House, Senate Pass Different Versions of Critter Castle Doctrine Measure

Both chambers of the General Assembly have passed legislation that would provide a legal defense against criminal prosecution for Tennesseans who kill or wound an attacking animal.

However, while the Senate voted to conform to House Bill 135, which passed the lower chamber 91-0 last Thursday, the upper chamber also voted to amend the House legislation, which now must head back to the House for approval.

The amended measure passed the Senate 30-1, with Germantown Republican and Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey casting the only dissenting vote.

Cosby Republican Jeremy Faison, the House sponsor, told TNReport last week the proposal is necessary because currently all wildlife belongs to the State of Tennessee and killing any animal without a license is technically a crime — even if it is endangering you.

The Senate amendment, offered by the Energy, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, changed the length of time an individual has to report the killing to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency from 12 hours to 24 hours, and clarified that the notice and non-removal requirements applied only to big game animals.

After session Monday, Faison told TNReport that he was unaware the Senate had intended to make any changes to the legislation, and that he would have to “find out the intent” of those changes before he could comment.

The House Government Operations Committee chairman had said last week that although he was including the reporting requirement that TWRA had requested, he didn’t expect there to be a sudden uptick in Tennesseans reporting the killing of wildlife.

“Let’s be honest, I don’t think — people have been killing wildlife for years, and I don’t think they’re going to start reporting now if they didn’t report then,” Faison said. He added his bill was “geared more towards” providing people “a defense in front of a judge” in a situation where a person may encounter a snake or a bear, and “people get a little crazy” about the prospect of animals being killed. 

Alex Harris can be contacted at Alex@TNReport.com.