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Animal Rightists Seek Holy Grail in Wisconsin by Loretta Baughan
updated February 27th & March 25th, 2010
Oppose AB.747 and SB.555


"Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes."
--Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father (1706-1790)

Nothing is certain but death and taxes... and the reappearance of animal rights legislation. If it doesn't get passed into law the first time around, you can count on them to repackage it and try again. Animal rightists are driven by their desire to achieve the radical agenda spelled out by the "father of animal rights", Tom Regan: "I regard myself as an advocate of animal rights - as part of the animal rights movement. That movement, as I conceive it, is committed to a number of goals, including: the total abolition of the use of animals in science; the total dissolution of commercial animal agriculture; the total elimination of commercial and sport hunting and trapping." (1)

Perhaps those who are behind or in support of these bills are motivated by a sincere desire to help animals. That is something to be commended. But their naivety of the unintended consequences puts the good people of Wisconsin at risk.

Two years ago, we saw an effort to grant animals a legal status closer to humans. The NRA published an on-target assessment of that bill:

"The original language would have made animal abuse a form of domestic abuse. Under Wisconsin law, a person charged with domestic abuse loses the ability to purchase or possess firearms. The animal "rights" extremist organizations like Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have a stated goal of conveying rights and protections to animals that have been traditionally and logically reserved for humans. This bill was a dramatic step in that direction. Hunting dog trainers, dairymen, and run-of-the-mill pet owners were all vulnerable to being unjustly ensnared by this proposed law for threatening harm or causing actual harm to an animal. This is an unacceptably subjective standard. HSUS activists contend that using shock collars, invisible fences, kennels, and various leashes is conduct that should be treated as "domestic abuse" under the prior provisions of the bill." (2)
--Misguided Wisconsin Legislation to be Revised, National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action, (10/16/2007)

"This Trojan horse bill is the Holy Grail of the animal rights movement. It has the potential to be used as a tool by animal rightists to destroy the lives of innocent citizens who own or raise animals and sportsmen who enjoy outdoor pursuits."

As promised, the reincarnation of SB162 (3), which sought to elevate animal abuse to the status of domestic abuse, has raised it's ugly head once again as Windchill's Law, Crimes Against Animals AB747 (4). This bill, in a nut shell, would impose felony penalties for anyone accused of a perceived "cruel" act against an animal in the presence of a child. Common animal husbandry practices such as castration, branding, dehorning, tail docking, slaughtering, etc... are just a few things that have been targeted by animal rightists, which they view as "cruel" and could put farmers, hobby farmers, and others at jeopardy under this bill.

"WindChill" was the nickname given to a severely neglected horse that died 20 days after being rescued in 2008. It was a heart-wrenching case of a couple that allowed the nine-month old horse to starve and freeze. The Javenkoskis were charged, pled no contest and the judge held them accountable with fines, restitution, jail time and ongoing inspections of their property. It was reported that the people who rescued the horse were pleased with the outcome. It's a case of existing laws being enforced and working as they should.

Now, this unfortunate case is being held up as a banner and is being exploited in order to push an unrelated bill into law. The WindChill case did not involve children. Douglas County Circuit Court Judge Michael Lucci said that the sentence was fair and just. He also commented that the case had drawn a great deal of attention from the public and media but the goal of sentencing is "not to appease public outrage". Judge Lucci is absolutely right. Justice should never be predicated on emotion, but according to sound law that is aligned with our Constitution.

Reprising their roles as sponsors and cosponsors of this bill are Senator Fred Risser, Senator Tim Carpenter, Representative Terese Berceau and Representative Christine Sinicki. In addition, this sequel's supporting cast includes: Representatives Nick Milroy, Robert L. Turner, Josh Zepnick, Annette P. Williams, Sandy Pasch, Chuck Benedict, Jeff Smith and Senator Robert Jauch.

The Senate version of this bill, SB555, was introduced by Senators Robert Jauch, Tim Carpenter, Fred Risser, and Assistant Majority Leader Dave Hanson, cosponsored by the same actors cast in the Assembly version of this animal rights bill. and is currently in the Senate committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform and Housing. (5)

Both committees have already held hearings for these bills, so there's a strong possibility that they could be up for a vote before the legislative session adjourns in late April.

Some farmers have been told that the bill isn't intended to apply to them. But just as when one purchases a car, if the salesman makes a promise, it must be in writing in order to be legally binding. What is actually written in the contract... or in this case, the bill, will ultimately determine the law. The text of AB747 and SB555 is very specific to "animals", with no exceptions, so would legally include ALL ANIMALS.

The language describing what this bill seeks to criminalize is vague, subjective and threatens law-abiding citizens. For instance: the bill defines "cruel" to mean "causing or failing to prevent unnecessary and excessive pain or suffering or unjustifiable injury or death" (Section 8. 951.01 (2)). But who determines what is "unnecessary", "excessive" or "unjustifiable"?

