News on Exotic Animals, Horse Soring, and Hounding of Bears and Bobcats
There’s major news on three fronts where The HSUS has been demanding reform and new protections for animals. More specifically, in all three cases we are seeing substantial progress and newfound awareness on topics that The HSUS has long campaigned on, and I am excited to report the details to you.
Ohio and dangerous exotic animals: Yesterday, the Ohio House approved a bill, S.B. 310, to ban private citizens from acquiring dangerous wild animals as pets and to require rigorous standards for housing on the part of any people who will keep these animals on their property. The House slightly modified the original Senate bill, and the Senate took little time yesterday in concurring with the House-passed version. There was little dissent in either chamber, reflecting that the Ohio public has no more tolerance for private citizens keeping dangerous wild animals after the death of Brent Kandra by a captive black bear and then the mass shooting of animals in Zanesville let out by their suicidal owner.
The bill is now on its way to Gov. John Kasich, who has already signaled his intention to sign the bill very soon. This is an important milestone in a long journey that began in July 2010, when The HSUS insisted in an agreement we reached with Ohio farm groups and the previous governor that the state adopt a ban on dangerous exotics. Now just six states have no rules governing private ownership of exotics―Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Tennessee walking horses and Jackie McConnell: Yesterday, Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell pled guilty to a federal felony charge for crimes related to illegal soring of horses. Last week, ABC News broadcast undercover footage of McConnell beating horses, cooking chemicals into their skin, and otherwise injuring them in order to produce an unnatural high-stepping gait, known as the Big Lick. The Tennessean, the state’s largest newspaper, was critical of the terms of the plea, which will not require any jail time for McConnell. Columnists throughout Tennessee have called McConnell’s behavior barbaric and have said it’s time for the walking horse industry to turn itself around.
By every indication, these abuses are widespread, and McConnell is hardly alone in his appalling mistreatment of the animals. The HSUS’s top goal is reform from top to bottom, and a fortified federal law properly funded so that these sorts of disgusting abuses do not recur within this scofflaw industry.
California hounding: Also this week, the California Senate passed S.B. 1221 to ban the hound hunting of bears and bobcats. It was a dramatic vote on a bill introduced by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-28, and the final count was 22 to 15. Special thanks to Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-6; Sens. Lieu, Juan Vargas, D-40, Tony Strickland, R-19, and Bill Emmerson, R-37; and all of the other lawmakers who favored this humane policy. This was a politically courageous decision for many, but one that comes with the support of 83 percent of California voters who would like to see bear hounding banned. What kind of sport is it to chase a bear with a pack of dogs, fitted with radio transmitters, and then to shoot the frightened, exhausted bear out of a tree at point-blank range? That kind of pursuit is a travesty, and no self-respecting hunter or hunting organization should support this kind of abuse.
Now the bill goes on to the Assembly, and my hope is that tens of thousands of Californians will speak out on the issue and demand action. If you live in California, call your Assemblymember in Sacramento and urge him or her to support S.B. 1221.