Legislation making New Mexico more humane

Of all the bills that died in this year’s legislature, I thought surely the pet food tax would have passed.

The pet food tax – excuse me, fee — passed comfortably last year and was vetoed by Gov. Martinez. I thought it deserved easy passage. Instead it died early in the session. The bill was House Bill 53, sponsored by Rep. Joanne Ferrary, who was a cosponsor last year (see www.triplespacedagain.com, May 2018).

The bill would have levied a small tax, or maybe a fee, on the manufacturers of pet food and earmarked the money for spay and neuter programs. The analysis last year estimated revenue of about $1.3 million.

The bill was stopped by a newly discovered technical issue related to the difference between a tax and a fee. Cosponsor Sen. Jacob Candelaria introduced a similar bill, SB 367, that was stopped for the same reason, Ferrary explained in a recent conversation.

Ferrary is confident the issues will be reconciled during the interim and the bill brought back next year or in 2021.

Ferrary also lost out on HB 52, which would have added household pets or companion animals to those protected in the definition of domestic abuse. So if an abuser threatens, injures or kills a family pet as a way of controlling or abusing family members, that information could be used to obtain an order of protection. Ferrary said this bill didn’t make it because time ran out.

She also introduced HB 54, which would have removed the requirement that a dog that kills or injures livestock or poultry must be killed. The bill would have left the decision to the owner of the livestock, recognizing the possibility of mitigating circumstances.

Bills like these are showing that New Mexicans are increasingly aware that treating animals compassionately is part of what makes us humane human beings. SB 76, the bill that banned coyote killing contests, was this year’s big success (Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, and Jeff Steinborn, D- Las Cruces) in the area of animal-related issues.

Several other bills didn’t get very far.

HB 218 (Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces) should have passed. It was pocket vetoed in 2017 (see triplespacedagain.com, May 2017). This bill attempted to make it easier for horse rescue organizations to save horses.

The bill said when the state livestock board has custody of a stray horse, rescue organizations should get a chance to buy the horse at a modest fee before the horse is auctioned. This would allow the rescue to get the horse at a low price rather than having to bid against other unknown buyers, possibly including “killer buyers” who would sell the horse for slaughter in Mexico. It’s a simple enough concept and costs the state almost nothing.

I’m puzzled that HB 598 (primary sponsor Rep. Karen Bash, D-Albuquerque) did not make it. This bill refers to first responders at the scene of an accident who provide emergency medical treatment to injured animals. Since they are not licensed veterinarians, this bill would have established that it is legally okay for them to provide such treatment.

I can’t argue with the defeat of House Bill 445, also sponsored by Ferrary. Titled the Wild Horse Protection and Habitat Act, it started as a very ambitious bill to protect the state’s wild horses, establishing a range of protections that would have done much to save horses, but would have cost millions of dollars that were not budgeted.

Ferrary told me the bill was pared down to the limited purpose of creating a state Equine Board, separate from the Livestock Board, but it still probably was too much of a stretch for most legislators.

This bill is visionary. Someday, when we have solved our educational and economic problems and become the wealthiest state in the US, we should pass it.

Triple Spaced Again, © New Mexico News Services 2019



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