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HB 3386 update: Making it a felony to abuse Horses and other farm animals

I have this thought going around my head…”it’s not about doing the right thing, it’s about playing the game…”

I spent the morning watching democracy (I think) on capitol hill. Rep. Janice Sontany introduced HB 3386 to the agriculture committee. Actually I don’t know how she and others do this kind of work because it’s like watching paint dry. The first few hours waiting for her bill to come up, we heard about a bill to ban “Terminator seed” corn. Representatives spoke from big companies like Monsanto and Dupont. A long free exchange took place with committee members asking questions, making comments etc. Then it was time for HB3386.

The bill would make it a felony to starve or withhold water from horses and other farm animals. Seems like a no brainer doesn’t it? Who would want to stand in the way of protecting these innocent animals and why? The case of the 84 starving horses from cannon county brought media attention to a problem in Tennessee. A state representative, Janis Sontany, went down to see the horses when they were at the fairgrounds. She met with the humane society folks and promised to try and help. She wrote a bill to increase the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for anyone doing such things to their animals.

Farm Bureau Insurance is against her bill and packed the room with agents from around the state. So here’s the picture: a bunch of guys sitting in all the chairs in the room and all the women including me (& a few men) supporting the bill, left standing in the aisles. The committee for the most part is against the bill too. 3 outside people spoke in favor of it (very eloquently) and were told before they walked up to the podium to “keep it brief.” (a sheriff, a rescue person & a rancher) In an effort to discredit one of the speakers a committee member asked one guy if he supported horse slaughter. (I guess if you don’t that makes you an “animal rights activist.” Is that a bad thing BTW? Oh a straw man question was also thrown out…”would you like to protect farm animals or children?” Well sir, I’d like to do BOTH! Standing silent through all this was quite a challenge. After the 3 speakers the bill was put off until next week.

It’s going to take people to get involved in this fight to help stop abuse of horses in Tennessee.

So why is Farm Bureau so opposed to the bill? I spoke with several agents outside in the hallway and here’s what I heard. One guy said he owns a backhoe and buries dead horses “all the time,” that people couldn’t afford to feed. He doesn’t think those people should be made criminals. It should be noted that the Farm Bureau Ins company does support horse slaughter and that was banned in Tennessee last year. Apparently that issue “isn’t dead” and a new bill may be coming up again for that too. I’d love to see if anybody connected with any new horse slaughter bills would stand to gain $$$ by a bill like that passing again. Follow the money…money and horses in Tennessee have a shady history. That’s true when there’s a lot of money involved anywhere. No different in this case.

Another Farm Bureau agent said he thinks farmers are being threatened by animal lovers that never stepped foot on a farm. Almost everyone I saw there supporting HB3386 have horses and farms. Most of the people I met at the fairgrounds volunteering to help with the rescued horses were horse owners themselves, owned farms and/or worked in the horse industry. We don’t want to stop farmers from earning a living. We want to stop greedy horse brokers that buy dozens of horses cheap in the hope they can make money on the best of the lot. The rest, too weak, skinny or sick to sell get put on private acreage to die. There are a few ignorant back yard horse owners but the main problem i think are these brokers, traders if you will. Horses are a thing to sell like a car. Well, they are not a “thing.” They are a living being and they feel pain and suffer. Tennessee law looks the other way and at the most will slap an occasional wrist. That’s wrong and if that stays the case, then Tennessee is not the “horse country” I thought it was.

We can do better. Rep. Sontany can’t go up against these guys alone. She’s offered to step in front of the parade but it’s up to all of us to fall in and march. If you make a living in the Tennessee horse industry now would be a good time to call Janis Sontany’s office and offer to help. Anyone else too…Farm Bureau associate members speak out. The Farm Bureau Ins company is saying “they represent thousands of members.” Have they ask you how you feel about this issue? These magnificent animals have no voice unless we lend them ours. Call the people on the agriculture committee and tell them to support HB3386. Call the Farm Bureau Insurance Company and tell them (if you’re a member) that they don’t represent your views on this issue.

Pass this along to everyone you know.
Thanks, Val Reynolds/Avalonfarms@hughes.net

