Category Archives: Animals

Regulating Livestock Welfare Remains an Issue Around the Country

Written by:  Ellen Essman, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Livestock producers in Ohio have been subject to standards for the care of livestock since 2011 but animal welfare is still a topic of debate around the country. Most recently, attention turned to the care of livestock raised under the National Organic Program and animals raised in confinement in Massachusetts.   In this post, we examine the proposed federal organic standards and a livestock care ballot initiative passed in Massachusetts.  The discussion provides an opportunity to take a look at the status of Ohio’s livestock care standards.

Federal Organic Standards

On January 19, 2017, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) promulgated a final rule for the National Organic Program (NOP).  The rule concerns practices for organic livestock and poultry.  Namely, the rule “clarifies how producers and handlers participating in the NOP must treat livestock and poultry to ensure their wellbeing.”  These treatment standards are applicable at numerous times throughout the lives of livestock, including when the animals are transported or slaughtered.  Additionally, the rule spells out the amount and type of indoor and outdoor space organic poultry must have under NOP.  The rule also describes the timing and methods for physically altering livestock and poultry under NOP.  The rule allows “[p]hysical alterations…only…for an animal’s welfare, identification, or safety.”  For example, the rule limits the use of teeth clipping and tail docking in pigs, and prohibits the de-beaking of chickens or face branding of cattle.  Many other banned and limited alterations are spelled out in the rule, as well as provisions that require active monitoring of animal health and treatment of injuries, sicknesses, and diseases.  The rule was originally supposed to become effective on March 20, 2017.  The Trump Administration, however, has since instituted a regulatory freeze in order to review recently made regulations.   In response to the regulatory freeze, AMS pushed back the effective date to May 19, 2017.  Barring any decisions by the new administration to the contrary, the rule should become effective on that date.  More information concerning this final rule is available here.

Massachusetts voters approve livestock confinement ballot initiative

Some states have taken it upon themselves to address various aspects of animal welfare.  This past Election Day, Massachusetts passed Question 3, a ballot initiative concerning confinement of livestock.  Question 3, also called the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, applies to farm owners and operators who raise breeding pigs, veal calves, and egg-laying hens within the state, and also to business owners and operators who sell products from such livestock within the state.  When the Act becomes effective on January 1, 2022, this will mean that any farmers or businesses selling their pork, veal, or eggs in Massachusetts, even if they are not physically located within the state, would have to comply with the state’s confinement rules.  The law prohibits the aforementioned livestock being “confined in a cruel manner,” meaning that the animals cannot be “confined so as to prevent [them] from lying down, standing up, fully extending [their] limbs, or turning around freely.”  There are certain exceptions to this rule, including during transport, at fairs, during a veterinary examination, etc.  When the Act goes into effect, violators will face a $1,000 civil fine per violation, and/or an injunction

Ohio Livestock Care Standards

As many will remember, Ohio has its own laws and regulations concerning livestock welfare.  Voters passed an amendment to the Ohio Constitution in 2009.  The amendment created the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, which was tasked with creating the actual “care standards” for livestock animals in the state.  The first of these “livestock care standards,” or rules, became effective on September 29, 2011.  Standards exist for different types of livestock and cover everything from acceptable euthanasia practices for each species, to the provision of food and water, to acceptable methods of transportation.  The board continues to meet regularly to review the care standards.

The regulations on livestock care include an investigation process initiated by complaints on potential violations of the standards.  Since the standards became effective, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has received a number of complaints and works with operators to bring them into compliance if the agency finds a violation. According to Farm and Dairy, there were 51 such investigations in 2012, 29 in 2013, and 23 in 2014.  In 2015, there were 33 investigations—23 of which resulted in no violations of the standards.   Producers can learn more about the livestock care standards at http://www.agri.ohio.gov/LivestockCareStandards.

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Legislation Proposes Tax Credits for Manure Infrastructure Investments

A legislative proposal to address manure infrastructure costs introduced by Rep. Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) is moving once again, receiving its third hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, April 26.  To continue reading this post, go to our new blog site, here.

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Manure Regulation in Ohio

Although long considered a natural fertilizer that can benefit our soils, manure has a history of increased regulation in recent years based on potential impacts to water quality.   The following explains how state and federal law regulates the production, storage and application of animal manure in Ohio.   To read this post, go to our new blog site at aglaw.osu.edu/blog.

