Peacocks, Dogfighting & Sexual Assault — A Legislative Update

Posted by Stephan Otto, ALDF's Director of Legislative Affairs on May 9, 2011

In Hawaii, Peacock “Pests” May Still be Killed, Just Not with Baseball Bats, and Attending a Dogfight Becomes a Felony; Florida Slated to Finally Criminalize the Sexual Assault of Animals

Last week, the Hawaii Legislature passed SB 1533, a bill inspired by the vicious killing of a peacock. In 2009, a Hawaii resident killed an area peacock with a baseball bat because she claimed annoyance by the peacock’s cries. [See our earlier postCan You Kill a Peacock if He is an Annoying Pest?“]. A jury acquitted the peacock killer after her attorney successfully argued that the peacock was a "pest." Under the then current law, “pests” were specifically excluded from protection by the state anti-cruelty statute. SB 1533 – the so-called "peacock bill" – amends the law to specify that the killing of insects, vermin, and pests must be done "in accordance with standard and acceptable pest control practices and all applicable laws and regulations." This was a dial-back from an earlier version of the bill which had expressly clarified that peacocks were not pests. Under the new law, an annoying peacock could still arguably be considered a “pest,” however anyone considering killing this “pest” would not be able to use a baseball bat in doing so, as such an act would likely fall outside the parameters of standard and acceptable practices. ALDF will continue to monitor the situation as this law goes into effect and push for stronger changes should future events support them.  

Also last week, the Hawaii Legislature passed SB 1069, which makes it a felony to attend or wager on a dogfight. Additionally, the bill makes it a felony to possess a device intended to enhance a dog’s fighting ability with the intent that the device be used to train a dog for a dogfight. Prior to the bill’s passage, Hawaii had felony penalties only for those who actually staged dogfights, trained or owned dogs for fighting, or allowed a fight on their premises. Cockfighting remains a misdemeanor violation in Hawaii.

Both bills are now waiting to be signed into law by Governor Abercrombie.  Hawaii ranked 43rd overall in ALDF’s last state rankings report – our annual report which compares the strength and comprehensiveness of each state’s animal protection laws.

On the other side of the country, the Florida Legislature has finally given its blessing to a bill that would expressly criminalize the sexual assault of animals. In a unanimous vote, the Florida House of Representatives passed SB 344 which now makes its way to Governor Rick Scott for his signature. Similar bills had been attempted over the past four years, but had not been successful in clearing the House until now.

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