With just over three weeks left in the 2023 legislative session, important animal protection legislation has made some progress, but there is still a long way to go. For some, it can feel like time might be running out for our bills. At the same time, experienced lobbyists in New Mexico know that a lot can happen in a short amount of time—and enough support can move bills at lightning speed in the final days. Please know we are working non-stop on our priority bills, on behalf of the animals you and we care about so deeply.
Remember to keep an eye on the Legislative Session Tracker on our website for the latest information about all the bills impacting animal welfare in 2023, including links to bill text, vote counts, fact sheets on APV’s priority bills, actions you can take, and more.
Last week, two long-fought priority bills to improve protections for horses and their equine relatives passed their first committee referral, the Senate Conservation Committee, with unanimous approval:
- Senate Bill 271 (Equine Definition), sponsored by Sen. Carrie Hamblen (D-Las Cruces), is a bill that updates terminology in state law and codifies a process where all abused and abandoned equines—in the custody of the Livestock Board or law enforcement, or seized after a cruelty conviction—can first be saved by registered equine rescues before having their lives put at risk by being sent to auction.
- Senate Bill 301 (Free-Roaming Horses), sponsored by Sen. Brenda McKenna (D-Corrales) and Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo), builds additional clarity, process improvements, and protections in current state law to humanely manage and protect New Mexico’s free-roaming horses. The bill would ensure qualified experts are making determinations on whether herds have outgrown the availability of forage and water on the land they inhabit, and then facilitate fertility control and humane relocation (to preserves or rescues, for lifelong sanctuary or adoption) to reduce herd numbers.
Both of these equine bills are scheduled to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 24). Please send brief written comments (up to 300 words) in support of SB 271 and SB 301 to SJC.Zoom@nmlegis.gov.
Additionally, the Senate Health & Public Affairs Committee (SHPAC) addressed last week a couple of other bills that reflect “The Link” between animal abuse and human violence:
- Senate Bill 291 (CYFD Domestic Violence Victims & Animals), sponsored by Sen. Nancy Rodriguez (D-Santa Fe), appropriates $350,000 to the Children, Youth & Families Department to fund assistance programs (like APNM’s CARE Program) that help domestic violence victims and their animals find safety. The bill was quickly and unanimously approved by the Committee.
- Senate Bill 215 (Establish Crime of Bestiality), sponsored by Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque) and Sen. Brenda McKenna (D-Corrales), would finally make sexual abuse of animals illegal—crucial not just for the animal victims, considering many bestiality offenders also sexually abuse children or adults. This bill won overwhelming support in committee (passing with an 8-1 vote), but it faced a much lengthier debate about whether the crime of bestiality should be classified as a sexual offense (as SB 215 does) or as a simple act of animal cruelty, and whether the penalty levels provided by SB 215 for those convicted of bestiality are unjustifiably severe.Since animal sexual abuse not only causes psychological and physical harm to animals, but also has been demonstrated to be connected to child sexual abuse, child pornography, rape, coercion to commit sexual acts with animals, and other serious sexual crimes, we are steadfast in our belief that animal sexual abuse and the many associated acts belong in the sexual crimes statutes. Watch the recorded webcast of the hearing and the discussion in the SHPAC here starting around 4:49:00. Ultimately, our arguments for why the crime of bestiality should remain a felony-level sexual offense in New Mexico’s criminal code were convincing to the majority of the committee members. SB 215 next awaits a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please send the committee members a brief, polite email to voice your support.
There have been some positive developments for bills related to wildlife, too, in recent days:
- House Bill 184 (State Game Commission Changes), sponsored by Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo) and Sen. Crystal Diamond (R-Elephant Butte) seeks to create a less politically volatile, more equitable Commission in order to maximize wildlife management decisions rooted in science and diverse input. It passed its second committee and now waits for a vote by the full House of Representatives.
- And Senate Bill 72 (Create Wildlife Corridors Fund), sponsored by Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque), which appropriates $50 million to a new fund for wildlife road crossing projects, reached the Senate floor and passed handily 37-2; it now will cross over to the House for further consideration.
Thank you for being in this fight for the long haul for animals! We will continue to update you as these and other animal protection bills wind their way through the legislative process.
In the meantime, if you haven’t already, please be sure to contact your State Senator and urge their support for SB 215, the bill to make bestiality a crime. Please don’t assume your Senator already has the right information on this topic. Your voice matters, and animals are counting on all of us.