By the close of the 2023 state legislative session, the New Mexico Legislature had passed 246 pieces of legislation on myriad topics, which then headed to the Governor’s desk for her final action. Here is what happened to the bills that would affect animals.
POLICY BILLS PASSED AND SIGNED INTO LAW
Senate Bill 215 (Establish Crime of Bestiality)
SB 215 will make it a fourth-degree felony to commit bestiality; coerce or solicit someone else to commit bestiality; or sell, buy, offer or possess an animal for the purpose of bestiality. It will upgrade the violation to a third-degree felony if done in the presence of a child or involving a child as a participant. Those convicted of these crimes won’t be able to live or work around animals for a period of time and may be ordered to undergo mental health treatment or pay for the cost of caring for animals harmed by their crime. This bill goes into effect June 16, 2023. Thank you to the bill sponsors: Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque), Sen. Brenda McKenna (D-Corrales), Rep. Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe), Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque), and Rep. Andrea Reeb (R-Clovis).
Senate Bill 271 (Equine Definition)
SB 271 will codify in state law a process where all abused and abandoned horses, donkeys & mules—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. The bill will also simplify the reference to domestic “horses, asses, and mules” in state law as the term “equines.” This bill goes into effect June 16, 2023. Thank you to the bill sponsor: Sen. Carrie Hamblen (D-Las Cruces); and to Rep. Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces) for carrying the bill on the House side.
Senate Bill 72 (Create Wildlife Corridors Fund)
SB 72 creates a new fund managed by the NM Department of Transportation for wildlife studies, construction, and management of safe road crossings for wildlife. This bill goes into effect July 1, 2023. Thank you to the bill sponsors: Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque) and Sen. Carrie Hamblen (D-Las Cruces).
House Bill 384 (Social Worker & Veterinarian Licensure)
HB 384 would, among other things, provide for expedited licensure for veterinarians, thereby potentially increasing the number of veterinarians practicing in New Mexico, providing medical care to our state’s animals. This bill goes into effect July 1, 2023. Thank you to the bill sponsors: Rep. Natalie Figueroa (D-Albuquerque), Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Gail Armstrong (R-Magdalena), Rep. Doreen Gallegos (D-Las Cruces), and Rep. D. Wonda Johnson (D-Church Rock).
PRO-ANIMAL FUNDING SECURED
Special Appropriations (in the “Junior Bill” Senate Bill 192)
For the 2023 special appropriations bill, the Legislature divvied up additional revenues to each Senator and Representative to allocate to programs and projects of their choice. This year, $1.1 million was allocated for animal-related causes, which includes the following requests that APV helped lobby for and in some cases initiated:
- $150,000 to the Children, Youth & Families Dept. for contract services to help domestic violence survivors and their companion animals (like APNM’s CARE Program Services). Thank you Sen. Nancy Rodiguez (D-Santa Fe).
- $250,000 to the NM Livestock Board for the Equine Shelter Rescue Fund to support state-registered equine shelters. Thank you Sen. Brenda McKenna (D-Corrales), Sen. Carrie Hamblen (D-Las Cruces), and Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo).
- $75,000 to the NM Livestock Board for any rulemaking and administration regarding free-roaming horses. Thank you Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo).
- $75,000 to the Albuquerque Westside animal shelter for daily operations. Thank you Rep. Cynthia Borrego (D-Albuquerque).
Other junior bill funding included: $100,000 to the Cultural Affairs Department for contract services for wildlife rehabilitation in northern New Mexico; $300,000 to the Albuquerque Westside animal shelter for a paid internship program for Atrisco Heritage high school students; and $150,000 for safety and security equipment for the Eunice animal shelter.
Other State Funding
Additional animal-related funding was included in the State Budget (House Bill 2), with $5 million for wildlife corridor projects to help implement SB 72 described above. Also, the Capital Outlay bill (infrastructure funding in House Bill 505) included more than $3.2 Million in funding for construction and improvements on animal shelters in Albuquerque, Estancia, Gallup, Santa Fe, and Truth or Consequences.
POLICY BILLS THAT DID NOT BECOME LAW
Senate Bill 301 (Free-Roaming Horses)
SB 301 would have amended the state’s current wild horse law to fix gaps and irregularities in the law that are preventing the protection and humane management of free-roaming horse herds in New Mexico. Under current law, most free-roaming horse herds have long been unmanaged using fertility control, leading to growing populations in high-conflict areas and calls for inhumane management methods. This bill would have taken a positive step forward in facilitating responsible and humane action to control population numbers and ensure that any horses removed from the landscape are not endangered or subject to cruelty.
The bill passed the Senate 34-2, but was tabled (killed) by the House Agriculture, Acequias & Water Resources Committee (legislators voting to kill the bill were: Rep. Candy Ezzell (R-Roswell), Rep. Raymundo Lara (D-Chamberino), Rep. Anthony Allison (D-Fruitland), Rep. Gail Armstrong (D-Magdalena), Rep. Martin Zamora (R-Clovis), and Rep. Marian Matthews (D-Albuquerque). Reasons given for voting to kill the bill ranged from wanting a more comprehensive humane solution (e.g., the creation of a state wild horse preserve for relocations) to wanting to incorporate inhumane components (e.g., allowing free-roaming horses to be sold for slaughter) into the legislation.
House Bill 184 (State Game Commission Changes)
HB 184 would have changed the appointment process and membership qualifications of the State Game Commission, the Governor-appointed body that creates regulations regarding wildlife management. The bill sought to create a less politically volatile, more equitable Commission in order to better ensure wildlife management decisions rooted in science and diverse input (including at least one Commission member dedicated to conservation of ‘non-game’ wildlife species that aren’t hunted).
It passed the Legislature (45-21 in the House; 34-2 in the Senate) but was pocket vetoed when the Governor did not take action by the bill signature deadline. While the Governor did not issue a message to explain the reasoning behind the veto, it is clear that HB 184 did not offer a solution her office could support, and they have indicated openness to working on a more acceptable solution in the future.
Senate Bill 18 (Rename Family Violence Protection Act)
This bill to overhaul the state’s law on securing court orders of protection from violence and abuse, the Family Violence Protection Act, contained new provisions which are also known as “Misty’s Law.” These provisions would trigger the law’s protections if someone abuses an animal to intimidate, threaten, or harass a person. Further, SB 18 would have explicitly permitted a judge to add a survivor’s companion animals to the protective order issued. The bill passed its first committee 7-0, but was not scheduled for a subsequent hearing and died at the end of the session.
Other Bills That Did Not Pass
Other notable animal-related bills that did not make it across the finish line included Senate Bill 134 (No Exotic Animals in Traveling Performances), Senate Bill 429 (Prohibit Dog Tethering), and multiple bills related to increasing and incentivizing veterinarians to practice in New Mexico.
WHAT COMES NEXT
We will continue to monitor the bills that passed to ensure successful implementation and enforcement, and we have already begun planning for the next slate of animal protection bills for 2024, 2025, and beyond. This work is possible because of your determination, advocacy, and continued support, and your generous donations power us every step of the way. Thank you and stay tuned for more!