Tuesday, July 10, 2007

For Immediate Release
For Further Information Contact: Philip Lobo, Communications Director
Phone: (703) 562-5160
Date: 7/10/2007

More information at www.animalagalliance.com

Major Animal Rights Bill in Nation’s Capital
ARLINGTON, VA - The Animal Agriculture Alliance has learned that a major animal rights bill has been proposed in the District of Columbia. The 48-page bill (LB 89), also known as the Animal Protection Amendment Act of 2007, would:

• Change the phrase ''animal owner'' to ''animal guardian/owner'';
• Authorize non-economic damages for the owner of a pet;
• Authorize non-profit humane societies to file lawsuits against violators of the district’s animal cruelty laws; and
• Require the DC Board of Education to provide instruction on the ''humane treatment and protection of animals.''

Part of the bill would authorize non-economic damages to be awarded to the owner of a pet when the pet is killed either intentionally or by gross negligence in a veterinarian’s office. The amounts the court is allowed to award for non-economic damages are no more than $7,500 for intentional acts and $2,000 for acts of gross negligence. These non-economic damages will include recovery for the loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, love, affection, and others.

''The current system for animal liability works well because it balances the right of an animal owner to be compensated with the needs to keep animal care accessible and affordable to all,'' said Kay Johnson, Executive Vice President of the Animal Agriculture Alliance. ''We are very concerned about this legislation because it will lead to more lawsuits against veterinarians and they will have to charge more to cover the costs of the lawsuits. Those increased costs will deter people from seeking treatments directly related to the health and welfare of their animals.''

As importantly, while adding the term ''guardian'' to current law may seem benign in nature, it is a first step by animal rights activists to extend the rights afforded children and incompetent adults to animals. If owners can be legally classified as guardians, the government, or any individual, can sue over treatment of an animal.

Another section of this flawed legislation would authorize non-profit humane societies to file law suits against violators of the district’s animal cruelty laws. In these suits, plaintiffs may sue to obtain an injunction or restraining order against the accused offender. The legislation would allow an accuser to bring an injunction to halt the operations of a legitimate, law-abiding business, with no negative ramifications for the accuser if the accused is found innocent.

''The Animal Agriculture Alliance is highly concerned about this deeply flawed legislation and the long-term economic damage it could do to the nation’s capital and the businesses that serve its residents,'' said Kay Johnson, Executive Vice President of the Animal Agriculture Alliance. ''Given the broad scope and precedent setting nature of the proposal, the DC government needs to carefully review the long-term negative impacts that this legislation might inflict upon its constituents. It’s a very slippery slope.''

The Animal Agriculture Alliance, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, is a broad-based coalition of individual producers, producer organizations, suppliers, packer-processors, private industry and retailers. The Alliance's mission is to communicate the important role of animal agriculture to our nation's economy, productivity, vitality, security and that animal well-being is central to producing safe, high-quality, affordable food and other products essential to our daily lives.

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