Tag Archives: animals

TN judge rejects courtroom monkey motion

A Putnam County judge has rejected a woman’s request to have her pet monkey — named Carlose and deemed an “emotional support animal” — on hand in the courtroom for her pending trial on drug charges, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen.

Gordon Byars, attorney for Barbara Sue Myers of Celina, had filed a motion asking that Carlose be permitted to attend the court proceedings with his owner. Criminal Court Judge Gary McKenzie denied the motion.

“In all my time studying law in school and in my 17 years of practice, I never thought I would have to decide whether a monkey can come in a courtroom,” he said.

Byars argued in the motion that the presence of the monkey — a black-handed species named Carlose — would be critical for Myers during trial.

“Emotional support animals are … necessary for the normal, day-to-day functioning of their emotionally or psychologically impaired handler, facilitating a normalizing effect by their presence,” Byars said.

He cited several federal laws protecting and allowing the use of emotional support animals. They can be present in aircraft cabins, for example, and landlords must accommodate them even when leases prohibit it, he said.

Byars showed proof that Carlose is a certified emotional support animal by the National Service Animal Registry. His motion also references a statement by Myers’ doctor claiming that Carlose’s presence helps her manage the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

“He is well trained, friendly and accompanies the defendant everywhere she goes,” Byars said.

Judge McKenzie denied the motion because Carlose is an emotional support animal and not a service dog.

“The American Disability Act specifically excludes all other animals except dogs,” he said.

The judge is particularly familiar with that law because, when he was an assistant prosecutor, he was involved in writing directions allowing a service dog into a DeKalb County courtroom for a child rape trial. That was a precedent-setting case in the state. It involved the 13th Judicial District’s Child Advocacy Center’s service dog, Murch, who is trained to be in court.

Animal protection PAC backs 19 in TN legislative primaries (including Durham)

News release from Tennessee Voters for Animal Protection
NASHVILLE, June 22, 2016 – Tennessee Voters for Animal Protection (TVAP), a non-partisan political action committee (PAC), released its list of endorsed candidates in 19 state legislative primary races today.

“We are excited to announce our endorsements for the upcoming state primaries,” said Anjie Crow, TVAP’s president. “We’ve never endorsed this many candidates in the primaries before and are very pleased that there are so many animal-friendly candidates this year. It’s proof that animal protection issues are more important in Tennessee than ever and that there are many candidates who are willing to ensure that animals have a voice in Tennessee.”

Senate
2, Doug Overbey (R) 4, Jon Lundberg (R) 10, Ty O’Grady (D) 20, Steve Dickerson (R) 30, Sara Kyle (D)

House
4, John B. Holsclaw Jr. (R) 11, Michael McCarter (R) 28, JoAnne Favors (D) 45, Courtney Rogers (R) 58, Harold M. Love Jr. (D) 61, Charles Sargent (R) 65, Jeremy Durham (R) 80, Johnny Shaw (D) 85, Johnnie Turner (D) 88, Larry J. Miller (D) 94, Thomas E. Cooper (R) 95, Curry Todd (R) 96, Steve McManus (R) 98, Antonio Parkinson (D)

TVAP’s political support for candidates is based solely on animal protection issues. Methods used to determine endorsements may be questionnaires and/or combined results of TVAP Scorecards.

General election endorsements will be announced later this summer.

Tennessee Voters for Animal Protection is a PAC dedicated to electing animal-friendly candidates and unifying voters by creating a powerful voting bloc, ensuring animals have a voice in Tennessee. For more information, please visit www.tnanimalprotection.org.

Note: Perhaps the most notable endorsement is that for embattled Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, currently under investigation for alleged sexual harassment and campaign finance violations and facing two primary challengers. In Senate District 10, O’Grady is one of three Democrats seeking nomination to oppose Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga. The only endorsed challenger to an incumbent on the list is Michael McCarter, opposing Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, in House District 11.

Action anticipated on TN Walking Horse ‘soring’ rules

Lawmakers and animal-rights activists who have pushed the federal government to crack down on an illegal practice that’s sometimes used to give Tennessee Walking Horses their exaggerated, high-stepping gait are hopeful that President Barack Obama’s administration will soon act on related new rules, according to The Tennessean.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture served notice in April that it is proposing a new rule to strengthen federal requirements aimed at eliminating the practice known as “soring.”

