There are a few bills of great interest to animal advocates before the North Carolina legislature right now.
A particularly insidious bill is SB 648, which is innocuously named the “Commerce Protection Act of 2013” In reality, SB 648 is yet another of the “Ag Gag” bills designed to criminalize employees who expose animal cruelty or food safety problems on farms or in processing plants. SB 648 could also possibly have a chilling effect on whistleblowing in all sectors of business, industry and even government. Nothing in the bill specifies that it is only applicable to agriculture, so it could criminalize employees who seek to expose wrongdoing in places like nursing homes or hospitals. It could also conceivably be used against employees who expose cruelty or neglect in animal shelters.
SB 648 will be heard in the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow (Tuesday, May 6, 2013). Listed below are members of that committee, who need to hear from their constituents immediately that SB 648 is bad news for human and animals! (Click a name to go to that senator’s contact page.)
Co-Chairman: Sen. Rick Gunn
Co-Chairman: Sen. Wesley Meredith
Vice Chairman: Sen. Tamara Barringer
Vice Chairman: Sen. Harry Brown
Members: Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Dan Blue, Sen. Peter S. Brunstetter, Sen. Angela R. Bryant, Sen. Ben Clark, Sen. David L. Curtis, Sen. Don Davis, Sen. Jim Davis, Sen. Thom Goolsby, Sen. Malcolm Graham, Sen. Kathy Harrington, Sen. Neal Hunt, Sen. Clark Jenkins, Sen. Floyd B. McKissick, Jr., Sen. Gene McLaurin, Sen. Martin L. Nesbitt, Jr., Sen. E. S. (Buck) Newton,Sen. Gladys A. Robinson, Sen. Bob Rucho, Sen. Norman W. Sanderson, Sen. Dan Soucek,Sen. Josh Stein, Sen. Jeff Tarte, Sen. Jerry W. Tillman, Sen. Tommy Tucker, Sen. Mike Woodard
(If you do not know who represents you, find out on the NCGA web site.)
You may decide to phone your senator’s office, and if you do, please be polite and respectful. If you choose to email, below is a letter I sent to my senator, who is on the committee. Feel free to borrow it and add your own personal spin:
Dear Senator _______,
SB 648, also known as the “Commerce Protection Act of 2013,” (an unfortunate name which does not reflect the insidious danger of the legislation) will be heard tomorrow in the Senate Commerce Committee. I am writing to urge you to vote against this bill and do everything in your power to see that it does not progress further.
The intent of SB 648, which is modeled after so-called “Ag Gag” bills that have been pushed through in other states by agribusiness behemoths, is to make it impossible for whistleblowers to expose food safety issues or animal cruelty at industrial agriculture facilities. This alone is unconscionable, but the wording of SB 648 means it could also be applied to any whistleblowing in any industry whatsoever. Nursing home staffers who wish to expose elder abuse would be criminalized by this bill, as would day care staffers trying to blow the whistle on abuse or neglect of children. Employees who wish to expose corruption, harassment, unsafe conditions or threats to public health in any industry would be criminalized by this bill.
The passage of SB 648 would represent a step backward for a state which should be striving to become more civilized and humane in its treatment of both humans and animals. Please reject this regressive legislation.
There is also a very important animal protection bill currently before the NC General Assembly: HB 930, which would apply reasonable standards, including exercise, fresh food and water, appropriate medical care, safe housing and a clean environment, to dogs in large commercial breeding operations with ten or more intact females. Previous attempts at regulating “puppy mills” in North Carolina had been beaten back by opponents including the American Kennel Club and agribusiness muscle groups, so HB 930 is a compromise bill that does not require licensing or mandatory inspections, but still gives law enforcement the tools to combat cruelty and deter more puppy mills from setting up in the state. It will be heard in committee on Wednesday. North Carolina animal advocates should contact their representatives and express support for this bill.
There is also some good news for dogs and the people who love them in NC: HB 956, which would have required owners of pit bulls, mastiffs and Rottweilers and other large breeds to undergo criminal background checks, among other things, has reportedly been allowed to die in committee.