Friday, February 7, 2014

Senate Bill 6 in Oregon


As many of you know, I started a non-profit animal rescue organization two years ago in Hermiston, Oregon. I did this because I was working at a vet hospital and I saw a clear and urgent need for helping stray animals in the region.

When I started, there were exactly zero other 501c(3) private rescues in Hermiston and surrounding areas. Zero. There is no animal control accept the small, over-worked and under-funded city police forces, who will sometimes go out and catch stray dogs. They sometimes respond to reports of abuse/neglect, but most of the time ignore or don't follow up on these reports because they "don't have time" or "it's only a dog" (actual quotes from local police officers).

There is one shelter for the entire area. It is in Hermiston, it has a contract with the city and county to house stray cats and dogs. It is in a small and aging building, has essentially one staff member, and operates under very sloppy, outdated sheltering policies and is in no mood to work toward positive change. They end up euthanizing at least 50% of their animals and give all indications that they just don't care. This is the only group contracted (and paid) by the city and county to deal with community animals.

All the slack from this under-performing shelter and lack of animal control is being taken up by regular citizens and the (now two) non-profits in town. The same people being insulted by supporters of SB 6.


This is a statement in support of SB 6 from Sharon Harmon, the Executive Director of the Oregon Humane Society in Portland, the largest and most well-funded animal shelter in the state:

"In the last decade there has been a tremendous increase in the underground pet railroad. There are thousands of animals moving through these nontraditional groups in Oregon. ... these rescues fly under the radar in every sense... The phenomenon of animal rescue turned rescue hoarder is not too far down the continuum for many of these groups.... leads some people to believe any life is better than death, even if that means a slow and painful ... death ... That is what we saw in Brooks. We have a chance to regulate them now and we should take that opportunity before it happens again..."

There is a petition at Change.org that has a good, detailed response to Harmon and I encourage you to go to that link and read it (and sign the petition). Here's one important quote (links and bolding provided by me):

"Existing laws deal effectively with animal abuse and neglect. Failure to vigorously enforce existing animal abuse and neglect laws comes from the fact that most enforcement agencies grant low priority to animal protection. ... [This] cannot be corrected by passage of another law granting current enforcement agencies greater unfettered police powers and “deputizing” large corporate humane societies and government animal control agencies... the sponsors of Senate Bill 6 [state] that Sections 10 and 11 are “necessary” components of the bill because independent animal rescues are at “high risk” for animal abuse/neglect offense and must be regulated is shocking and completely unsupported by the facts. Exploiting one sensational criminal case, the Alicia Inglish case in Salem, Oregon, a case successfully prosecuted under existing laws, is a calculated misleading effort ... The incidence of neglect or abuse among Oregon’s hundreds of small independent rescues is extraordinarily rare. Why are independent rescues being targeted as a class instead of simply prosecuting abuse or neglect where it is found, individually or as an entity?
Under the guise of providing modest accountability, Sections 10 and 11 of Senate Bill 6 grant unfettered police powers to enforcement agencies to search and inspect the private property of rescues, often their homes and homes of foster families, without the need to show probable cause. That is very likely unconstitutional."
I'd also like to add that this "underground highway" that Harmon holds in such contempt... that's me. It's all of us who are working our asses off with no large organization's help. (Except when they occasionally accept healthy, vaccinated, highly adoptable puppies and kittens from us. Very magnanimous of them, btw).

I'd love to tell her one thing she's missing in her fervor: we don't want this. I feel I can speak for at least 90% of my fellow East Side rescuers when I say we'd much rather have a large, centralized organization to call for help. We all would prefer to be just a regular volunteers at such an organization; to clean cages, walk dogs, transport, foster, help out at spay/neuter clinics... all the stuff we're already doing, but without the help of large well-funded organizations, nice buildings, paid staff, high visibility, and large population centers.