The proposed changes would update the existing Horse Protection Act and would impact everything from inspection procedures to the responsibilities of managers of show horses, exhibitions, sales and auctions. The agency said it’s also looking at devices, equipment, substances and practices that can cause soring.

In late May, a bipartisan group of House members urged the administration to move as quickly as possible on the new rule so it can be finalized before Obama leaves office next January.

“These changes will not destroy the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, as you may hear from opponents of the proposed rule, but will instead save this industry from imploding because of the bad actors who continue to abuse horses at the expense of the breed’s reputation,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Shaun Donovan, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The letter to Donovan was signed by 175 House members, including U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Memphis Democrat. Cohen was the only Tennessean whose signature appeared on the letter.

“Soring horses is both illegal and morally unacceptable, but some trainers are clearly taking advantage of lax oversight and wide loopholes to do it anyway,” Cohen said last week. “We need to strengthen enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and ensure that trainers are following the law to finally put an end to this terrible abuse.”

Dogs and skunks top topics in 2016 animal protection report

Tennessee Voters for Animal Protection doesn’t have much to report in its annual report on legislative doings. A bill the group supported, requiring registration of dog breeders, didn’t come up for a vote; and a bill opposed, allowing skunks as pets, died on the House floor after passing the Senate.

The group’s annual rating of legislators thus is largely based on those matters. Highest ratings went to sponsors and supporters of the dog breeder legislation; lowest to sponsors of the skunk bill.

The full “scorecard” report, including all members of the House and Senate if you scroll down a bit, is HERE.

And here’s the organization’s news release: Continue reading

Officer loses in squirrel pepper-spraying, shooting case

A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit contending a Mountain City police officer was wrongfully fired for pepper-spraying a squirrel and shooting at it in a Dollar General Store in 2013, reports the Johnson City Press.

Officer Jody Putnam’s lawsuit, claiming the town and police department violated his rights under the Sixth, Fourth and 14th constitutional amendments and asking for $2 million in damages, was dismissed Feb. 19 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifton Corker.

In Corker’s written opinion, which included a colorful description of the Sept. 27, 2013, attempted squirrel shooting that quoted and cited Ray Stevens’ satirical song “Mississippi Squirrel Revival,” the judge ruled Putnam was an at-will employee of Mountain City, and his firing, whether because of his breach of the department’s firearms policy or his refusal to file a weapons discharge report — both of which Putnam admitted — was constitutional.

…In his claim, Putnam said that after he was fired, the town gave accounts about the incident “to several press outlets and ruined any chance of (Putnam) recovering his 17-year career. (Putnam) could not get a job with any law enforcement agency in the country; due to the defendants making this event a national news story.”

Corker noted that while that may be true, it doesn’t set aside that his dismissal was appropriate based on the town’s assertion Putnam improperly discharged his firearm in a store and he failed to file the appropriate administrative reports for discharging his service weapon.

House spurns skunks as pets

A Senate-passed bill that would legalize the keeping of skunks as pets in Tennessee failed on the House floor Monday evening after coming in for criticism from state veterinarians.

The bill (SB1821) had passed the Senate 27-3 on Feb. 17. But when sponsor Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, brought it to the House floor Monday, Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Hendersonville, promptly asked him about veterinarian objections.

Skunks are rabies carriers, she said, and there is no vaccine against rabies for skunks.

Faison disputed that proposition, contending there is a vaccine — though it’s “off-label.” And he said there has never been a case of rabies from pet skunks in 17 states that now allow keeping them as pets.

Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, also spoke against the bill. Jones said she had a pet skunk “as a kid” and “no matter what they remove it still smells like a skunk. And they have very sharp teeth.”

When the bill came up for a vote, it got only 44 yes votes while 38 voted no and the rest either abstained or simply didn’t vote. A bill needs 50 yes votes for passage.

Note: News release from the veterinarians association is below.
Continue reading

Committees decide skunk bill doesn’t stink

A bill to allow Tennesseans to keep skunks as pets has won initial approval in committees of both the House and Senate with the sponsors contending it will provide a moneymaking opportunity for breeders of domesticated and de-scented animals.

The Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill (SB1821) in less than two minutes on a 7-1 vote without discussion beyond a brief explanation by Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, the Senate sponsor, who said 17 other states already allow skunks to be kept as domestic pets and sold, including the border states of Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia. It’s scheduled for a Senate floor vote this week.

