United Poultry Concerns
16 February 2011
Virginia Residents: Tell Governor NO to Proposed Farm Animal Cruelty Exemptions!
VA SB 1026 and HB 1541 Seek to Legalize Total Cruelty to Farm Animals. Don’t Let This Happen!

Two bills are being quietly pushed through the Virginia General Assembly that if signed into law by VA Governor Robert F. McDonnell will effectively relieve farm animal owners (farmers and corporations) of all humane care obligations. It will be legal for owners to deprive their animals of food and water right up the point of “emaciation” and “dehydration.” Farm animal owners will be exempt from providing shelter for their animals in bad weather (“an act of God”) and will be legally permitted to hurt and neglect farm animals so long as the abuse is a “customary” farming practice or claimed to be.

At this writing, SB 1026 and HB 1541 have been approved by committees in both chambers and are now in subcommittees. There is still time – limited time – to stop these bills from enactment into law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Please act now!

What Should I Do?

If you are a Virginia resident, please contact your state legislators and Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell and urge them NOT to give final approval to this legislation. Even if these bills are approved by the VA General Assembly, the proposed legislation must be signed by Governor McDonnell to become law. He can choose to veto the legislation Urge him to veto the legislation if it comes to his desk.

Contact Governor McDonnell through his website at: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/AboutTheGovernor/contactGovernor.cfm.

To learn who your VA state legislators are and how to contact them, please click on http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform and follow the simple instructions.

For legislative history and updates on these bills, click on Bills & Resolutions at http://lis.virginia.gov/

If you have time, please contact your local news media in Virginia explaining why this law exempting farm animals from protection should not be enacted. Ask them to cover the issue. When contacting lawmakers and media, be sure to use your own words, and briefly and politely make your points. Always request a reply. Thank you for speaking up for millions of farm animals in Virginia.

United Poultry Concerns’ Letter to VA Governor Robert F. McDonnell:

February 16, 2011

Robert F. McDonnell
Governor of Virginia
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Governor McDonnell:

I am writing to urge you please to veto Virginia Senate Bill 1026 and House Bill 1541 if and when these bills come to your desk in the form of proposed legislation for your signature. The proposed law seeks to reduce the level of care for Virginia’s farm animals to a level that would permit extreme cruelty without penalty to the owners of these animals.

SB 1026 and HB 1541 seek to amend the Code of Virginia relating to the care of agricultural animals by reducing current requirements to provide adequate food and water, to a provision that owners need only provide their animals with food and water sufficient “to prevent emaciation” and “to prevent dehydration.”

The proposed law seeks to weaken penalties from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 4 penalty with a token $250 fine. Even this nominal penalty would be waived to allow an owner to withhold food, water and shelter from farm animals if such denials of basic sustenance and care were deemed “customarily withheld, restricted, or apportioned pursuant to a farming activity.” There is no definition or guidance here as to what might be “customary” and nothing to protect farm animals from hunger and thirst to the point of prolonged, pathological suffering resulting from legalized neglect and mistreatment. Please do not let this happen.

The proposed law amounts to total legal and moral abandonment of farm animals in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If SB 1026 and HB 1541 become law, there will be no standards of accountability whatsoever for owners of farm animals. It will be legal for them to starve their animals to the point of “emaciation” and to deprive them of water to the point of “dehydration.” Owners will have no responsibility to provide shelter for their animals. This is unacceptable.

Please do not sign this proposed legislation into law. It is being pushed through the Virginia legislature without being adequately addressed. Please do not authorize a law that would strip farm animals of all protections against cruelty and allow their owners to mistreat them with impunity. Thank you for your attention. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Karen Davis, President
United Poultry Concerns


Note: On February 6, 2011, Virginia resident Marianne Roberts published a letter in The Daily Progress, “Bill weakens animal cruelty law,” and on February 7 The Daily Progress published an editorial, “Bill starves protections for animals.” These informative opinion pieces can be read at http://www2.dailyprogress.com/news/2011/feb/07/bill-starves-protections-animals-ar-824684/ and
http://www2.dailyprogress.com/news/2011/feb/06/bill-weakens-animal-cruelty-law-ar-824697/.

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