Ag-Gag Laws Almost Lead to a Prosecution in Utah

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First Ag-Gag Prosecution Almost Comes to Fruition in Utah

Amy Meyer was driving by the Dale Smith Meatpacking Company slaughterhouse in Utah when she decided to pull over and videotape what she saw: piles or horns littered across the property, cows being dragged across the grounds, one cow in particularly who appeared sick or injured being hauled off in a tractor “as though she were nothing more than rubble,” Meyer told the online paper Green is the New Red.

Meyer’s videotaping did not go over well with the slaughterhouse manager, Darrel H. Smith, the town mayor, who told her to stop. She made it clear that she was not on his property, and had every right to record anything she wanted.

At least that’s what she thought.

However, later on Meyer learned that she was going to be prosecuted under Utah’s new law (a law many people refer to as an “ag-gag law”) which is designed to prohibit undercover videos of farms and slaughterhouses.

The charges were eventually dropped, perhaps since Meyer was on the roadside, and not trespassing on private property (although Utah’s law is sketchy on those particulars). However, this brings to light the progress that these ag-gag laws have made over the course of the year.

Background on Ag-Gag Laws

Ag-Gag Laws aren’t that new. Kansas, Montana, and North Dakota all have had forms of this type of law in place for the last two decades. But in recent years more and more states are considering implementing rules that prohibit undercover videos of animal abuse. Much of this has come as a result of troubling videos made by groups like the Humane Society and Mercy for Animals. These videos were truly undercover, meaning that the videos were taken on the property of the farms (oftentimes by employees-turned-whistleblowers of the farm or slaughterhouse).

Most of the Ag-Gag laws don’t prohibit the ability to film from a roadside (like Meyer did). However, states are finding ways around this. For example, Pennsylvania’s proposed bill criminalizes anyone who “records an image of, or sound from, the agricultural operation,” or who “uploads, downloads, transfers or otherwise sends” footage using the Internet.

Tennessee’s bill passed, and is awaiting the governor’s signature. During the process, however, one state rep (Andy Holt) referred to the Humane Society’s use of undercover footage of animal abuse as no different than how human-traffickers use 17-year-old women. He claims that organizations like the Humane Society “seek to profit from animal abuse” using a “tape and rape” method.

Proponents of ag-gag laws share at least part of Holt’s sentiment. Proponents claim that if any animal abuse does take place at a facility, employees have the ability, and obligation, to report to authorities. Videos, they believe, do nothing but sensationalize the problem, and, in fact, those who videotape these abuses for use in supporting a cause are participating in the abuse. Those who videotape animal abuse ought to be required to submit the evidence to police, immediately, rather than to broadcast it to the world.

Opponents of ag-gag laws claim that employees are not likely to openly report abuses to authorities, because they aren’t quick to report themselves or their co-workers. Furthermore, opponents claim that these videos can be used later on as evidence of abuse, if formal charges are ever brought to light.

However, above all else, opponents of ag-gag laws claim that not being able to broadcast abuse severely limits their ability to inform the public of the truth. When people actually get to see and hear the abuse, they’ll realize the problem is far worse than they imagined. These images and videos might stir people into anger and, eventually action.

Currently Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont are considering ag-gag laws similar to that of Utah and Tennessee.

Well-known animal activists, such as Carrie Underwood, aren’t taken this ag-gag progress lightly. On April 18, soon after Tennessee’s bill passed, she tweeted this to her thousands of followers:

“Shame on TN lawmakers for passing the Ag Gag bill. If Gov. Bill Haslam signs this, he needs to expect me at his front door. Who’s with me?”

Well, who’s with her?

