MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Proposed legislation in the Alabama Senate is causing an uproar among animal rights activists. It deals directly with current animal cruelty laws and could saddle a state agency with additional responsibilities.
At the Montgomery Humane Society, Executive Director Steven Tears found it difficult to adopt any positive views on SB 196.
“I had to put it down and read it again because I couldn’t believe what I saw,” Tears explained.
What he saw was a 12-page proposal that would charge anyone for filing an animal cruelty complaint if that complaint turned out to be unfounded or that there was no evidence to back it up. That’s a Class C misdemeanor.
Tears estimates they receive around 4,000 complaints of animal abuse every year and that about 40 percent are legitimate reports of abuse. But to make it where a complaint could result in a charge? “It would be catastrophic,” Tears said.
Sen. Jack Williams, R-Mobile, is the primary sponsor of the bill. WSFA 12 News reached out to him for an opportunity to defend his proposal. He agreed to a 2 p.m. phone interview but did not answer when called or texted.
The outcry from animal activists has grabbed the attention of one of the leaders in the Alabama Senate.
“Received calls last night from the humane society in Birmingham," said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston. "I am curious of what’s in this bill.”
Part of SB 196 calls for the Alabama Department of Agriculture to handle animal abuse investigations, something Ag Commissioner Rick Pate isn’t all that interested in taking on.
“We were not consulted. Takes us in a whole new area as far as domestic animals, things we’re not familiar with," Pate said of the bill.
Is SB 196 dead on arrival? Not necessarily, but it is caged for now.
“And that bill, for right now, is not moving anywhere,” said Marsh.