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Rally planned against bill to erase local laws governing animal use including puppy mills

Mar 2, 2022, 8:26 PM | Updated: Mar 3, 2022, 11:56 am
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 27:  Milly, a 13-week-old kitten waits with her brother Charlie (L) to b...
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Milly, a 13-week-old kitten waits with her brother Charlie (L) to be re-homed at The Society for Abandoned Animals Sanctuary in Sale, Manchester which is facing an urgent cash crisis and possible closure on July 27, 2010 in Manchester, England. The Society for Abandoned Animals exists entirely on public support and unless it can raise GBP 50,000 in the next couple of months it will have to close down. The registered charity started in 1967 and in the last five years alone the charity has rescued and found homes for more than 1,000 cats, 290 rabbits and 262 dogs. The rescue centre is one of the many who are suffering a downfall in donations due to the economic recession. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers are pushing a bill that would erase city and county animal ordinances and laws in Utah.

HB476, sponsored by Joel Ferry, R-Brigham City, is short and to the point, reading:

A political subdivision may not adopt or enforce an ordinance or other regulation that prohibits or effectively prohibits the operation of an animal enterprise or the use of a working animal.

The broad language would not allow counties, cities or metro townships to license or regulate animal enterprises.

“This is such a broad sweeping bill that it is going to have intended and unintended consequences that are going to impact animals throughout the state,” Elizabeth Oreck with Best Friends Animal Society said in an interview with KSL TV. “There really just isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to animal issues throughout the state. Cities and counties need to be able to be trusted to evaluate their own issues and enact their own laws that work for them.”

One of the consequences, according to Oreck, will be the puppy and kitten mills that will flourish without regulation, including in the 12 cities and counties in Utah that have enacted retail pet sale ordinances when those laws are wiped out.

The Human Society of Utah is planning a rally in opposition to the bill where they say they will be joined by animal welfare leaders and municipal animal control officials.

Ferry said ultimately the state should enact regulations, not local jurisdictions. He compared animal use to licensing of doctors and clean water and air standards that are set by the state. Ferry cited fears of a city or county outlawing castrating cattle and he cited concerns of “activist groups” that will try to control “how we manage our commercial animal enterprises.”

The proposed law would not apply to land use. Ferry cited as an example local ordinances would still govern how many chickens would be allowed on property. He also cited concerns of groups that want to enact local laws for rodeo animal treatment. Efforts to pass rodeo laws in Los Angeles were cited as a reason for the bill by a supporter.

“We are not saying ‘anything goes’ we are saying we need to have a standard that is broader than local jurisdictions,” Ferry said.

Ferry did agree with the Humane Society and Best Friends Animal Society that the bill would erase current laws and ordinances against stores sourcing pets, including cats and dogs, from wherever they choose. Several others in the committee hearing spoke in favor of it for animal husbandry practices.

“The store would have the decision, ultimately, if they sell what they want to sell,” Ferry said.

“The speed with which this bill has been pushed through the legislature should alarm anyone who values participation in our political process,” the Humane Society said in a release. “Further, by excluding almost all stakeholders from any discussion in the drafting of this bill, many far-reaching implications clearly have not been considered. Most notable is the exclusion of animal control officers in any drafting discussions. As the people who are charged with enforcing our laws against cruelty, their views are perhaps the most valuable when it comes to how workable this legislation will actually be.”

The rally is planned for noon Thursday on the south steps of the Utah Capitol.

Her organization, based in Utah, has a goal of completely stopping the killing of cats and dogs in shelters by 2025 and the group is alarmed by the bill.

“Utah has made amazing progress for animals throughout the years and this bill could undo decades of progress made for animals.”

The bill defines animal enterprises that “includes an animal competition, aquarium, circus, exposition, fair, farm, feedlot, furrier, retail pet store, ranch, rodeo, zoo or an event intended to exhibit or advance agricultural arts and sciences.”

The bill had its first reading on Feb. 24, passed committee Feb. 28 and was approved by the House 43-28 on March 1 and sent to the senate.

“We’ve never seen a bill this broad before that regulates animals uses in entertainment, transportation, education, exhibition, for-profit, food, fiber production, agriculture, research, testing,” Oreck said.

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Rally planned against bill to erase local laws governing animal use including puppy mills