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Teen charged with animal cruelty after Internet video of cat surfaces

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“I’m praying they find the cat alive…kicked with such malice may have meant the cat wandered off to die alone; as they often do! Evil little shit, goaded on by an adult that should know better…but obviously not”

Naim Robert Carter is accused of cheering and encouraging a boy to kick a cat off the porch of a home in Berkeley County

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — An 18-year-old man who is accused of cheering and encouraging a boy to kick a cat off the porch of a home in Berkeley County in July was charged with one felony count of animal cruelty, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

Naim Robert Carter, of 561 Good Drive in Martinsburg, was arraigned on the charge Thursday by Magistrate Jim Humphrey, according to court documents.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 25, according to court documents.

The alleged incident surfaced after a woman and her daughter told police on July 28 that they saw a video posted on the Internet, according to court documents.

Police were told that Carter recorded the video of the cat being kicked by a 14-year-old boy and cheered on the juvenile, according to court documents.

 Berkeley County Sheriff’s Deputy C.S. Merson said in the criminal complaint that he could not find the cat on Aug. 6 when he went to the Burdette Drive residence where the alleged abuse took place, according to court documents.

Merson determined the height of the porch from which the cat was kicked to be about 6 feet, according to court documents.

The video appears to show the cat being kicked in an “extremely hard manner,” Merson said in his complaint filed in magistrate court.

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ND farm groups opposing animal cruelty measure

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP)North Dakota farm groups say they’ll oppose an anti-animal cruelty measure if it gets on the ballot.

The initiative would make it a felony crime to commit aggravated cruelty against a cat, dog or horse — such as burning, suffocating and beating to death. The punishment could be up to five years in prison.

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, the Farm Bureau and the Farmers Union are among the organizations that don’t like the idea.

Farmers Union President Woody Barth says the measure uses “inflammatory language” and doesn’t talk about the most common forms of animal mistreatment in North Dakota.

Supporters of the measure turned in more than 25,000 signatures to Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Tuesday. They only need about 13,500 names to qualify for the November election.

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Push for strong anti-cruelty laws in US state

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(North Dakota, United States) North Dakota has one of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the nation, and a group is fighting to change that.

The North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty group got together at West Acres Mall today — getting signatures to help change the laws surrounding animal cruelty.

As shoppers strolled the mall, some stopped for food, others for clothes… And hundreds stopped to sign a petition that would make animal cruelty a class C felony rather than just a misdemeanor.

Ed Ahonen said “I have always felt that cruelty to animals has never been followed through, for the prevention, of that sort of thing.” He supports legislation that would ensure animal abusers would walk away with more than a slap on the wrist.

“I feel bad mostly when I read or see some abuse.” North Dakota is only one of two states that does not have this type of legislation. South Dakota is the other. “That tells me they are not taking care of the pets.”

Volunteer Kristie Skunberg says it’s time North Dakota joins the rest of the nation, and make animal cruelty charges more strict for anyone hurting helpless animals.

Kristie Skunberg said “the legislature has failed time and time again to pass a law like this, and actually in the last session they voted down to even research the issue, so we feel that animals dogs, cats, and horses shouldn’t have to wait any longer, that’s why we’ve gone to this process.”

Over 13 thousand signatures are needed to put a animal cruelty measure on the November ballot. “Our goal is about 17 thousand, so we have a little buffer” she said.

If enough signatures are collected the new legislation will allow the people of North Dakota to vote and so far, many people are standing behind the animals. All signatures need to be collected by the first week of August.

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A Cut Above – How a onetime rodeo gal is wrangling animal cruelty

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“Read this interesting story about a women who used to be a rodeo fan & actually ride bulls, but who know has seen the light & fights against the industry…as well as blowing the whistle on other industry short falls. I would like to shake this lady’s hand & probably give her a cuddle for the countless animals she has saved at low cost; since realizing animals hurt too etc.!”

Veterinarian Peggy Larson gets along better with animals than with most humans. “The spaying and neutering is pretty easy,” she says, cleaning up after a surgery in her Colchester-based Cat Spay/Neuter Clinic. “What’s hard is dealing with people.”

