Animal Legislation Preview
by Cynthia Armstrong, HSUS Senior Oklahoma Director
As the 2022 legislative session gets underway (February 7 through May 27, 2022), it is important to become familiar with state legislation that has been introduced that may have a positive or negative impact on animal welfare and the animal protection community. Highlighted below are a few of those bills that we consider priority issues deserving of your support and/or opposition along with other bills of interest. Hearing directly from constituents who live or do business in their legislative districts is the most effective way of sharing your support or opposition of any proposed legislation with your state representative or senator. If you are unsure who represents you at the Oklahoma State Capitol, you can find that information here: https://okpolicy.org/resources/find-your-legislator/. Below is a short summary of key bills that have been introduced for the 2022 legislation session along with a link to the actual language of the bill. Throughout the legislative process these bills may be amended, may move to the opposite house or fail to meet a legislative deadline, so it is important to stay current on the progress of the bill as it moves through the process, including how the bill may have changed. I’m happy to provide updates or additional information as needed throughout the session. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have further questions or concerns as the session unfolds.
HB3283 – Cockfighting
Sponsored by Justin Humphrey (R-Lane), this bill seeks to gut many of the core provisions of Oklahoma’s voter-approved cockfighting law. The bill redefines ‘cockfighting’ to only include fights where birds are fitted with artificial spurs, knives or gaffs and removes ‘training fights’ where birds are intended or encouraged to attack or fight with one another. This legislation also proposes to weaken the felony penalties of Oklahoma’s existing statute to misdemeanors for sections 1692.2 – instigating or encouraging cockfight, 1692.3 – keeping place, equipment or facilities for cockfighting (removes equipment), and 1692.4 – servicing or facilitating cockfight (removes advertising a cockfight). The legislation further sets a $500 fine for the first misdemeanor conviction, a $1,000 fine for a second conviction and a $2,000 fine for a third and subsequent conviction and removes any jail time whatsoever under these sections of law. Obviously the proposed amendments would greatly weaken the ability of law enforcement agencies to enforce Oklahoma’s cockfighting law and would remove the deterrent effect of a felony level penalty for many cockfighting activities. The misdemeanor penalties are nothing more than the equivalent of an expensive parking or traffic ticket and are so minimal that cockfighters would view the occasional arrest as a minor cost of doing business. As is widely acknowledged by law enforcement authorities across the nation, cockfighting is often associated with other criminal activities including illegal gambling and narcotics. Cockfighting is cruel and inhumane. Cockfighters breed birds for aggression, pump them full of stimulants, strap razor-sharp knives or icepick like gaffs to their legs and place them in a pit to hack each other to death – all for amusement and gambling.
HB3281 – EXEMPTING BULLHOOKS AS AN ACT OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS
Sponsored by Justin Humphry (R-Lane), this bill seeks to amend Oklahoma’s existing animal cruelty statute by specifically exempting cruel elephant handling tools, including the bullhook. This proposed legislation is a ‘special favor’ exemption that seeks to normalize the use of a ruthless and painful instrument used in circuses and roadside zoo operations that keep elephants. The bullhook is a cruel goad that resembles a fireplace poker and has traditionally been used to dominate and control elephants by instilling pain and fear. Trainers use the instrument’s hard pointed steel tip to hit, jab and hook elephants, often resulting in gashes, puncture wounds and abscesses. The very presence of a bullhook reminds the elephants that they are never free from the threat of physical punishment and it is the only reason that they perform confusing and physically grueling circus tricks executed at an abnormally rapid pace. The continued reliance of circuses and roadside zoos on bullhooks directly contradicts modern animal care practices. They are not used at any sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums prohibits the use of bullhooks to train and handle elephants. These facilities instead manage elephants exclusively with positive reinforcement, food treats and praise rather than brute force and punishment.
HB2993/SB1326 – PROHIBITING PERSONS FROM CHAINING OR TETHERING A DOG
HB2993 is sponsored by Representative Ken Luttrell (R-Ponca City) and SB1326 is sponsored by Senator Bill Coleman (R-Ponca City). These bills prohibit persons from chaining or tethering a dog under certain circumstances; provide conditions for which a person may confine a dog outside; require access to water and shelter; provide shelter enclosure requirements; prohibit certain cruel conditions and inhumane actions; and impose penalties. The bills are very similar but have a few differences including provision for weight of chain and requirements related to weather conditions and shelter. You can read both bills in the links below. As many animal welfare advocates and animal control officers know and understand, chained dogs are often confined outdoors 24 hours a day. Chains are often very heavy and short, limiting the ability to move. Dogs can be strangled if the tether gets tangled or caught. In addition, chained dogs are often at risk from extreme weather conditions. Dogs that are continuously chained and alone often do not receive adequate exercise or socialization. Pent-up energy can manifest as nuisance barking and anxiety can lead to increased aggression and protection of a dog’s space.
SB 1439 – REGISTRY OF FELONY ANIMAL CRUELTY OFFENDERS
SB 1439 is sponsored by Senator Paul Rosino (R-Oklahoma City) and proposes requiring the establishment of a publicly accessible list of persons convicted of animal cruelty and animal fighting offenses. This legislation proposes the registry be managed by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and establishes certain guidelines for maintenance of the list.
SB1446 – MODIFYING THE DOMESTIC ABUSE ACT
SB1446 is sponsored by Senator Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma City) and would amend the Domestic Abuse Act by providing definitions and modifying definitions including ‘committing or threatening to commit cruelty to an animal that intimidates a family or household member'.
SB1111 – MODIFYING PENALTY FOR ANIMAL KILLING PERSON
SB1111 is sponsored by Senator Brent Howard (R-Altus) and proposes to increase the penalty for an owner of a mischievous animal which kills a person. Under this bill, the penalty would be increased from manslaughter in the second degree to a felony punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for a term not less than four years.
SB1223 – CREATING MISDEANOR PENALTY FOR IMPROPER USE OF SERVICE ANIMAL
SB1223 is sponsored by Senator David Bullard (R-Durant) and proposes that any person who is not an individual with a disability or is not trained to assist individuals with disabilities, who uses a service animal in an attempt to gain treatment or benefits as an individual with a disability, shall upon conviction be guilty of a misdemeanor.
HB3077 – ESTABLISHING LIABILITY FOR DAMAGES
HB3077 is sponsored by Representative David Smith (R-Arpelar) and proposes a new section of law which provides that an owner of a dog caught on camera trespassing is responsible for damage caused by trespassing including damage to property or hurting livestock and shall be liable for all damages or costs incurred by the owner of said property or livestock.
HB3312 – MODIFYING DOG BITE LIABILITY
HB3312 is sponsored by Representative Cynthia Roe (R-Lindsay) and proposes to amend existing law relating to dog bite liability making the owner of a dog liable for damages to the full amount of any damages sustained when his or her dog, without provocation, bites or injures any person or animal while such person or animal is in or on a place where they have a lawful right to be.