Monday, February 25, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Dog Days at the Roundhouse

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Feb. 24, 2013

The New Mexico Legislature is going to the dogs.

Shockingly, the budget bill so far contains
no funds to beef up regulation of dog poker.
Also, lawmakers are moving several bills through dealing with those of the canine persuasion. And some might even argue that the Legislature is being kinder to dogs than most other interest groups in the Roundhouse.

The Senate early this month unanimously passed Senate Bill 139, sponsored by Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque. Under this bill, K-9s — police dogs or dogs used by corrections officers — would be offered for free to their trainers or handlers when the animals retire from service.

Moores said in a news release that if the trainers or handlers don’t take the dogs, the animals would then be offered to a nonprofit organization, “if they are not a threat to public safety.”

“Currently, these dogs are treated like all other state-owned property, ” Moores said. “They are auctioned off or destroyed like an old computer or rundown vehicle.”

Moores told the Senate that many of the dogs have been trained as drug-sniffing dogs, and he doesn’t want them auctioned off to drug dealers.

Maybe I’m missing something here. Why would a drug dealer want a drug-sniffing dog around his house. To help him find misplaced dope? But I’ve known enough cops who have trained and worked with K-9s and I know what a strong bond there is between them. So I can’t see how this bill would be a bad thing.

Speaking of police dogs, there are a couple of bills that would allow local law enforcement agencies to use funds from the Law Enforcement Protection Fund to buy protective vests for K-9s. The bill doesn’t earmark any extra money for doing this.

Normally I hate it when I see a self-respecting dog wearing a sweater or some other kind of weird clothes. But this is different.

The Senate last week unanimously passed SB 141, sponsored by Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City. A similar bill, House Bill 152, sponsored by Rep. Don Tripp, R-Socorro, got through its first committee and now is in the House Appropriations Committee.

Dog the Bounty Hunter appears in NM House of Representatives to support a bill establishing minimum requirements for bounty hunters
House members also seemed to like this Dog.
Then there’s SB 320, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Rodriquez, D-Santa Fe, under which a person with a disability who uses a qualified service dog would have to be admitted to public buildings and public accommodations if the critter is under control. A disabled person would not be required to pay additional charges for the animal, but could be liable for damage done by the dog if a non-disabled person would be so liable.

Rodriquez’s bill would make it illegal to intentionally interfere with the use of a qualified service animal, unless there was a good reason for doing so. It also would be a misdemeanor to try to pass off an unqualified dog as a service animal.

That bill made it with no dissenting vote through the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

None of these dog bills have been controversial. However, HB 63, sponsored by Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, as originally written, would prohibit all local governments from adopting ordinances to regulate dogs in a “breed-specific way.” The purpose was to stop cities from adopting bans on pit bull terriers.

(Full disclosure: My daughter and her husband are proud owners of a pit bull. Omar is a little rambunctious, but he’s real sweet to my toddler grandson.)

The bill -- which has its own website -- passed the House last week with bipartisan support on a 48-14 vote. But before it got to the House floor, the House Judiciary Committee stuck on an amendment that would exempt home-rule cities from the law. Home-rule cities include the larger cities in the state, including Santa Fe.

Herrell told Capitol Report New Mexico that Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, will carry the bill in the Senate.

Wirth is a veteran of pooch legislation. A couple of years ago, he convinced the Legislature to pass a bill allowing restaurants to allow dogs in outdoor areas.

All in all, this year, if you say the state Legislature treated you like a dog, that means they treated you pretty good.