SALEM, Ore. — The 2013 Oregon legislative has so far been friendly to animals and their defenders, leaving hunters and rural residents unhappy.
The Legislature tried to ban allowing cougars to be treed by packs of hounds. Wolves may not be shot unless they’re caught chewing on lamb or cow meat. Roping and tripping horses at rodeos has a good chance of being outlawed. Dogs are winning freedom from overlong stays on the leash.
And raccoons could be denied free food handouts, a measure promoted as healthy for them.
“Animal welfare legislation has done very well this session,” said Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon director of the Humane Society of the United States.
Lawmakers, he told The Oregonian (http://bit.ly/1aDPYag), “have restored a sense of balance” to policies that once swayed toward sports and agriculture interests.
“This is about people who are used to having animals as either beloved pets or on the Outdoor Channel,” says Democratic Rep. Brian Clem of Salem, who never misses deer season. “It’s them versus people who work with animals day to day and have a very different point of view.”
How to manage mountain lions became one of the more hotly debated issues of the session. Clem led the charge to allow counties to hold a local vote to opt out of the law that bans the use of hounds to hunt the lions. He won big in the House, only to see the bill die in the Senate.
A high-profile bill passed by a wide margin in the Senate would prohibit rodeo horse-tripping, using a lasso to snare a horse’s legs. Supporters called the practice inhumane and said it’s already barred by mainstream rodeos and 11 other states. Rodeo supporters said lawmakers were out to crush a way of life they don’t understand. The measure is in the House and has bipartisan backing.
Other animal bills still alive include one that would allow eastern Oregon ranchers to shoot gray wolves, but only if the wolves are caught in the act of biting or eating livestock, or can be proved to be chasing and killing livestock.
At first, ranchers were unhappy with the bill, but it appears to have gained bipartisan support.
Another bill would make it illegal to leash a dog with a tether that is too short or causes death or injury. The bill also limits the amount of time a dog can be tied.
Then there’s a bill that would make it a crime to feed raccoons. Backers said feeding the animals can lead to disease and suffering.
The bill has survived despite valiant attempts to block it by Republican Sen. Fred Girod of Stayton. He has talked fondly about the raccoon he once befriended and regularly took fishing. Girod, too, blamed citified thinking for the bill’s apparent success.