Two important animal protection bills were approved by the Tennessee Legislature this session and are headed to Gov. Bill Haslam for signature. One will protect animals from abusers and the other will increase penalties for attending a staged cockfight or dog fight, with an additional penalty for taking a child to such an event.
TENNESSEE ANIMAL ABUSER REGISTRATION ACT
(1) The Animal Abuser Registry Act (H.B. 147) will create an online registry for people who abuse any companion animal, according to LegiScan.
The registry will be established and maintained by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and will be mirrored after lists identifying convicted sex offenders.
It will provide a list of everyone in the state who is convicted of aggravated animal cruelty, animal fighting or other animal-related criminal offenses.
The law also provides that any person convicted of cruelty to animals in Tennessee will have his/her photo posted on the website for a period of two (2) years or for five (5) year upon a subsequent animal cruelty conviction.
ANIMAL-FIGHTING PENALTIES INCREASE
After a seven-year campaign to strengthen Tennessee’s animal-fighting laws, HB 962 passed and awaits the Governor's signature. These new laws will increase the penalties for attending an animal fight or bringing a child to an animal-fighting event. The 90-2 vote in the House on Monday follows a 24-1 Senate vote last month, reports the Chattanoogan.
The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol. This year, Lundberg pushed for a provision that had not been included in prior years, by adding that it is a Class A misdemeanor for anyone to knowingly bring a person under 18 years of age to an animal fight. The minimum penalty for such an offense must be at least $1,000, but no more than $2,500.
Under current Tennessee law, a spectator at a cockfight only can be convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, which has a minimum fine of $50. This year’s bill “would increase the penalty for general spectators at an animal fight to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500—although no minimum is set unless a child is involved,” explains Knoxblogs.com.
John Goodwin, Director of Animal Cruelty Policy for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) states:
“This is a major win on the cockfighting issue especially, but also an important win on dog fighting.
“We have seen a drug cartel running narcotics through a cockfighting pit in Tennessee, and I have personally seen an 8 year old girl with a front row seat at a cockfighting pit in this state.
“I have seen roosters at a cockfight in Tennessee who were so mutilated that one’s intestines were wrapped around the other’s foot.
“Now Tennessee has a law that gets serious, and sets a strong penalty for every person present at a cockfight.”
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission and Sevier County Sheriff Ronald Seals supported the bill and were instrumental in securing passage of the legislation, HSUS states.
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