128th Legislative Report for Maine Animals

The 128th Legislature was relatively quiet, due in part to the current political climate in Augusta. Legislative engagement was often speaking in opposition to bills that would have a negative impact on Maine’s animals. The following is an overview of the more important animal welfare related bills presented to the Maine legislature in 2017.

LD 1508 “An Act to Improve Animal Control in Maine”

The purpose of this bill was to increase revenues through improved compliance for mandatory dog licensing and establishment of voluntary cat licensing to help towns pay for animal control officers. This bill also directed the Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to develop strategies to encourage owners of dogs and cats to license their pets, listing various ideas to promote licensure. Well intended bill that needed to be developed more. 

MFOA: Supported

Action: Vote of “Ought not to pass” 11-2 in committee; bill failed

LD 396 “An Act to Prohibit Participation of Elephants in Traveling Animal Acts”

The bill original bill to prohibit elephant acts from the state was repealed and replaced with an amendment that provided an exception for elephant importations through January 1, 2020 by circuses raising funds for charity. Legislation trying to follow-up on the closing of Ringling Brothers Circus and previous MFOA legislation, but lacked a supporting campaign. 

MFOA: Supported 

Action: Amended bill failed in the House and Senate

LD 1601 “An Act to Reduce Costs to Businesses by Phasing Out the Pet Food Surcharge”

This bill, is one of many submitted over the years by the pet food industry to undermine and repeal the minor pet food surcharge that supports Maine’s successful Companion Animal Sterilization Fund (Help Fix ME program) and also helps fund state animal cruelty investigations. As best said by one of the ACF Committee members: “So we have a fee that no one is complaining about, it funds a successful much needed program, and it doesn’t hurt the pet food industry at all, and yet here we are.” The Committee not only defeated the bill, they flipped, re-named and amended it toincrease the funding allocated to the state’s critical low cost spay/neuter program. This was a huge victory that sent a message to the Governor, the pet food industry and other states. 

MFOA: Opposed original bill. Supported amended bill (An Act To Increase Funds Deposited into the Companion Animal Sterilization Fund through the Pet Food Surcharge.)

Action: Committee unanimously passed the amended version to INCREASE the surcharge amount. Although the Governor (as expected) vetoed the bill, the House and Senate overwhelming overrode the veto; bill passed. 

LD 858 “An Act To Strengthen the Law Regarding Dangerous Dogs”

This bill in its original form would allow a sheriff, local law enforcement officer or animal control officer to determine whether a dog is dangerous and requires the court to take that determination into account when making its decision. It requires the sheriff, local law enforcement officer or animal control officer who determines a dog to be dangerous to apply for an ex parte order to take possession of the dog. It removes the option of the court allowing the owner or keeper of a dangerous dog to keep the animal and requires the court to either order the dog confined at a governmental facility, local humane society or similar nongovernmental organization for its lifetime or be euthanized. It also modifies the existing law to mandate that a dog must be euthanized if it kills, maims or inflicts serious bodily injury upon a domesticated animal.

MFOA: Opposed

Action: Committee voted unanimously to carry the bill over to allow AWAC (Animal Welfare Advisory Council) to work on recommendations that would more fairly and effectively address the issue of dangerous dogs and owner accountability to be presented to the Committee in 2018.

LD 305 “An Act To Require Permits for Wildlife in Captivity and Notification of the Escape of Exotic Wildlife in Captivity”

The original bill from George Smith addressed, in general, increasing regulation of exotic animals in Maine and requirements to possess captive wildlife. An amendment changed the title and replaced the bill text, requiring a permit for captive wildlife. The amendment adds a charge of Class E crime for failure to immediately notify law enforcement of escaped permitted captive wildlife or in the instance where law enforcement is notified of escape but the wildlife is not permitted, and a Class D crime for failure to immediately notify law enforcement of escaped unpermitted wildlife.

MFOA: Supported

Action: Ought To Pass by committee as amended 9-3; bill passed by both chambers and awaits Governor’s signature. 

LD 1446 “An Act Regarding the Confidentiality of Information in the Animal Welfare Laws”

Governor’s bill that seeks to allow the ACF Department to make public the names and identifying information of investigators hired to record criminal or civil cruelty to animals. Amended bill only clarified working but did not change intent. This bill appeared to be a watered-down Ag Gag bill in response to the Turner egg investigation. 

MFOA: Opposed

Action: Committee vote was divided resulting in two committee reports. House and Senate could not agree; the bill failed.

LD 1563 “An Act To Amend the Animal Welfare Laws To Add Provisions Relating to the Surrender of Animals”

Governor’s bill that transfers authority and discretion away from local animal control officers, law enforcement and prosecutors to the ACF commissioner to basically provide a free pass to those investigated for animal cruelty if they agree to surrender their animals and sign an affidavit promising not to own animals of the same species as those surrendered again.

MFOA: Opposed

Action: Committee vote was divided resulting in two committee reports. House and Senate could not agree; the bill failed.

Note: There were the usual array of bills requesting constitutional amendments to change the public referendum process that were defeated. Only two, LD 31 and LD 53, got out of Committee. LD 53 died between the House and the Senate.

LD 31 RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Require That Signatures on a Direct Initiative of Legislation Come from Each Congressional District

This resolution proposes to amend the Constitution of Maine to require that the signatures on a petition to directly initiate legislation be of voters from each of the State’s 2 congressional districts and that the number of signatures from each congressional district be not less than 10% of the total vote for Governor cast in that congressional district in the previous gubernatorial election.

MFOA: Opposed

Action: Committee vote “Ought to Pass” 11-2. Passed in House; Senate placed it on special appropriations table and will vote pending that appropriations action. Needs ⅔ of both the House and Senate to be put before a public vote. 

LD 11. RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish the Right To Hunt and Fish

MFOA: Opposed

Action: Tabled for carry over consideration (pending). 

Note: The usual bills to allow various forms of Sunday huntingwere defeated. Two were reported out of committee, but faced considerable opposition in passing. 

July 15, 2017


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