The members of the House Agriculture Committee are: Committee OfficersStratton Bone, Chair (615) 741-7086 rep.stratton.bone@capitol.tn.govDale Ford, Vice Chair (615) 741-1717 rep.dale.ford@capitol.tn.govWillie Butch Borchert, Secretary (615) 741-6804 rep.willie.borchert@capitol.tn.gov MembersEddie Bass (615) 741-1864 rep.eddie.bass@capitol.tn.govChad Faulkner (615) 741-3335 rep.chad.faulkner@capitol.tn.govCurits ;Halford (615) 741-7478 rep.curtis.halford@capitol.tn.govJohn Litz (615) 741-6877 rep.john.litz@capitol.tn.govSteve McDaniel (615) 741-0750 rep.steve.mcdaniel@capitol.tn.govFrank Niceley (615) 741-4419 rep.frank.niceley@capitol.tn.govJohnny Shaw (615) 741-4538 rep.johnny.shaw@capitol.tn.govTerri Lynn Weaver (615) 741-2192 rep.terri.lynn.weaver@capitol.tn.govJohn Mark Windle (615) 741-1260 rep.john.windle@capitol.tn.gov

http://www.nashvillescene.com/2010-03-11/news/the-worst-case-of-equine-abuse-in-Tennessee-history-shocked-the-state-so-why-is-legislation-that-would-stop-the-abuse-meeting-so-much-resistance/

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Action Alert: Update on HB3386 Make Starving Horses & Livestock a Felony

Hi there,
Here’s the latest on a bill to make it a felony to starve horses. There’s more to it than that but this what came out of the fairgrounds horses case from cannon county. https://avalonfarmblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/84-seized-horses-update/
I plan to go to the hill next tuesday at 9am when it is introduced. Please read the letter from Janis Sontany. (below) I know for a fact she went out to see the 84 horses herself in November and vowed to present this bill. Please try to be there or at the very least…call the people on the committee and tell them to support HB3386. The animals don’t have a voice in this. It’s up to us and Janis is going up against Insurance lobbiest that are not willing to compromise. Let’s all help her in this fight.-Val

valerie reynolds
Speak softly and carry a carrot stick

JANIS SONTANY
STATE REPRESENTATIVE
53RD LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT

32 LEGISLATIVE PLAZA
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE 37243-0153
PHONE (615-) 741-6861
FAX (615) 253-0325
E-MAIL:
rep.janis.sontany@legislature.state.tn.us

188 CHILTON STREET
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE 37211
(615) 331-7616

House of Representatives
State of Tennessee

NASHVILLE

SECRETARY
JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

COMMITEES
JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
FINANCE WAYS AND MEANS

SUB COMMITTEE
CRIMINAL PRACTICE, CHAIR
I hope this finds you and your family doing well and looking forward to Spring.

Each of you has contacted me over the past few months regarding the starving horses rescued from Cannon County and taken to the Fairgrounds here in Nashville. I promised then that I would introduce legislation that would make withholding food and/or water from any animal a felony and that I would update you on the progress and ask for your continued help. It makes no sense to me to have two different penalties – aggravated animal cruelty with a felony penalty for companion animals and a misdemeanor for the same action for “livestock”. Cruelty is cruelty regardless if you are 3 lbs. or 16 hands high. How can we continue to say that it is far worse to starve a dog than to starve a horse?

When the horses were at the Fairgrounds, I was asked by the media why the penalty for starving these horses was only a misdemeanor. My answer simply was Farm Bureau Insurance Company. This company has always demanded different laws for “livestock”.

When I first drafted this legislation, I met with Farm Bureau Insurance Company’s lobbyists to try to find some common ground. I was told that starving these horses didn’t rise to the level of aggravated animal cruelty and the current law was working just fine and they refused to negotiate.

Last week, Farm Bureau’s President, Lacy Upchurch, and their Chief Administrative Officer, Julius Johnson, visited my office to discuss my bill. I was so in hopes that we could negotiate in good faith to have a bill that we both could agree on that would stop this continued cruelty. They, however, only wanted to express to me their concern that this legislation would land some poor farmer in jail for dehorning his cattle. My bill clearly exempts accepted veterinary practices and makes no mention of discontinuing current tax breaks for farmers on livestock.

I offered to file an amendment that would require the sworn statement of a veterinarian that the animal/animals were starved – deprived of food and/or water or abused in a depraved or sadistic manner before criminal charges could be filed, to no avail. Mr. Upchurch and Mr. Johnson wouldn’t agree to that either – they said there would be too much gray area. Clearly, they didn’t come in good faith to negotiate.

This cruelty continues to happen. There were the 20 horses in Sumner County that were reported starved, three in Smith County – one of which was already dead and the other two found with no food or water nearly starved to death. And, then there was the incident in Bedford County where over 100 head of cattle were found starved to death.

I was told that Farm Bureau Insurance Company has 650,000 members across Tennessee. When I asked how many of them had input on their positions and policies, I was told not 650,000 but a very small percentage. I think all their members need to know their position on animal cruelty and if they don’t agree with the company’s position, they should contact Mr. Upchurch 931-388-7872 x 2201 and Mr. Johnson at 931-388-7872 x 2205 and express their disagreement and dissatisfaction.