The discussion was somewhat more lively in the House Agriculture Subcommittee, where the companion bill was approved on voice vote with Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Boliver, asking to be recorded as voting no after questioning sponsor Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, at some length.

Faison said the bill was requested by constituents and, when initially approached, “I thought it was a joke.” But on looking into the matter, Faison said that skunks can be sold as pets for up to $1,000 each and there could be “tons of revenue” for those eager to engage in skunk marketing.
Continue reading

TN becomes first state with animal abuse registry

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee is set to become the first state to release a registry that will consist of the names of people convicted of having intentionally abused animals.

Beginning Jan. 1, anyone can access the online registry, see a picture of the offender, and learn the offender’s age and where the offender lives, WBIR-TV reports (http://on.wbir.com/1ZAkHjQ).

The Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate passed legislation in May to allow the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to create the website.

State Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the law was modeled after registries that are kept of sexual offenders. He thinks he the new law will be a strong deterrent against animal abuse.

“When you’re unkind to an animal, that really gets the public’s attention,” Briggs said.

The registry consists of those convicted of aggravated animal cruelty, or felony animal fighting. First-time offenders will spend two years on the registry, while a second offense makes it five.

Jason Hopson and Amanda Hopson run the Bright Hope Animal Rescue in Greeneville.

They applaud the new law, but Jason Hopson also said he hoped offenders would always be on the registry.

“Animals can’t talk for themselves so we have to be their voice,” said Amanda Hopson said.

Note: The bill was HB147, sponsored by Rep. Darren Jernigan and Sen. Jeff Yarbro, Nashville Democrats. It actually passed the legislature in April (90-0 House, 28-1 Senate) though it was signed by the governor in May.

Animal protection group rates TN legislators

News release from Tennessee Voters for Animal Protection
NASHVILLE, NOVEMBER 5, 2015 – Tennessee Voters for Animal Protection (TVAP), a non-partisan, grassroots political action committee, released their annual Legislative Report and Scorecard today, which summarizes how the 109th General Assembly performed this year with regard to animal protection issues in Tennessee.

“This year we have great news to share about four animal-protection bills that were proposed and passed in the Tennessee General Assembly,” said Payton Robbins, TVAP’s Legislative Liaison. “These four bills—aimed at establishing an animal abuse registry, rescuing a distressed animal from a vehicle, increasing penalties for animal fighting and increasing penalties for killing a service animal—passed with large majorities in both the House and the Senate.”

Passing this many animal-friendly bills in one session hasn’t always been the case. “Year after year, some legislators were going against the will of their constituents by killing these bills in the Agriculture Committees,” said Robbins. “Last year, TVAP started an online petition asking that animal-related bills be given a fair hearing and thousands of concerned Tennesseans signed our petition. The result has been a very positive one,” said Robbins.

There were also more sponsors and co-sponsors of animal-friendly bills than ever. Those receiving the highest scores were Sen. Steven Dickerson, Sen. Ferrell Haile, Rep. Darren Jernigan, Sen. Bill Ketron, Rep. Jon Lundberg, and Rep. Art Swann. Those receiving the lowest scores were Rep. Kelly Keisling, Sen. Frank Niceley, and Rep. Rick Womick.

Tennessee Voters for Animal Protection is a political action committee that endorses humaneminded candidates, raises funds from concerned citizens to donate to political campaigns, and organizes volunteers to campaign for humane-minded candidates in Tennessee. For more information, please visit www.tnanimalprotection.org.

Note: Download the group’s legislative scorecard HERE. It’s a pretty hefty file.

TN couple pleads guilty to chicken abuse, fined $25 each

DRESDEN, Tenn. (AP) — The owners of a West Tennessee farm where animal rights activists took undercover video have pleaded no contest to one count each of animal cruelty.

Thomas and Susan Blassingame were fined $25 each and given just under a year of unsupervised probation.

They were charged after the nonprofit Mercy for Animals released a video in August that showed the couple killing chickens on their T & S farm by hitting them with a spiked stick.

Tyson Foods cut ties with the farm, and the Blassingames’ attorney, Steve Conley, says the couple has since retired.

Conley says he thinks the couple could have won had the case gone to trial, but the Blassingames did not want to.

He says “They didn’t want to go through the stress” of a trial.