Dan Paul, the director of Washington’s Humane Society, said he was surprised by the number of bills that he and other animal-rights activists oppose in Olympia this year compared to past legislative sessions.
“This year has been an assault on wildlife,” Paul said at a gathering of about 80 pet and wildlife advocates Tuesday near the Capitol. “All across the board, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Speakers at the event spelled out stances on bills concerning birds, orcas, bears, dogs, cougars, wolves and more, but each highlighted advocacy priorities.
Paul opposed House Bill 1838, sponsored by Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, which would allow baiting of black bears in certain circumstances. The practice involves filling a barrel or box with sweets to lure bears into an area where they can be killed.
MacEwen is the only sponsor of the bill, which cleared the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources and is currently in the Rules Committee.
“Other options previously used have been ineffective at mitigating the damage caused by problematic black bears,” MacEwen wrote in an email. “I believe there are adequate sideboards on this bill to ensure these practices are carried out in a sustainable manner in order to meet the needs of both Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and property owners.”
Paul said he worries the bill would be exploited for recreational hunting and said he prefers provisions that already exist for people to defend themselves and their property from bears instead of baiting tactics.
An initiative to ban bear baiting was passed in 1996 with 63 percent of the vote.
The Humane Society supported Senate Bill 5501, sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, which would amend existing animal cruelty laws. The bill is currently in the Senate Rules Committee.
Amy Webster from animal-rights nonprofit PAWS spoke in favor of Senate Bill 5356, which would create a pilot program to recycle fishing line statewide. Webster said, when improperly disposed of, the line can harm birds and other wildlife.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, and is in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
“It’s undetected by most animals and wildlife,” Webster said. “As you can imagine many birds, and fish … dogs, and cats are affected by fishing line we leave behind.”