"The "vagueness" doctrine stems from the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and... Fourteenth Amendments. A vague law offends constitutional norms in that it fails both "(1) to define the offense with sufficient definiteness that ordinary people can understand prohibited conduct, and (2) to establish standards to permit police to enforce the law in a non-arbitrary, non-discriminatory manner."
--the Honorable Charles R. Simpson III, Judge, United States District Court, The Louisville Kennel Club, Inc., Et Al. v. Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government, (10/2/2009)


The vague language contained in AB747/SB555 can be used to criminalize farmers who brand their cattle, dehorn or castrate their livestock - as well as many other common practices of good animal husbandry. Likewise, hobby farmers who raise and butcher their own poultry or livestock could be charged with this "crime" - as could people who are protecting their animals from predators or their homes from pests.

This misguided bill could be used to criminalize dog breeders who dock their puppies' tails, remove dew claws or crop ears - as well as those who use training collars or even underground fence systems to keep their dogs safe. People who use or shoot pigeons, or pen-raised quail, chukar and pheasants to train hunting dogs, conduct field trials, hunt tests, tower shoots... those who operate hunt clubs and others could be targeted under this law by animal rights activists.

Scientists conducting research with the use of animals to better the lives of beast and mankind through the discovery of new drugs and medical procedures could be subjected to criminal proceedings initiated by those who view themselves as antivivisectionists, animal protectionists or animal advocates, jeopardizing vital, life-saving advances in the fields of medicine.

Groomers and pet owners who are trimming a dog's or cat's toenails and nip the quick could face prosecution - and if a child is present, the penalty is automatically elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony! How would this affect family farms, FFA, 4-H or other youth animal husbandry programs?

If any law is violated, the penalty should be based on the severity of the infraction not based on who witnessed the alleged crime. The provision in AB747/SB555 of whether or not the act was committed in the presence of a child as a basis for determining the level of punishment is unprecedented. It also opens a whole new can of worms: In what proximity to the supposed "crime" does a child need to be... within 10'... 50'... looking out a window of a nearby house... or a passing car? This is absurd and invites abuse from animal rightists bent on persecuting animal owners.

Penalties are convoluted, running the gamut from a Class A Misdemeanor with a fine up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to nine months - to a Class C Felony. This is a punishment that is typically reserved for convictions of felony drunk driving; 2nd degree sexual assault; kidnapping; arson; robbery; vehicular homicide while intoxicated with a fine up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment up to 40 years. Under AB747/SB555, any activity that results in the death of an animal in the presence of a child could be prosecuted as a Class C Felony. This is outrageous!

Time is running out. Please take action today:

  • Contact your Wisconsin Representative and Senator asking them to OPPOSE AB747/SB555
  • Keep informed on the status of this and other legislation at the Dog Federation of Wisconsin (DFOW) website

Lastly, section 951.15 pertains to those who abandon animals. It states: "No person may abandon any animal". Realistically, how will this provision be enforced? Who will bear the financial and man power burden of investigating every case of animal abandonment? Can we afford to devote our precious limited resources to enforcing this un-enforcable provision? Yes, it's wrong to abandon unwanted animals, but this is the wrong approach to dealing with the problem. Education is a far better alternative.

This Trojan horse bill is the Holy Grail of the animal rights movement. It has the potential to be used as a tool by animal rightists to destroy the lives of innocent citizens who own or raise animals, hands-on education of our next generation of farmers and sportsmen who enjoy outdoor pursuits. Whether intended or not, the consequences inflicted on the people of Wisconsin will be devastating.

(1) Tom Regan in The Struggle for Animal Rights, published in Animal Rights by Andrew Linzey and Paul A.B. Clarke, pg. 176 (2004)
(2) Misguided Wisconsin Legislation to be Revised, National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action (10/16/2007)
(3) 2007 Senate Bill 162
(4) 2009 Assembly Bill 747

(5) 2009 Senate Bill 555
(6) United States District Court, Western District of Kentucky at Louisville decision by the Honorable Charles R. Simpson III, Judge, United States District Court, The Louisville Kennel Club, Inc., Et Al. v. Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government, citing: Belle Maer Harbor v. Charter Twp. of Harrison, 170F.3d553,556(6th Cir. 1999)(citing Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U.S. 352,357(1983)), (10/2/2009)

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Loretta Baughan

Loretta Baughan is the founder, editor and publisher of Spaniel Journal. She is an award winning professional photographer, webdesigner, owner of Autumnskye, LLC. Loretta is a member of the Dog Federation of Wisconsin and is active in legislative issues involving animals. She resides in northern Wisconsin, with her husband, Steve, and their three children.

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