Keeping an Animal Cruelty Loophole Out of the Wisconsin Budget

Posted by Stephanie Ulmer, Guest Blogger on July 8, 2011

Despite a huge effort to encourage Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to use his line-item veto power to exclude an unnecessary animal cruelty loophole provision from the state budget, Walker signed the budget on June 26th, 2011, with the provision as written. The provision was supported by medical researchers in the state seeking protection from current animal cruelty laws, stating that the laws should not apply to them and that they should only be regulated by federal law. Medical College of Wisconsin Spokesman Dick Katschke said the measure was written as a result of researchers being sued in state court in 2010 by animal rights groups. But others argued that previously current law had already exempted bona fide scientific researchers from the statutes prohibiting animal mistreatment in Wis. Stat. § 951.02, and poisoning in Wis. Stat. § 951.06.

It is clear that this newly created provision was meant to provide more legal protection to researchers performing animal testing in Wisconsin and to undermine the protection animals in labs previously had. Researchers are now off the hook for what would ordinarily be considered animal cruelty crimes, while researchers contend that the provision was necessary to “ensure scientific studies continue.” As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the new law exempts “animal researchers in Wisconsin from any state criminal penalties for animal cruelty. Researchers [will] still be liable under federal law if they violate the protocol of their research institution.”

Section 951.015 (3) of the Wisconsin statutes has been created to read that Chapter 951, regarding Crimes against Animals, does not apply to:

“(a) Teaching, research, or experimentation conducted pursuant to a protocol or procedure approved by an educational or research institution, and related incidental animal care activities, at facilities that are regulated under 7 U.S.C. §2131 to §2159 or 42 U.S.C. §289d; (b) Bona fide scientific research involving species unregulated by federal law.”

Full text of budget can be found here.