And now they want to make our lives more difficult, and insult us in the process.
I urge you to call the Governor's Citizens' Representative Office at (503) 378-4582 and tell the Governor that Sections 10 and 11 of Senate Bill 6 are unacceptable, unconstitutional, useless in stopping animal abuse any better than already existing laws.









 Links and quotes on SB 6:

Full text of bill here.


A summary:

S.B. 6 defines “animal rescue entity” as “an individual or organization, including but not limited to an animal control agency, humane society, animal shelter, animal sanctuary or boarding kennel…, but excluding a veterinary facility, that keeps, houses, and maintains in its custody 10 or more animals and that solicits or accepts donations in any form.”

Under the bill all animal rescues must be licensed each year by local authorities. The “enforcing agency” will be the dog licensing and control program in the city or county or if there is none, then an agency designated by the local government.

Rescues are required to maintain records for each animal that state: date animal rescue entity acquired the animal; source of the animal; The number of offspring the animal produced while in the possession; age, sex, breed type and weight of the animal at intake; and lastly a photo of each animal taken within 24 hours of intake.

Under the bill each person or entity is subject to inspections including of records and must “furnish reports and information required by the enforcing agency”.

The bill would require that complaints about the animal rescue entity that are made to state agencies must be sent on to the enforcing agency. The enforcing agency would be required to conduct inspections if there has been a “credible and serous” complaint. Otherwise, the enforcing agency could conduct inspections at reasonable times. No license could be renewed unless the person or organization is in compliance. The enforcing agency would be required to seize evidence of animal cruelty violations and report it to law enforcement

According to animal law site: "It is not clear this new proposed law will have much impact in improving local animal control or public shelters. After all, the city or county would be responsible for enforcing these requirements against its own animal control or shelter. The greatest impact is likely to be on private animal rescues. The legislation was prompted by a raid in January, 2013 on Willamette Valley Animal Rescue in Brooks, Oregon where 149 dogs were seized and the operator, Alicia Inglish, was charged with 120 counts of animal neglect and one count of evidence tampering. It is hoped this bill, if signed into law, will serve to prevent such hoarding and cruel neglect."


 A letter:
Dear Senators:

I write in opposition to Sections 10 and 11 (as currently written, if not again amended) of Senate Bill 6 and, because I understand that the legislative process does not permit amendment to the Bill deleting those sections, I urge you to vote “no” when the Bill is presented on Monday, July 1, 2013.

I have practiced law in Oregon for over 40 years and, as my pro bono commitment to the profession, have devoted thousands of hours to the goal of protecting the rights of animals, animal owners, and people dedicated to the welfare of animals entrusted to their care. In my judgment, Sections 10 and 11 suffer from two major flaws. They (a) threaten the rights of the hundreds of people committed to saving animal lives by operating the small “animal rescue” entities that offer the last chance of survival for animals that public agencies cannot afford to save and (b) will make prosecution of those who abuse and neglect animals more difficult and costly. If Senate Bill 6 and Sections 10 and 11 become law in Oregon many – certainly hundreds and probably thousands – of animals who would otherwise be saved and permitted to live out their lives in humane and caring homes will be doomed.

The fundamental problem with Sections 10 and 11 of the Senate Bill is that those provisions purport to give broadly defined “enforcing agencies” the authority to conduct warrantless inspections of the homes of licensed small animal rescues upon receipt of “a complaint.” There is no provision for an independent assessment of the complainant’s credibility, not even a requirement that the complainant be identified. Many who conduct their rescue efforts with the highest regard for their animals will be reluctant to accept the intrusions that licensure requires. Worse still, it is highly likely – probably certain – that those who fully deserve prosecution under current laws will refuse to obtain licenses and by “going underground” achieve a practical immunity directly contrary to the purposes of the Bill.

