ST. GEORGE — Proposed legislation that would have required owners to provide their pets with appropriate shelter during harsh weather failed to pass in the Utah 2018 Legislature.
Animal welfare amendments, designated as SB 91 1st Substitute, was the subject of much debate before it narrowly passed in the Senate Monday night. The bill was never brought to vote in the House in the waning days of the Legislature, which ended Thursday night.
The bill was originally drafted on behalf of animal control officers who were seeking a single definition of what the state means by shelter, rather than relying on varying definitions between different jurisdictions.
“We really don’t describe what we mean by adequate shelter in the current law,” bill sponsor Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said.
In addition to clarifying what an appropriate shelter looks like, the bill would also make it a crime to leave an animal tethered or unattended in a manner that prevents it from reaching shelter when exposed to hail, snow or severe weather.
The final language of the bill, which would not have applied to wildlife or farm animals, included specific rules for shelters intended for dogs.
The bill defined appropriate shelter as one that prevents moisture, has a solid surface with coverage on all sides, contains bedding or an artificial heat source and is clean and ventilated.
The bill enjoyed initial support from the Humane Society of Utah and animal control personnel but required several amendments as it made its way through the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee.
The Utah Farm Bureau said it opposed the bill, as it could criminalize owners of working animals, such as sheep dogs, that may have to work in periods of inclement weather.
As a result, the bill was amended to only include Salt Lake County, exempting rural counties where working animals are more prevalent.
The bill also indicated what can’t be considered adequate shelter, such as a cardboard box, building crawlspace, the space under a vehicle or a carrier or crate designed for temporary transport or temporary housing.
Excluding temporary housing drew criticism from some senators who said it would criminalize someone using a carrier as shelter on a camping or hunting trip.
“If it excludes things like travel carriers, then any time you are away from your home with your animal, you are potentially in violation of this section,” Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said.
The Utah Houndsmen Association, lobbying on behalf of hunters, was also against language excluding temporary travel carriers as appropriate shelter.
“We already have a statute that makes it illegal not to take care of your animal,” Utah Houndsmen Association President Dan Cockayne said. “We definitely are not for being cruel to an animal but we are certainly against a ridiculous, nit-picking statute that could be handled and should be handled on a local basis.”
Enforcement would be based on complaints, Davis said, which are unlikely to be levied against people in outdoor recreation settings.
“Animal control would have to seek you out in the mountains on your camping trip or fishing trip,” Davis said. “They would have to have a complaint, and they probably couldn’t find you in the mountains that quickly before the inclement weather passed.”
Thatcher said regardless of the likelihood of someone on a camping trip being cited, the behavior would still be criminalized and suggested that the legislation should only apply to people at their homes.
“Excluding that when you are not at home is an easy way to remedy that concern,” Thatcher said.
In its last revision, the bill was amended to only apply to people in their place of residence.
The bill passed in the Senate with a 15-13 vote. Southern Utah Sens. Don Ipson, R-St. George, and Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, voted against the proposed legislation. Vickers said the idea looked good on paper but enforcement would be complicated.
As it was never brought to vote in the House, the bill ultimately died when the Legislature wrapped Thursday.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, suggested that in the future, the idea of the bill could be implemented as a Salt Lake County ordinance rather than state statute.
- Read the bill: Utah 2018 SB 91 1st Substitute – Animal Welfare Amendments
- Contact legislators
- Bill sponsor: Gene Davis
- Southern Utah Sens. Evan Vickers, Don Ipson, David Hinkins and Ralph Okerlund | Listing of all senators.
- Southern Utah Reps. Travis Seegmiller, Bradley Last, V. Lowry Snow, Walt Brooks, John Westwood, Merrill Nelson and Michael Noel | Listing of all members of the House of Representatives.
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