It’s not surprising that Larson takes a sometimes-dim view of her fellow humans: She’s spent decades fighting instances of animal abuse ranging from livestock mishandling to rodeo exploitation to outright neglect and cruelty. But this feisty and outspoken woman wasn’t always an animal crusader. She grew up a self-described tomboy on a North Dakotaranch, and at 16 decided on a whim to take up bareback bronco riding — a rodeo sport dominated by men. “I was crazy when I was young,” Larson says with a laugh.

Peggy Larson spays a cat

“You really have a different mind-set when you grow up on a ranch,” she continues. Animals were “income-producing objects,” a commodity, and so she didn’t worry much about the spurs she dug into a bronco’s back, or the calves who were shocked repeatedly before a roping event — until she enrolled in veterinary school and found herself gobsmacked by just how much animals and humans have in common.

“It was a real revolution,” she says.

Now Larson is 77, though she looks a good decade younger. At 5-foot-4, she’s spry and petite. Today she’s wearing scrubs and comfortable Crocs sandals, and she perches atop a small step stool next to her operating table. Larson keeps up a steady stream of chatter from behind her surgical mask while she deftly preps a long-haired gray cat for surgery. Already asleep with the aid of an anesthetic, the cat is splayed belly up on the operating table.

Not that Larson is especially worried about popularity contests: She’s not afraid to ruffle feathers, particularly in her work as an advocate for animals. She rails against theAmerican Veterinary Medical Association, which she dubs a “backward institution” and accuses of worrying more about making money than animal welfare. “The AVMA is pro-rodeo, they’re pro hogs in gestation crates, they’re pro hens in batteries,” Larson says, disgusted.

While working as a USDA inspector of animal welfare and livestock disease programs in the late ’70s and early ’80s, she blew the whistle on embezzlement within the program. Larson later took a no-nonsense approach to overhauling meat inspection in Vermont during her stint as state veterinarian. The onetime bronco rider now campaigns to eliminate the sport. “There’s nothing more cowardly to me than a calf roper,” she says fiercely.

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Protect Animals from Extreme Cruelty

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North Dakota is one of only two states in the country that does not have a felony punishment for extreme animal cruelty. Even the harshest forms of animal abuse are punished as a mere misdemeanor in the state.

It’s time for North Dakota to catch up with the rest of the country and turn around its reputation for having one of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the nation.

North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty is a coalition spearheading a ballot initiative to protect the state’s animals from extreme animal cruelty. The campaign is organizing to fix this problem by making it a Class C felony to engage in some specific forms of aggravated cruelty to dogs, cats, or horses.

Sign the pledge to join North Dakotans and animal lovers across the country in sending a message that it’s time for North Dakota to stand up for its animals. By signing the pledge you will join the North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty effort and receive alerts from the campaign on how to help make this important change for animals.

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Backers of stiffer animal cruelty laws cite beating death of Grand Forks dog

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People working to increase North Dakota penalties against animal cruelty are citing the recent killing of a pet dog during a Grand Forks home invasion and robbery as an example of why the cruelty laws should be toughened.

North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty, a coalition of animal shelters, veterinarians, pet rescue operations, animal control officers and others, said the beating death of a Chihuahua named Baby “demonstrates why certain acts of animal cruelty must be punished as felonies.”

Sherman Jones, 39, said three masked men broke into his Grand Forks mobile home early Monday, attacked him and his wife and killed the dog before taking prescription drugs and household property. Police are investigating the incident.

“Baby” was one of the couple’s five Chihuahuas.

The coalition is circulating petitions for an initiated measure that would make it a Class C felony “to maliciously and intentionally harm a living dog, cat or horse.” To get the measure on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, sponsors must submit at least 13,452 qualified signatures to the secretary of state by early August.

The proposed new penalty would not apply to production agriculture, lawful activities of hunters and trappers, licensed veterinarians, scientific researchers or “individuals engaged in lawful defense of life or property.

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