Legislation that would require individuals who record incidents of animal abuse to submit the unedited images to law enforcement within 24 hours is headed to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Brought by Rep. Andy Holt, an amendment to HB 1191 would make it a Class C misdemeanor punishable by fine only if someone fails to turn in a video or photographs taken of an animal being abused. Under Tennessee law, those found guilty of a Class C misdemeanor may be charged up to $10,000.
“This is a bill that I think has a legitimate purpose in the state and actually does a lot to quantify and clarify what should be done in an instance where a person should record evidence of animal abuse,” the Dresden Republican told the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, which passed the bill Wednesday on a voice vote.
Rep. Ron Travis, a Republican from Dayton, asked about an amendment that he’d heard would exclude the media from the 24-hour requirement. Holt said one was presented to him, but he opted not to adopt it. Travis said he would not be able to vote for the bill without such an amendment.
Chairman Ron Lollar also seemed concerned that the amendment that would exclude the media wasn’t added. “I do feel that there will be some more discussion at some point on this without the amendment. I think we need to look at it closely,” said Loller, R-Bartlett.
Holt said he brought the bill because of “radical animal activist groups” who have spent months taking videos of animal abuse before notifying anyone.
Hold did not mention any specific incidents. But in May 2012, an undercover video of a Tennessee walking horse trainer abusing horses in Collierville aired nationally. An investigator with the Humane Society shot the footage.
The second-term representative recognized that in “some cases there has been abuse” recorded. Holt said he wanted it noted that “I think animal abuse in any form is reprehensible.
“That is why I want to bring this bill forward. Instead of being backed into a corner like I have some kind of defensive position where I want to protect those who are abusing animals, nothing could be further from the truth.”
Holt questioned why months should elapse before animal abuse is reported when the same does not occur when it comes to reporting child abuse or apprehending a murder suspect.
“I think this is something that we need to be doing, not only to protect our animal industries here in the state against these animal activists that have caused great economic harm to some, but also to protect the animals themselves. That is the ultimate intention of this bill,” Holt said.