In Search of Ponies: Animal legislation

Dog breeds, dog bites, homes for retired K-9s and animal killing contests are some of the animal-related issues that have made their way to the state legislature this year.

Regardless of one's stance on animal issues, it's always interesting to take a peek at what our lawmakers' think is important in the non-human spectrum.

Here are some of the proposals affecting animals and related humans:

  • House Bill 63 — Changes to state statute governing vicious animals proposed by Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, would prevent local governments from creating ordinances aimed at specific breeds of dogs. HB 63's first stop is the House Health, Government & Indian Affairs Committee.
  • House Bill 224 and Senate Bill 83 — Seeking to clarify animal cruelty laws and definitions, HB 224, Introduced by Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, is in the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee, and SB 83, Introduced by Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, was passed by the Public Affairs Committee, on its way to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The proposals would require those convicted of extreme animal cruelty to undergo psychological counseling at their expense.

It would also become a felony to commit cruelty that results in death or the great bodily harm of an animal, punishable by 18 months imprisonment or a fine of $5,000. HB 224 also clearly defines the range of penalties for existing animal cruelty crimes.

  • House Bill 258 — A dog that causes injury or death to humans or other animals would no longer have to be classified as legally dangerous prior to an attack for an owner to be convicted of a felony under this proposed law change. In cases resulting in the death of a human, that could translate to six years imprisonment.

Introduced by Rep. Terry H. McMillan, R-Las Cruces, and under review by the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee, HB 258 does, however, provide that if the owner of a dog can prove their animal was provoked into biting, they can defend themselves against criminal charges.

  • House Bill 316 — Ending contests in which animals are killed, HB 316 proposes a new law which would make it illegal for unlicensed people to compete in an event where more than one animal could be killed. In the House Judiciary Committee, under the law proposed by Rep. Nathan Cote, D-Organ, anyone convicted of organizing competitive animal killing would face up to a $5,000 fine. Participants could face a $1,000 fine with up to $5,000 and 364 days in jail for subsequent offenses.
  • Senate Bill 139 — Establishing rules for the handling of state-owned animals no longer of use, SB 139, proposed by Sen. Mark Moores, R-Bernalillo, and first headed to the Senate Public Affairs Committee, would allow K-9 handlers an opportunity to adopt their dogs who are retired from service. If the handler were not interested, the dog would then be offered to non-profit organizations, or if none could be found, sold to someone capable of providing a suitable home for the animal.
  • Senate Bill 174 — Repealing the Animal Sheltering Board created in 2009 primarily to regulate euthanasia, SB 174 would shift its responsibilities to the oversight of the Board of Veterinary Medicine, adding an eighth member, a euthanasia expert to the existing board.

Introduced by Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, SB 174 is in the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

A little more than two weeks in, who knows what will result from the session and each is entitled to their own hopes and opinions. However, when our legislators are making decisions, remember, you can love 'em or hate 'em but if you stay silent, you don't get to blame them.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: or on the web at:

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