Letter to the editor: ‘Animal abuse’ bill would be beneficial to Tennessee

May. 04, 2013 @ 05:47 PM

Editor:

I am contacting you in regards to the editorial which was republished from the Paris Post-Intelligencer in last Saturday’s Mountain Press regarding the “animal cruelty bill” (SB1248/HB1191). This bill has been fully discussed and debated through our legislative process and was lacking only Gov. Haslam’s signature to become law.

I am currently an active cattle farmer in East Tennessee and active in several farm organizations both local and statewide. I support this legislation in its current form and disagree with the opinions expressed in the afore mentioned article.

This bill is designed to stop animal abuse quickly and judiciously by requiring those who intentionally record, for the purpose of documenting what they believe to be illegal activity in the form of animal cruelty against all types of livestock, to promptly report the event and provide unedited copies to law enforcement. This must be done within 48 hours or the close of the following business day whichever is later, which would allow the proper authorities to take swift action to immediately stop the abuse. The penalty for failure to follow this requirement is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by fine only. There is nothing in the bill which would prohibit the individual from retaining copies of the material if they wish to do so.

The livestock industry is a vital and important part of our local and state economy. Animal abuse may occur on occasion but it is certainly not a reflection of the industry as a whole or of the attitude and actions of any responsible producer. It is in the best interest of the animals involved that any abuse be stopped as quickly as possible and that the accused have adequate opportunity to defend the alleged offense.

The editorial states that the abuse was allowed to continue “over a number of days” before the individual/organization reported it to the authorities. It would seem to me that the only real purpose for opposing this specific legislation is to allow the continuation of any such animal abuse so that an individual or organizations own agenda against the livestock industry, or so that a particular cause or agenda can be better perpetuated for their own selfish purposes.

This is a good bill that does not threaten First Amendment rights and is comparable to other laws that require the reporting of a witnessed event involving harm or danger to an individual or to the public. I believe this bill will help stop animal abuse and will reduce the likelihood that recorded images could be misused to harm an important and vital industry.

I trust that Gov. Haslam will give favorable consideration to SB1248/HB1191 and will add his signature to the legislation.

David J. Sarten

Sevierville