Humane Society, other groups pressure Gov. Haslam to veto 'ag gag' bill

Monday, April 22, 2013 at 3:23pm

The Humane Society of the United States is trying to ratchet up pressure on Gov. Bill Haslam to veto legislation that would require people catching animal abuse on camera to hand those images over to law enforcement within 48 hours.

The group has begun running television commercials featuring undercover video of abuse of horses, images that were key in a recent investigation targeting walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell that took about a year to stockpile.

“This was a model case in terms of exposing an abuse and bringing something to light that would have never come out into the public sphere,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, at a press conference in Legislative Plaza Monday.

“This is a preemptive strike against animal welfare groups and against the press to uncover and expose illegal animal cruelty,” he said, adding that the U.S. attorney interested in pursuing the case in the eastern district instructed the Humane Society to hold on to the video for months when investigating McConnell, who was later subject to a 52-count criminal indictment.

The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters are also opposed to the bill, and argue it has implications for journalists and penalizes whistleblowers.

Lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill in the final weeks of the legislative session said the legislation is aimed at making sure animal abuse is quickly reported so it can be addressed. Some also argued that people who don’t understand how to handle large animals might misinterpret what they’re doing as abuse.

Haslam told reporters last week he would look into the details of the legislation but did not hint whether it was a measure he would veto.


13 Comments on this post:

By: Jughead on 4/22/13 at 2:29

All part of leftists wanting the gov't to control every aspect of your life. Next up: a law requiring citizens to report people who fart in public.

By: Porklips on 4/22/13 at 11:18

Jughead, I can't wait for you to read this. I'm literally giddy with excitement. Are you ready???? You just outed your self. Today Jughead, you came clean to the world. You did it and we're proud of you. You sided with the leftists. How? Well please let me explain.

This bill, requiring people to turn over their video if they've videoed abuse at one of these facilities, was sponsored by Republicans in both the Senate and the House. Moreover, they're doing it to cover for business who do some really nasty stuff as they kill the animals we eat. The Leftists are the one wanting the Governor to veto the law, thus not requiring people to report it to police and allowing people to expose inhumane situations.

So yeah, you just told the two Republicans that they were leftists and then sided with the real leftists in wanting the bill struck down.

I'm proud of you Jughead. It must be tough coming out of the closet.

By: Libertine on 4/23/13 at 4:58

I don't really understand this bill or its support or opposition?

Why would animal rights groups want animal abuse and cruelty to go on for months after it was captured on video? Why would they not want it addressed within 48 hours?

By: Jughead on 4/23/13 at 6:45

@Porkrind: Yep, leftists. Repubs or Dems. Next stupid observation?

By: ancienthighway on 4/23/13 at 8:02

Libertine, With evidence only 48 hours old, the abusing parties could claim an isolated incidence, fire sales staff, hire an independent investigator, and walk away from any charges. A pattern needs to be established in order to really bring people to justice.

By: Porklips on 4/23/13 at 8:17

Ancienthighway gets it. Jughead proves he's jughead. Some things I guess I should learn to expect.

By: Jughead on 4/23/13 at 8:55

Stupid, unneeded legislation. But, it is par for the course for the new Amerika.

By: CoyoteCrawford on 4/23/13 at 11:04

Too much legislation.

By: pipecarver on 4/24/13 at 5:59

If the rocket scientist lawmakers "actually knew" the law, they would realize that reporting animal cruelty is not an easy process; even when public safety is a key factor.

I know of two cases where abused/neglected pit bulls were allowed to roam free throughout their respective neighborhoods where families with children resided. When the police were called, law enforcement claimed it was not their responsibility (even though the dogs in question were vicious towards children in the immediate area). They might do a couple of useless drive arounds, but that is all.

The rule is that you must go through The Department of Animal Control to file the complaint; and they prefer you have photo or video proof to substantiate your claim. Why? Animal Control is short staffed. If you call Animal Control to report a roaming, neglected and dangerous pit bull roaming around your neighborhood, AND they have the time to come out, AND they (by some miracle of divine intervention) "personally witness said dangerous/neglected/abused dog roaming without a leash," then and only then will Animal Control pick the dog up and issue a citation to the owner requiring him/her to appear in court. Since finding a neglected, roaming pit bull in a neighborhood is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, they recommend you provide proof ahead of time. This type of evidence takes time to gather; and 48-hours does not even come close to being enough.

Once you are finally able to get the owners cited, and you finally get the pit bull picked up, you and your witnesses must take off from work to appear in Environmental Court with a judge known as a "Referee (insert first name here)." The prosecuting attorney is provided at no cost to you. The owner has a right to represent himself/herself (or obtain a lawyer). The owner/lawyer has the right to cross examine you and your witnesses. This is precisely why you want photographic proof. "If" for some reason the owner gets out of it, they are free to come retrieve their dog from Animal Control; thus the process starts all over.

In other words, the innocent citizens being terrorized by a vicious, neglected dog are required to submit photo and/or video proof if they expect to win their case; and this takes a lot longer than 48-hours to document.

Our lawmakers are either brain-dead or caving into the want/needs of the special interest. If Gov. Haslam does not agree with the legislation, he will simply not sign it; thus the bill becomes a law. Why is Gov. Haslam too afraid to use his veto power? Good money is the Governor has an agenda that he wants passed; thus he's afraid to bite the very hands that feed to speak.

Furthermore, our lawmakers desperately need to pass a series of laws to justify their time spent in office. Do you honestly believe they are going to tackle the big issues requiring real effort on their part? No, our typical lawmakers are simply going to do what they always do...pass meaningless and/or easy legislation to justify their pathetic, miserable existence.

By: Badbob on 4/24/13 at 7:30

Haslem would never veto a bill that helps businesses. Even if it results in soaring of walking horses, or other abuse. After all, those are just dumb animals, only one step below Democrats in his mind. I hope I'm wrong, but since he profits from screwing his customers, I doubt it.

By: govskeptic on 4/24/13 at 8:35

This law is to protect and warn the abusers, no intentions of doing a darn thing
to stop or punish those who do abuse.

By: paulalanjones on 4/24/13 at 10:32

My gut tells me that this is aimed at protecting large commercial interests. Large scale chicken breeders are extremely tight with security and photographs and video is strictly forbidden. Making secret documentation pubic within 48 hours allows corporations to fire employees and set legal protections over the footage, while claiming apparent abuses are abnormal. I would be willing to bet that in no case does this ever benefit the animals being abused. People recording abuse, almost always do it out of concern for the animal(s), so why the weight of the law to compel video to be disclosed quickly? I don't know anyone who would record abuse, out of concern for an animal, that would sit on the footage if they felt like disclosing it quickly would be the best response. Yes, this bill is 100% corporate protectionism. Plus, don't forget, being required to hand over footage is basically making most documenters legally required to self incriminate if trespassing is involved.

By: yucchhii on 4/25/13 at 2:43

Leftists...rightists...right wing, left wing...who gives dam? As far as I'm concerned they are all "CRIMINALS"!! Most need to be in a prison cell in mississippi with BUBBA so they all can be BUBBAs GIRLS!! The rest need to be executed by way of firing squad while sitting on the electric chair charging up their phones!!!