This bill addresses more than starvation of animals. It also addresses other forms of animal cruelty. There was a woman in Sweetwater last year whose husband got mad at her and dragged her favorite horse behind his truck until the animal was almost dead. To finish him off he stabbed him with a pitch fork. When the woman contacted the district attorney in her area, she was told that they would not prosecute this action because it was a misdemeanor and wasn’t worth their time. My bill would make this action a felony as well. A misdemeanor is like getting a traffic ticket.

I plan to bring HB3386 before the House Agriculture Committee on 3/16 at 9:00 a.m. I invite any of you that can to join me that day to show support for this bill. I know that for many of you that won’t be possible, however, I respectfully ask that you get this message out to any and all that are interested in supporting our legislation and also ask that you contact the members of the House Agriculture Committee to ask for their support. It will take all of us working together to get this legislation passed.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact my office at 615-741-6861 or 615-331-7616.

The members of the House Agriculture Committee are:

Committee Officers
Stratton Bone, Chair (615) 741-7086 rep.stratton.bone@capitol.tn.gov
Dale Ford, Vice Chair (615) 741-1717 rep.dale.ford@capitol.tn.gov
Willie Butch Borchert, Secretary (615) 741-6804 rep.willie.borchert@capitol.tn.gov

Members
Eddie Bass (615) 741-1864 rep.eddie.bass@capitol.tn.gov
Chad Faulkner (615) 741-3335 rep.chad.faulkner@capitol.tn.gov
Curits ;Halford (615) 741-7478 rep.curtis.halford@capitol.tn.gov
John Litz (615) 741-6877 rep.john.litz@capitol.tn.gov
Steve McDaniel (615) 741-0750 rep.steve.mcdaniel@capitol.tn.gov
Frank Niceley (615) 741-4419 rep.frank.niceley@capitol.tn.gov
Johnny Shaw (615) 741-4538 rep.johnny.shaw@capitol.tn.gov
Terri Lynn Weaver (615) 741-2192 rep.terri.lynn.weaver@capitol.tn.gov
John Mark Windle (615) 741-1260 rep.john.windle@capitol.tn.gov

Sincerely,

Janis Sontany

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The News is in the News

The state of news gathering organizations in the US is that they need healthcare as much as we do. How do we have an informed public when the news is so broken? How many newspapers are in danger or have closed this past year? How many radio stations and media outlets can one company own? In one city? Edward R. Murrow where are you when we need you?
How many right wing wing-nuts dominate the media?

When will the myth of the “Liberal Media” end? What we have is not only conservative media in control…we have ultra right wing extremists controlling the media. Dominating the public airwaves.

This week the Tea party convention is taking place here at Opryland Hotel. Local media was not invited. There is no national progressive radio talk show hosts on the air here to discuss the progressive angle. None, Nada, Zip.

What we have is ugly side of capitalism…monopoly. 5 or 6 companies now own and control everything we see & hear. If it’s not in their corporate interest for us to know about something they just bury it. Why should you care? Why do I harp on this problem so much? I’d love to just discuss GLBT issues…I’m sure Paul Revere would have rather just made his little beautiful bowls & spoons too…

The fact of the matter is we’re in a whole lot of trouble and a whole lot of Americans haven’t got a clue what’s going on. The ways you were informed in the past are gone. Journalism is disappearing. News organizations have merged with entertainment organizations and foreign news gathering offices have shut down. Ratings guide the direction of stories and dictate what leads. Companies that have been standards for years have been bought out by right wing nut jobs that have turned them into crap. Others have simply shut their doors.

There are organizations fighting back. They need all the support you can give. There are progressive voices out there but you have to go out there and find them. I can help you there. I can point you to where they are if need be. You can’t make an informed decision if you don’t have all the facts. The corporate media likes that. If you aren’t an informed electorate…well…they can make sure the politicians are in their pocket. A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court helped them even more to do just that. Next time you send a few dollars to re-elect your favorite politician…think about how that will go… when his or her challenger has the support of say, Walmart or G.E. Whose candidate do you think will win? Democracy is kind of over at that point isn’t it?

The solution to this problem we find ourselves in? WE THE PEOPLE. America will not be destroyed from without…it will be destroyed (if it is) from within. I’ve heard that my whole life. I think my parents told me that. I think it’s true. I’m afraid we’re in the midst of it now. As a lesbian, it’s difficult enough living in a “free, democratic society.” If America were to turn into something else…Fascist, corporatist, dictatorship…well who know what it would be like. I don’t want to know. We’ve got right wingers in DC at “the family,” helping Uganda pass laws to KILL gay people.

As I find news that I believe is important I’m going to continue to post it here and on my facebook page. If you find stories and want to do the same great. We need to help inform each other.

