders because, due to the constraints of the pandemic, the legislature has placed strict restrictions on the number of bills they will hear. In the past, some legislators have filed over 60 bills. Now they are now on a diet of just 7 bills for each House Member and 15 for Senators. This means that lower priority legislative initiatives (and animals are always a lower priority) will have a tougher time moving through the process. But we will not be deterred!
We’re working as part of a coalition of animal protection organizations on bills to:
1. Allow animal shelters a greater role in Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).
Currently, Virginia state code limits the role public animal shelters may play in TNR, a humane, population management program for unowned outdoor cats. The changes proposed will give public animal shelters the option to engage in and have oversight of TNR programs more fully.
2. Protect dogs and cats in pet stores.
Animal shelters and rescue personnel are required to obtain certifications attesting that they have not been convicted of animal cruelty, neglect or abandonment. Pet stores are not required to obtain this same certification. We propose that pet stores are required to obtain these certifications as well.
3. Give animal welfare experts a stronger voice in the regulatory process.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is charged, in part, with oversight of animals and our animal shelters. The advisory board does not have a designated space for a companion animal welfare expert. We propose mandating one position go to a companion animal welfare professional.
4. Strengthen the law against sexual abuse of an animal.
Current Virginia law only prohibits sexual intercourse with an animal. We propose strengthening the law to prohibit any sexual contact with an animal and to prohibit buying or selling animals for this purpose, among other changes.
5. Make rescuing animals during a state of emergency more efficient.
Current Virginia law requires animal shelters and rescues, to obtain a certificate of veterinary inspection to import animals into Virginia. We propose clarifying the law so that this requirement can be waived during a state of emergency to expedite the rescue of animals.
6. Eliminate cosmetics testing on animals.
Testing cosmetics on animals is both unnecessary and cruel. We propose prohibiting Virginia corporations from testing cosmetic products on animals.
I’m grateful for the support and advocacy of each of you this past year. As you make your New Year’s resolutions, please consider committing to a few hours or days of advocacy for animals during 2021, and, if you can, consider becoming a monthly sustainer to help us grow. Just $10 a month will make a huge difference.
My best wishes for a lovely holiday season for all, with visons of sugarplums for each of you and your four-legged family members.