Tennessee animal lovers say protection bills stymied

A group of animal-loving Tennessee voters says bills it supports are being stymied in state House and Senate agriculture committees — and actually don't belong in them at all.

Among the bills that gained no ground last year is one that would have made it illegal to put heavy chains and choke collars on dogs and leave them in the sun. Another would have increased fines for watching cockfighting and dogfighting matches by making both class A misdemeanors.

Tennessee also lost its ability to regulate commercial animal breeders — including the ability to inspect puppy mills — and keep the state's Office of Animal Welfare. Both died June 30 after a bill to stop them from expiring died in committee.

The Tennessee Voters for Animal Protection are meeting with Speaker of the House Beth Harwell at 9:15 a.m. Thursday and dropping off a printout of a Change.org petition with more than 4,000 signatures on it. It's asking Harwell to route bills having to do with non-agricultural animals around the agricultural committees, instead putting them in civil justice, criminal justice or other applicable spots.

They're dropping one off at Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey's office, too, but he was unavailable to meet, said Anjie Crow with the voters' group.

She can't answer why the animal bills they support aren't gaining traction.

"That would be a question for the ag committee, because that's what we would like to know," Crow said.

Speaker Harwell and the House agricultural committee chair and vice chair, Curtis Halford, R-Dyer, and Andy Holt, R-Dresden, didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.

Tennessean.com will update this story.

Reach Heidi Hall at 615-726-5977 or on Twitter @HeidiHallTN


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