Remember this…Democracy and Capitalism are not the same thing. We do business every day with China and they are a thriving Capitolistic society. They are also a ruthless Communist dictatorship. Their record of Human Rights Sucks.
Free Market and Free Enterprise are not the same thing either. The so called free market system that right wingers are all fighting for today is what has led us to this debacle. What it really means is Un regulated laissez-faire capitalism. Think of the super bowl game with no rules. Free enterprise on the other hand is what we used to have when you went to the mall or shopping plaza and all the little shops were owned by local people. “Mom & Pop” operations. Profits went back in to the local economy and jobs were filled by local people too. There were factories where people actually made things. What a concept! When the country was in trouble during WW2 those same factories transformed over night into military supply machines turning out tanks and bombs and parachutes. Rosie the riveter could have been your grandmother or mine. If we’re buying everything from China and they threaten us what are we going to do? Ask them to sell us the materials we need to beef up our military?

That’s all for today. Thanks for listening to my rant. Sometimes you just gotta get it out. Next time you turn on the news think about who’s bringing it to you and what’s in it for them. Follow the money. Good Night, and Good Luck to all of us.

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Free Nashville Entertainment Law Clinic

ATTENTION ALL MUSICIANS, WRITERS AND ARTISTS
The Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville and the Tennessee Bar Assoc. Entertainment & Sports Law Section present the
Nashville Entertainment Law Clinic

WHAT THIS MEANS: Do you have questions about how to copyright your art? Would you like to have a pair of expert, legal eyes look over an entertainment contract? At the Nashville Entertainment Law Clinic, you can sign up for a 30-minute appointment to receive pro-bono legal advice from entertainment lawyers. They’ll answer questions about intellectual property (including copyrights, trademarks, and licensing) and all manner of entertainment law issues.

WHEN: Saturday, February 20, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

WHERE: Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, the SunTrust Community Room, 222 5th Avenue South

HOW TO SIGN UP: All artists who would like to attend must sign up for a time slot by noon on Friday, February 19th by emailing vlpa@abcnashville.org or calling (615) 743-3055.

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Action Alert: Rescued Horses inspire new legislation in Tennessee

Before Thanksgiving, you will recall the 85 horses and mules removed from a farm in Cannon County. It was obvious that these horses were in very bad shape – many hundreds of pounds below normal weight. The horses were relocated to the Nashville Fairgrounds and cared for by volunteers from all over the state, many from Nashville and Middle Tennessee. At that time, I committed to filing a bill that would make the intentional withholding of food and/or water from any animal a felony. Currently, withholding food and/or water from companion animals is felony aggravated animal cruelty – to do the very same to “livestock” is a misdemeanor. It makes no sense to have one penalty for companion animals and a different one for “livestock”. Cruelty is cruelty regardless if you are 3 lbs. or 16 hands high.

Sen. Ketron and I have sponsored legislation that will make withholding food and/or water from ANY animal felony aggravated animal cruelty. The bill numbers are HB3386 and SB3546. The bill can be viewed by going to http://www.capitol.tn.gov, the legislative page will appear, go to the bottom left hand side to “find legislation”, enter the bill number and click on search. You can print the bill from there.

If you have problems, please call our office at 741-6861.

Please contact your legislators – both House and Senate – and ask for their support in passing this important legislation. It will take everyone working together.

Thanks for all your support.

Janis Sontany
State Representative – District 53
741-6861/331-7616

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Snow pictures from the farm!

The news says we got 5″ here. (Near Nashville) Roads too icey to drive and it’s going down to 9 degrees tonight so no thaw for another day or two. We’re fine. Try to find something to use for sledding down a hill tomorrow.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=182832&id=621835798&l=749a257d9d

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Walking with the Butterflies

Taking an hour out of the day to walk with butterflies at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory is just what is needed after the cold January we have had in Tennessee.

As it turned out there was a severe rain storm while we were there so what better place to get in out of the weather? I brought the camera and Emily and I took turns with it as we walked past beautiful plants, birds and yes butterflies.

They were flying free all around us as we walked and it’s supposed to be good luck if they land on you. I may not be very lucky but I got close enough to them to get some good pictures.

There was a koi pond with these bird sculptures in it and lots of fish swimming in it.

The building is climate controlled and even has roof shades that can be used in the summer to protect from the hot tropical sun. They were not needed this time as it barely made it to the 70’s. The week before was so cold in Key West that it almost broke the all time record getting down to the 40’s. People there don’t have heat in their homes so it’s really cold to them. We saw a lot of dead fish and some iguanas while we were there that couldn’t take the extreme drop in temperatures. For a brief time with the butterflies though it felt like summer.

We saw several species of small birds that also were flying free around us. I stopped to take a picture of this guy having his lunch.

It seemed everyone was eating and I was getting hungry too. Good thing the seafood festival was going on too. More on that later…A little oasis and a fun gift shop with EVERYTHING you could ever want with a butterfly on it…I say don’t miss the Butterfly Conservatory next time you’re in Key West. It’s really close to Pearl’s if you’re staying there Ladies…

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