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March 2006
Keeping Score for the Animals
By John Phillips

 

The League of Humane Voters of New York City (LOHV-NYC) exists to help elect candidates to office who support pro-animal measures. Founded in 2001, we were the first and still are the only registered political action committee (PAC) focused on humane issues in the city. We have enjoyed tremendous success over the past few years. As we approach our fifth anniversary in 2006, our membership numbers more than 6,000.

In January, as part of our ongoing effort to hold elected officials accountable to their constituents on animal issues, we published the first-ever humane scorecard for the city legislature. Our 2004-2005 New York City Council Humane Scorecard tracks Council Members’ votes and sponsorship of legislation which have profound impact on the lives of animals.

The following five bills and two resolutions were used to determine the score for each member. As you will see, Council Members Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), Madeline Provenzano (D-Bronx) and Joel Rivera (D-Bronx) all received zeros, while two out of the 51 members of the City Council did exceptionally well—Brooklyn Council Members Leticia James and Sara Gonzalez were the only legislators in the City Council to receive perfect scores.

As of March 2006, all of these bills except the pets in housing bill are pending re-introduction in the City Council’s new session. We hope humane voters will familiarize themselves with the different types of legislation affecting animals and voice their support or opposition to their Council Members in the future.

Pets in Housing (Intro. No. 189-A/ Intro. No. 747)
The pets in housing bill would clarify existing law regarding tenants and their companion animals. It states that once the no-pet clause is waived, it is waived for the duration of the tenant’s occupancy—not the lifetime of one individual animal. In other words, if the animal you are living with passes away or for some other reason no longer lives with you, you would be allowed to adopt another. In December 2004, Intro. 189-A was passed out of committee and was expected to pass the full Council the next day. Instead, Speaker Gifford Miller had the bill sent back to committee where it languished for the rest of the session. In response to concerns from the real estate industry, Council Member Tony Avella introduced a compromise bill, Intro. 747, late in the session. We supported both bills. For clarity, Council Members who supported either bill received a positive rating on our scorecard.

Pet Shop Sprinklers (Intro. No. 217)
Following a series of fires which left thousands of animals dead, legislation was introduced to require the installation of sprinklers in facilities which shelter animals for more than 24 hours. LOHV-NYC threw its full support behind this bill, effectively doubling the number of sponsors in two months. However, the main sponsor of the bill, Madeline Provenzano, was positively uncooperative and the bill died in committee.

Endangered Species: Not for Sale (Intro. No. 367-A)

The sale and purchase of members of endangered or threatened species in whole or in part is already illegal under federal and state law. Intro. No. 367-A eliminated the need to prove through expensive and time-consuming testing if a product contains, in fact, an endangered or threatened species. It makes illegal the sale or purchase of products claiming to contain individuals of these species even if they do not. Thanks to the efforts of Council Member Yvette Clarke, this bill was signed into law by the Mayor on December 1, 2004.

Rodeo: Cruelty for a Buck (Intro. No. 472)
Many are surprised to learn that rodeos actually take place in New York City. This bill would prohibit the use of cruel devices in rodeos such as electric prods and flank straps (also called bucking straps). In addition, the bill would stop many cruel events like calf roping and steer wrestling. Despite having the support of a majority of the City Council, the bill failed to move. Speaker Gifford Miller and Council Member Christine Quinn, then Chair of the Health Committee where the bill was assigned, both dismissed cruelty to animals in rodeo, saying that it was not an issue.

Fur: Cruel and Unnecessary (Reso. 1198)
After being shown footage of animals suffering on fur farms in China, Peter Vallone, Jr. introduced this resolution, which calls upon the City Council to denounce the use of fur in New York City. The resolution states “while the fur industry, clothing designers and makers have made fur trendy, widely accessible and affordable and a highly lucrative business, they in no way can justify the need for fur, especially at the expense of millions of animals’ lives, which can be snuffed out by methods that can only be described as excessively cruel and inhumane.”

A Ban on Pit Bulls (Reso. 43)
This is a very unfair resolution that calls for the New York State legislature to repeal a current law, which prevents municipalities such as NYC from banning the ownership or possession of specific breeds of “dangerous” dogs, such as pit bulls. This bill makes little sense to the many responsible people who live with pit bulls and other dog companions who are unjustly maligned.

A Ban on Cruelty-Free Transportation in Midtown (Intro. No. 740)
Responding to pressure from carriage horse industry lobbyists, legislation was introduced late in the session to ban pedicabs from operating in Midtown Manhattan. Ironically, the stated reason for the ban is out of concern for public safety. Just weeks after this bill was introduced, a horse named Spotty got spooked and ran through city streets to his death. Three humans were injured in the accident, one seriously. LOHV-NYC believes that tourists and residents of the city deserve a humane alternative to horse-drawn carriages; pedicabs are just this.

John Phillips is Executive Director of The League of Humane Voters of New York City. For more information contact www.HumaneNYC.org or (212) 889-0303.

 

 

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