Spring 2013 Magazine



Animal Legislation in the 51st New Mexico Legislature

By Laura Bonar, RN

The New Mexico legislature adjourned from its 60-day policy session on March 16th, 2013, with a notable handful of laws to help animals in the mix of 350 measures that passed this session. (See www.apvnm.org/state.php for Animal Protection Voters' (APV) complete listing of what happened to the other animal-related bills.)

Governor Susana Martinez signed two bills to protect police dogs. The bill sponsored by Senator Howie Morales (D-Silver City), Senate Bill 141, to allow for the purchase of protective vests for police dogs became law as did Senator Mark Moores' (R-Albuquerque) bill to allow for an easier retirement for "state-owned canines," Senate Bill 139.

Two Animal Protection Voters (APV) priority bills made it through the process and received the Governor's signature before the April 5th veto deadline.

Senate Bill 163, sponsored by Senator Carlos Cisneros (D-Questa), extends the work of the Animal Sheltering Board, which regulates humane euthanasia in animal shelters and provides shelter standards and statewide spay-neuter planning.

Senate Bill 274 also became law. It will help fund licensed horse rescues through the creation of an income tax check off (look for this check off on your state taxes next year). The bill was sponsored by Senator George Muņoz (D-Gallup) and supported by the New Mexico Equine Rescue Alliance and the New Mexico Livestock Board. Currently, equine shelters provide support and assistance to suffering equines and law enforcement agencies all over the state but receive no public funds.

Representatives from The Horse Shelter and Four Corners Equine Rescue provided excellent support testimony during committee hearings and other equine shelters sent letters and made visits to legislators in support of the measure. A similar measure in Colorado raises about $100,000/year to help horse shelters in that state, New Mexico's fund is estimated to raise $30,000 annually without any increase in taxes.

What about the other bills to help animals?

The remaining APV priority bills to fix New Mexico's animal cruelty law (House Bill 224/Senate Bill 83), to ban coyote killing contests (House Bill 316), and to restrict the use of cruel and ineffective traps and poisons (House Bill 579), did not pass this session.

Ban BSL in New Mexico, which saw significant progress to end discriminatory and dangerous breed specific local ordinances, (House Bill 63), unfortunately ran out of time in the Senate after passing the House.

Thanks to steadfast commitment from sponsors and ongoing public outcry, it is likely that these bills will be brought forward again. Worthwhile bills often are heard in multiple legislative sessions before passing into law, and votes that were taken on these measures show where more educational and organizing work is needed.

In addition to passionate and informed testimony from district attorneys, veterinarians, animal shelter representatives, animal rescuers, and leaders from the domestic violence prevention community, it was encouraging that individual ranchers, farmers, and sportsmen, scientists and professionals, parents and community members took time out of their schedules to testify in support of legislation to help animals. This dedicated work is invaluable in advancing dialogue and changing hearts and minds about the value of protecting animals.

"Who would oppose this?!"

This is a question we hear a lot when talking with the general public about proposed legislation to help animals. There are many who come to the Capitol to oppose even modest changes to benefit animals. For bills that seek to alter entrenched systems that promote harm for animals, the resistance to change is even fiercer.

Those most outspoken against protections for animals were individuals representing livestock organizations, guides and outfitters, some sportsmen, a wildlife federation, an animal interest alliance, a kennel club, and the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish. These groups were active with respect to House Bill 316 (banning coyote killing contests) and House Bill 579 (restricting traps and poisons).

Things we all can do to help change the laws that change animals' lives are to engage more citizens, be more involved in elections, and bring home to legislators the realties of animal suffering and the link between senseless suffering and violence in our community.

Some changes can't be ignored

This session also showed an increasing polarization within party politics on several issues. Though party line votes on animal issues are rare, a hyper-partisan atmosphere adds to the difficulty in having conversation with legislators about the realities of what a bill does or does not do. People of all political stripes care about animals and elected leaders who value the input of their constituents know that the animals deserve undivided support.

Volunteer base

Over seventy-five volunteers from all over New Mexico gave selflessly of their time and energies during this legislative session and over 150 dedicated people attended Animal Lobby Day!

Thank you to those of you who made multiple trips to the Capitol, made phone calls to constituents (over 9700 phone contacts were made during the session),shared information via email or social media, researched existing laws and compiled information to share with others.

The state legislature belongs to all New Mexicans, including the majority who care about protecting animals.

It is our urgent task to reclaim this power and to keep pressing for a safe and just community. Stay involved the rest of this year, next election cycle, and in all the sessions to come (find specific ideas at www.apvnm.org)

The animals are worth it!

RELATED LINKS:

Strengthen laws for animals in state - op-ed in Albuquerque Journal

Our View: Animal cruelty laws should be strengthened - editorial from Las Cruces Sun-News

60 days of politics - NM Capitol Report

Wild Kingdom: Legislature tackling a gaggle of animal bills - Capitol Report New Mexico

Conflicts of interest run rampant in state legislatures - L.A. Daily News


Laura Bonar, RN, is Program Director for Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection Voters.

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