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Leasing Your Land for Hunting: Legal Considerations

With fall quickly approaching, now is a good time to consider whether you should lease your land for hunting. To read this blog, go to aglaw.osu.edu/blog.

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Ohio Supreme Court agrees to hear appeal of $27,851 deer hunting fine

Hunting laws don’t often reach our highest court, but the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to review one man’s challenge to an unlawful hunting action by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).  The case resulted in a fine of $27,851 against Huron County hunter Arlie Risner for the unlawful taking of an antlered white-tailed deer.

To read this post, go to our new blog at aglaw.osu.edu/blog.

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Maintaining Animals is not a Fundamental Right, Court Reminds Us

Peggy Hall, Asst. Professor, OSUE Agricultural & Resource Law Program       .

Does an Ohio resident have a constitutional right to keep rabbits, goats, chickens, horses, cows, ducks, turkeys, geese or other fowl on his or her property?  No, according to a recent decision by Ohio’s Eighth District Court of Appeals.  Nor does a city ordinance that prohibits the keeping of such animals violate the federal or state constitutions.

A resident of Bedford, Ohio raised the challenge after being found guilty of a minor misdemeanor for keeping a pygmy goal and four chickens at his home, in contradiction to a city ordinance.  The resident claimed that the city ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution and Ohio Constitution, Article 1, Section 1, which provides:  “All men are, by nature, free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and seeking and obtaining happiness and safety.”

But the court noted that the Ohio Constitution also states in Article 1, Section 19 that “Private property shall ever be held inviolate, but subservient to the public welfare,”  which allows a law to interfere with private rights to accomplish a valid public welfare purpose.   Where a law does affect private rights, the court explained that it must scrutinize the law and its purpose.  Interferences with fundamental private  rights require the most strict scrutiny, but the court quickly followed precedents set by other Ohio courts to reiterate that the right to maintain animals is not a fundamental right.  Thus, under a lower level of judicial scrutiny, a law that interferes with the right to keep animals will be upheld if the law is “rationally related to a legitimate government interest.”  According to the court, the Bedford ordinance surpasses this test because the law protects the public from unsanitary conditions and noxious odors by prohibiting certain animals in an urban area.

All is not lost for city dwellers who want farm animals, however.  Recognizing the popularity of “urban farms” and “backyard chickens,” the court explained that residents in urban areas can petition their lawmakers to allow such animals as pets.  The local government could permit the animals while protecting public safety and welfare through building requirements or restrictions on the number of animals, the court explained.

The Bedford case is not unusual, but illustrates a continuing trend in conflicts over keeping animals in urban areas.  To read the court’s opinion, see City of Bedford v. James L. Deal, here.

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New Animal Disease Traceability Rule Announced by USDA

A new rule establishing general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving between states became final on December 20, 2012 and will become effective on March 11, 2013.  The USDA has established the animal disease traceability rule to help target when and where animal disease occurs and to facilitate a rapid response that should reduce the number of animals involved in a disease investigation.  According to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, “The United States now has a flexible, effective animal disease traceability system for livestock moving interstate, without undue burdens for ranchers and U.S. livestock businesses. The final rule meets the diverse needs of the countryside where states and tribes can develop systems for tracking animals that work best for them and their producers, while addressing any gaps in our overall disease response efforts.”

The animal disease traceability rule differs from the National Animal Identification System launched by the USDA in 2006 and later discontinued for lack of voluntary participation by producers.   An important guiding principle for the new rule is that it is state-driven. The traceability framework will be owned, led and administered by the States and Tribal Nations with federal support. The rule proposes to provide maximum flexibility for the States, Tribal Nations and producers to work together to find identification solutions that meet their local needs and to maintain traceability data at their discretion. The intent of the rule is to address only those animals moving interstate and to encourage the use of low-cost technology.

We will take a closer look at the rule in the next few months, but for now will share a few important notes about the rule:

  • Unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate must be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.
  • The use of brands, tattoos and brand registration will be accepted as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving States or Tribes.
  • Backtags remain an alternative to official eartags for cattle and bison moving directly to slaughter.
  • All livestock moved interstate to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the regulations.
  • Chicks moved interstate from a hatchery are exempt from the official identification requirements.
  • Unless moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos, or recreational events, beef cattle under 18 months of age are exempt from the official identification requirement (traceability requirements for this group will be addressed in separate rulemaking)

USDA will work with states to implement the rule in the coming months.  For more information on the new rule, visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/.

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