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Tennessee Legislature Adjourns with Big Gains for Animals

ASPCA commends legislators for soundly rejecting horse slaughter bill; urges governor to sign felony livestock cruelty, service dog bills into law
May 3, 2012

NEW YORK—As the Tennessee legislature adjourns its 2012 session, the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) applauds significant victories for animals with legislators defeating a bill encouraging horse slaughter for human consumption and passing bills to protect livestock and service dogs, including law enforcement animals, from cruelty.

A particularly controversial bill introduced this legislative session–H.B. 3619/S.B. 3461–would have encouraged horses to be slaughtered in the state for human consumption in Europe and Asia. Spearheaded by Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, his first version of the bill would have denied citizens their constitutional right to legally challenge the environmental and financial impact of horse slaughter facilities. Following the request of a review by Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, the bill was quickly declared unconstitutional by the Tennessee Attorney General. Then, in an effort to remove citizens from the legislative process, Rep. Holt amended the bill on what was thought to be the last day of the legislative session, attempting to gut a 60-year-old state law that bans the sale of toxic horse meat for human consumption by removing the Agriculture Commissioner's ability to regulate and label horse meat.

"The ASPCA and its members lobbied strongly to prohibit this bill from reaching the House and Senate floors," said Tennessee native and resident Sherry Rout, the ASPCA's legislative director for the Southern Region. "Horses are a revered treasure of our state and should not be slaughtered here for food, especially not at the expense of our constitutional rights."

Aside from the fact that horse slaughter is inherently cruel, horse slaughter plants have proved economically and environmentally disastrous to communities in other states. A nationwide poll commissioned by the ASPCA revealed that 80 percent of American voters are against the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption. Further, USDA inspectors uncovered rampant cruelty violations in U.S. slaughter plants when they were operating, as detailed in government documents.

In addition to this crucial victory, the Tennessee legislature passed two important pieces of humane legislation sponsored by Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, and Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville. S.B. 2759/H.B. 3082, which creates felony penalties for aggravated cruelty to livestock, passed through the legislature almost unanimously, with only three dissenting votes in the House. S.B. 2179/H.B. 2695, which increases penalties for reckless injury and intentional cruelty to service dogs or law enforcement animals, also enjoyed strong, bipartisan support with only two dissenting votes in the House. The ASPCA urges Gov. Bill Haslam to voice his conclusive support for both bills by quickly signing them into law.

"We commend Tennessee legislators for their work with residents and humane advocacy groups within the state to address necessary changes for Tennessee's animals," added Rout.

For more information on the ASPCA and to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org