In an email requesting that opposition to Senate Bill 6 be called off, the chief sponsor’s policy analyst acknowledged that “small rescues were not consulted in the writing of [SB 6]” and that, because “legislation is often not perfect the first go around,” the Bill could be “tighten[ed] up to target bad actors more specifically.” The time to properly target the “bad actors” and consult with those most knowledgeable about “small rescues” should precede – not follow – enactment. Please vote “no” on Senate Bill 6. In its current form, it will do more harm than good.

Robert E. Babcock

Holmes Weddle & Barcott, P.C.

310 North State Street, Suite 200

Lake Oswego, OR 97034
A letter from the Oregon Cat Project:

have you ever fostered a kitten or want to foster one in the future? You wont after you read State Senate Bill 6, a bill to be voted on on Saturday. It will allow agencies such as OHS, police powers to come in and search your home without probable cause. Well, there went all of TOCP's and most other small rescues foster homes. Good fosters are hard enough to find and there are never enough to help all the babies in need.

Cats and Kittens will literally have to be left in the street to survive on their own, as no small rescue will have the foster resources needed to take them in, if Senate Bill 6 passes this Saturday.

Please read on. This is written by the petition's author, Gail O'Connell.

July 03, 2013 Update: Small animal rescues in Oregon, the primary stakeholders affected by Sections 10 and 11 of Senate Bill 6, were not allowed a voice in this legislation by the bill’s main sponsors OHS and HSUS. When we asked for input we were told we had to first give up the right to object.

A False Claim: The proposition made by the sponsors of Senate Bill 6 that Sections 10 and 11 are “necessary” components of the bill because independent animal rescues are at “high risk” for animal abuse/neglect offense and must be regulated (by them) is shocking and completely unsupported by the facts. Exploiting one recent isolated sensational criminal case, the Alicia Inglish case in Salem, Oregon, a case successfully prosecuted under existing laws, is a calculated misleading effort driven by an unspecified political agenda. The incidence of neglect or abuse among Oregon’s hundreds of small independent rescues is extraordinarily rare. Why are independent rescues being targeted as a class instead of simply prosecuting abuse or neglect where it is found, individually or as an entity?

Under the guise of providing modest accountability, Sections 10 and 11 of Senate Bill 6 grant unfettered police powers to enforcement agencies to search and inspect the private property of rescues, often their homes and homes of foster families, without the need to show probable cause. That is very likely unconstitutional.

The Reality: No one works harder out of pocket, driven by compassion, than Oregon’s independent small animal rescues. That can be proven every day.

As small rescues we have no political agenda and no lobbyists at the legislature. Our mission is humanitarian not politically motivated or driven: rescuing and saving the lives of Oregon’s homeless companion animals. When small independent rescues fund raise we do so for the sake of homeless animals, not to fund campaign efforts. We have no other group purpose.

Large corporate animal protection societies, some who are sponsors of SB 6 have never represented us nor do they represent our interests now. We are the rescues that take the animals that large humane societies and county and city animal control agencies deem “unadoptable” and discard. If we didn’t take them they would have no future. The majority would be killed. We are given no funding by the corporate animal protection groups (including the bill’s sponsors) to meet the necessary and often prohibitively costly rehabilitation of the homeless animals they reject. For example, one small independent rescue was called by a large well endowed humane society and asked to take a Rottweiler puppy with hip dysplasia. The humane society kept the puppy’s littermate, the one without a handicap. Overwhelmingly small animal rescues (unlike corporate entities) provide all necessary care, do home checks as part of due diligence, take back adoption returns without question and correct the problem. Most corporate animal entities do not have the same exacting high standards. We do not abandon the animals we have been charged with caring for to the system.

We ask Oregon’s legislature to please allow our concerns and views to be heard. Take the time to pass a good bill, not a profoundly flawed bill with empty promises of later “corrections”. Vote to amend the bill and delete Sections 10 and 11. It is misguided and there are too many apparent civil rights violations for the bill to be enforceable.

Senate Bill 6 is now referred to the House Rules Committee. Representative John Davis has requested deletion of Sections 10 and 11.





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