If early bill filings are any indication, animal agriculture is going to go for cruelty laws with short reporting deadlines.
Late last year, New Hampshire House Bill 110 was amended to give anyone who witnesses another person performing acts of cruelty to livestock exactly 48 hours to report it to local law enforcement.
As it’s now drafted for the 2014 session, HB 110 does not ban on-the-farm pictures or videos and does not make applying for farm work a crime for someone also working as an undercover animal cruelty investigator.
Those elements were included in a couple dozen “ag-gag” bills introduced in various states before 2013, but they now appear to be falling out of favor.
Kay Johnson Smith, chief executive officer of the national Animal Agriculture Alliance, has acknowledged to industry media that quick reporting is the group’s 2014 legislative strategy.
“If you see something, you should say something; it’s that simple,” she says.
Johnson claims that animal welfare groups that go undercover at animal agriculture facilities string out investigations to tie abuse that’s documented to brand names to drum up publicity. Short reporting deadlines mean that patterns of abuse cannot be documented, according to animal welfare groups that do such investigations.
While undercover investigators often work successfully with local law enforcement, timely reporting is a fairly consistent theme in criminal law. In Colorado, which does not have an “ag-gag” law, an undercover investigator working for Compassion Over Killing was herself charged with animal cruelty for waiting two months to report the incident.
Bills containing quick reporting provisions of animal cruelty could be considered in both New Hampshire and Indiana as early as next week.