As we enter the fourth week of the New Mexico legislative session, things are definitely in full gear. Several more pieces of priority animal protection legislation have been introduced, and the committee hearing process is moving along swiftly. We thank everyone who attended this year’s Animal Protection Lobby Day to support these bills!
Last week, bills that received their first hearing in committee included:
House Bill 184 (State Game Commission Changes), sponsored by Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo), which would change the appointment process and membership qualifications of the State Game Commission, the Governor-appointed body that creates regulations regarding wildlife management. The bill seeks to create a less politically volatile, more equitable Commission in order to maximize wildlife management decisions rooted in science and diverse input (including at least one Commission member dedicated to ‘non-game’ wildlife species that aren’t hunted). The House Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Committee voted 6-3 to advance this bill, and it now awaits action by the House Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee.
Senate Bill 72 (Create Wildlife Corridors Fund), sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque), which creates a new fund managed by the NM Department of Transportation and appropriates $50 million for wildlife studies, construction, and management of safe road crossings for wildlife. The Senate Conservation Committee passed the bill by a vote of 8-0, bringing the state one step closer to major investment in projects to reduce animal-vehicle collisions, and the bill next goes to the Senate Finance Committee.
Senate Bill 18 (Rename Family Violence Protection Act), the bill aiming to overhaul the state law regarding domestic abuse protective orders, sponsored by Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-Albuquerque) and Rep. Pamelya Herndon (D-Albuquerque), was passed by the Senate Health & Public Affairs Committee by a 7-0 vote. It now waits to be scheduled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill includes key provisions to protect animals in domestic violence cases.
Senate Bill 134 (No Exotic Animals in Traveling Performances), sponsored by Sen. Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales (D-Ranchos de Taos), seeks to prohibit traveling circuses that use exotic animals in their acts from coming to New Mexico. The Senate Health & Public Affairs Committee heard the bill on Friday night, February 3, and committee members noted several changes needed to the bill to ensure it only impacts the traveling circuses it aims to target. The Committee voted to temporarily table the bill and plans to bring it back for further discussion after revisions.
Additionally, while we wait for Senate Bill 215 (Establish Crime of Bestiality)—sponsored by Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque) and Sen. Brenda McKenna (D-Corrales)—to be scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Health & Public Affairs Committee, here are some other priority bills that were introduced in the past week:
Senate Bill 271 (Equine Definition), sponsored by Sen. Carrie Hamblen (D-Las Cruces), is a bill that not only updates language in state law by defining “equine”—instead of “horses and asses”—but also codifies in state law a process where the abused and abandoned equines that end up either in the custody of the Livestock Board or law enforcement or seized after a cruelty conviction are first offered to the state’s registered equine rescues. This establishes an extra safety net for these large, sensitive animals before they would be sold in an auction, where they risk falling into the hands of slaughterhouse kill-buyers. The bill’s first committee referral is the Senate Conservation Committee.
Senate Bill 291 (CYFD Domestic Violence Victims & Animals), sponsored by Sen. Nancy Rodriguez (D-Santa Fe), appropriates $350,000 in funding for the next fiscal year to the Children, Youth & Families Department to support program work for domestic violence victims and their animals. This type of funding has for years helped fuel the CARE Program, which provides assistance for emergency veterinary care and temporary safe boarding of companion animals for people escaping domestic violence. SB 291 first awaits action by the Senate Health & Public Affairs Committee.
Senate Bill 301 (Free-Roaming Horses), sponsored by Sen. Brenda McKenna (D-Corrales) and Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo), amends current state law to strengthen protections and humane management processes for New Mexico’s free-roaming horses. While keeping the same basic framework in existing law, SB 301 removes unworkable barriers to facilitating fertility control and humane relocation (to preserves or rescues, for lifelong sanctuary or adoption) so that communities can respond appropriately if wild habitat degrades to the point of not being able to sustain free-roaming horse herds. These changes are important to ensure that horses are not left to starve and that their numbers can be well-managed to reduce vehicle collisions and other conflicts and dangers. SB 301 also ensures that free-roaming horses will not be sold to slaughter or killed for any reason other than humane euthanasia for seriously sick or injured horses. The Senate Conservation Committee is the first committee set to hear this bill.
You can follow the progress of these and other bills on the Legislative Session Tracker on the APV website. Thank you for staying engaged, contacting your legislators, and doing everything you can to support animal protection in New Mexico!
P.S. The anti-bestiality bill, SB 215, recently got some local news coverage. Please share this with everyone you know and get them involved in supporting this bill!