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Crossover update on 2024 Virginia General Assembly

Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2024
collage of four images, clockwise from top left: cat paw with intact claws, a pack of hunting hounds, a mouse in a laboratory and an elephant. In the center of the images is the text, "Advocating for animals in the General Assembly"

Virginia’s 2024 legislative session has passed the midpoint. Tuesday was the last day for each chamber to act on its own legislation, and now that bills have crossed over from the House to the Senate and vice versa, we have an update on the bills that remain. Among them are many opportunities to improve protections for animals in the commonwealth.

Senate bills being taken up by the House

SB 11 – Patron: Sen. Favola passed Senate 39-Y, 1-N (see voting record)
This bill gives judges discretion to prohibit someone convicted of animal cruelty from possessing or owning companion animals or equines. In felony cases, the sentence may include up to a lifetime ban; those sentenced for misdemeanor offenses may be banned from having animals for up to five years. The bill was amended on the Senate floor to allow someone to petition the court for restoration of rights five years after conviction. This bill has a House companion, HB 223.

SB 369 – Patron: Sen. Ebbin passed Senate unanimously
Under Virginia code, maiming, killing or poisoning livestock is currently a Class 5 felony. This bill would elevate such crimes against companion animals to felony status (currently a misdemeanor) and adds a Class 1 misdemeanor for acts involving fowl.

SB 411 – Patron: Sen. Boysko passed Senate unanimously
Though this bill as introduced would have required additional public disclosure of animals involved in testing at public facilities, the Senate adopted substitute language that creates a Taskforce on Transparency in Publicly Funded Animal Testing Facilities. Membership in the task force is outlined in the amendment and will include representatives of public universities, animal protection watchdog groups, an attending veterinarian at an animal testing facility, a representative of the Virginia Press Association and others. This bill has a House companion, HB 580.

SB 412 – Patron: Sen. Boysko passed Senate unanimously
Health departments in Virginia can authorize rabies clinics for vaccination of dogs and cats, and localities must conduct clinics at least once every two years. While many pet guardians who attend these clinics are interested in receiving additional services, only rabies vaccinations are permitted in the current law. SB 412 will allow microchipping and additional core vaccinations to be offered.

House bills being taken up by the Senate

HB 223 – Patron: Del. Orrock passed House 83-Y, 15-N (see voting record)
This is the House companion to SB 11, to prohibit ownership of animals after someone is convicted of cruelty.

HB 580 – Patron: Del. Simonds passed House 56-Y, 43-N (see voting record)
This is the House companion to SB 411, creating a task force for transparency in publicly-funded animal testing facilities.

HB 1354 – Patron: Del. Martinez passed House 54-Y, 44-N (see voting record)
This bill prohibits veterinarians from performing surgery to declaw a cat unless it is a medical necessity for the animal’s health or that of the owner. It was amended in committee to get the support of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, which has opposed bans introduced in prior years. This compromise represents significant progress, and if passed, would protect a great many cats. Read more about this issue from the American Association of Feline Practitioners, who strongly oppose elective declawing of cats.  

HB 1531 – Patron: Del. Tran passed House 63-Y, 36-N (see voting record)
A host of pain-inflicting training tools that are used on elephants would be prohibited under this bill, known as the “bullhook ban.” These implements have been banned by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the top accrediting organization, but bullhooks are still in use by some roadside animal attractions.

Budget amendments

SB 30, Item 367#2s – Patron: Sen. Marsden; HB 30, Item 367#2h – Patron: Del. Krizek
These amendments instruct Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources to develop a permit system for those using dogs to pursue game. Though this bill arose from conflicts between those who hunt with dogs and the landowners whose property is used without their permission, requiring permits will also improve accountability and benefit the welfare of the dogs used in these hunts. 

Related: Good news about HB 221, a bill we wrote about near the start of the session. This dangerous legislation was killed in the House agriculture committee, which did not grant a hearing.

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