MFOA Passes Three of Four Bills in the 129th Legislature!

Post-conviction Possession of Animals Legislation, Pet Shop Bill and Franky’s Law to Become Law in 2019!  

 

We asked members and supporters to take advantage of this somewhat perfect storm of a friendly legislature, great sponsors and our year long preparation, and you did! Whether it was attending the hearings, contacting your legislators, passing the word through your social media or submitting testimony, our members and supporters were critical in this success this year, and we thank you.  

We ask that you reach out to our great sponsors Rep. Donna Bailey (LD 64 and LD 1442) and Sen. Ben Chipman (LD 1311) as well as Sen. Michael Carpenter who co-sponsored the latter two bills. The level of commitment each sponsor can give to the bill varies considerably, but Rep. Bailey and Sen. Chipman and Carpenter talked the talk and walked the walk on these and other pieces of animal protection legislation. Please take a minute and give them a well deserved thank you. 

Rep. Donna Bailey (Saco)  dabaileylaw@gmail.com

Sen. Ben Chipman (Portland)  votechipman@gmail.com

Sen. Michael Carpenter  carpenterlawofficepa@yahoo.com

 

LD 64. “An Act To Make Post-conviction Possession of Animals by Certain Persons a Criminal Offense”  

The purpose of this bill was to deter animal cruelty by enacting more meaningful and enforceable legislation on past animal cruelty perpetrators. Persons convicted of animal cruelty often are not allowed to have animals, but some continue do so as the current law treats it as a violation of a court order that often is unenforced.  

Many Animal Control Officers viewed this legislation favorably given it can assist them in getting a conviction; and that most town ACO budgets that are depleted is due primarily to repeat offenders. 

LD 64 was essentially the same legislation that MFOA passed in the 126th Legislature in the House and Senate in 2013, but was vetoed by the Governor. This legislation addresses the future ownership of animals, specifically the mandatory prohibition for higher levels of animal cruelty, including when appropriate, prohibition of owning and having contact with animals, clear time limits, and clear penalties for violations. 

In the six years since this bill was voted on, better written and more comprehensive legislation in other states on post-conviction possession has been passed addressing the need for stronger laws to prevent future ownership and custody, and provide prosecutors with better tools and remedies to efficiently enforce violation of the ownership limitation. 

LD 64 was sponsored by Rep. Donna Bailey (Saco) and passed unanimously in the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety and went “under the gavel” on its way to enactment and was signed by the Governor. 

 

LD 1311 “An Act Regarding the Sale of Dogs and Cats at Pet Shops” 

LD 1311 is another piece of unfinished business — a MFOA bill that passed in 2015 that was also vetoed by the Governor.  It would have become first-in-the-nation legislation. It addresses “puppy mill” animals and shops that sell animals – an outdated and socially unacceptable business model that makes the remaining shops that still sell puppy mill dogs and cats an outlier in their own industry. 

Since the 2015 legislation the issue of puppy mills has become a national issue. LD 1311 bans any pet shop (currently 82 in Maine) from selling dogs and cats. 

Unfortunately the bill was amended to grandfather the remaining three shops in the state still selling dogs and cats. But ownership may not be transferred unless it ends the sale of dogs and cats meaning eventually Maine will have a complete ban — doing our part in sending a message Maine takes animal cruelty seriously and will not facilitate large scale breeding industries where animals are a commodity. 

After Sponsor Sen. Chipman (Portland) got the bill reconsidered, it came out of the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry as OTP 6-7 in a divided report. The vast majority of the 94 testimonies submitted to the committee were in favor of the bill. The bill passed in the Senate 22-13 and in the House 79-67 and awaits the governor’s anticipated signature. 

 

LD 1442 “An Act to Provide for Court Appointed Advocates for Justice in Animal Cruelty Cases” 

In late 2016, MFOA learned of first-in-the-nation legislation in which the Connecticut Legislature passed Public Law 16-30, often referred to as “Desmond’s Law.” Under this legislation, a judge presiding over an animal abuse case involving a dog or a cat has the option of appointing a volunteer, either a supervised law student or an attorney, to work with the prosecutor to advocate for the animal in the interest of justice. It was outside the box thinking, and MFOA immediately decided to introduce it to the Maine legislature, aka “Franky’s Law”. It is about to become second-in-the nation legislation with the hope it may spread to other states. 

LD 1442 provides Maine courts, prosecutors and defendants another resource, and in this case in handling more animal cruelty cases with volunteer law students and attorneys with an interest in animal law. Low priority animal cruelty cases are often dismissed or pled out and with this legislation could be more thoroughly and vigorously pursued.  It is a win (courts) - win (law student) - win (animal) situation. 

The legislation is accompanied with an Implementation Program learned from the same successful legislation in Connecticut.  MFOA will administer the implementation of the program. 

LD 1442 was sponsored by Rep. Donna Bailey (Saco) and co-sponsored by Sen. Michael Carpenter (Houlton), the House and Senate chair of the Committee on Judiciary, the bill LD 1442 came before. It was voted out of Judiciary OTP 9-4 and it really had no opposition, except unfortunately from the Animal Welfare Program Director who did not support any of the MFOA bills.  Testimony was 88-4 in favor. The bill passed in the House 88-52 and in the Senate 22-13, and awaits the Governor’s anticipated signature. 

 

 

 

 

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