With the New Year, Virginia kicks off its whirlwind legislative session, beginning on Jan. 8 and concluding on March 7. In this short time, legislators consider hundreds of bills on issues that affect our daily lives in ways great and small. Issues that are particularly important to me, as a pet and nature lover, include animal welfare issues. This year will see numerous bills on animal welfare introduced, debated, and perhaps enacted into law, including bills that affect puppy mills. Readers may remember two stories about two different pet stores in northern Virginia this year, one in Fairfax City and one in Manassas City, being investigated for and charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty. Since then, Fairfax City has passed an ordinance requiring that pet stores be licensed and inspected to ensure that they are in compliance with laws in Virginia requiring humane treatment of animals. The Commonwealth will have an opportunity to address this issue in counties and cities across Virginia through legislation being introduced at the state level.
Other bills under consideration address tethering of dogs in extreme weather, penalties for cruelty that results in serious bodily injury or death of an animal, protections for Virginia consumers that purchase pets from sellers that have misrepresented the animal’s health or background, and testing of cosmetics on animals. I and many of my fellow Virginians that care about animal welfare will be heading to Richmond on Jan. 23, Humane Lobby Day, to ask our representatives to vote in support of or opposition to these and other bills.
Whatever our issues may be, we are very fortunate to have this chance to make our voices heard and to exercise our rights in a democratic society to influence how we are governed. It is an exhilarating experience and I encourage all to consider a visit to the state capitol or writing or calling our representatives. They do care and truly appreciate hearing from constituents.