A New York lawmaker announced Thursday he is withdrawing a bill that would have classified farm dogs as "livestock" and exempt them from some animal neglect protections after animal welfare groups objected to the measure.
Democratic Assemblyman William Magee, the bill's sponsor, said he introduced the bill on behalf of the New York state Farm Bureau. It was intended to ensure farmers didn't face cruelty charges by making dogs work outside on very hot or cold days. The bill would have legally reclassified farm dogs as "crops, livestock and livestock products" and not "domesticated animals."
Magee said he decided to withdraw the legislation after learning of the objections from animal welfare groups.
The Humane Society of the United States opposed the legislation, saying it would deprive farm dogs of the same protections given other dogs. The group's New York Director Brian Shapiro said he worried the bill could have created a "slippery slope" leading to unscrupulous breeders opening inhumane puppy mills by claiming the dogs were livestock.
He said he was pleased to learn the bill was being withdrawn.
Dogs are considered domesticated, companion animals within state law — a status that confers some added protections that typical livestock, such as cows and chickens, do not have. State law also currently requires that dogs be given proper protection from extreme weather.
A memo attached to the legislation noted that farm dogs are used for work including herding sheep and protecting orchards from deer. The memo said that the dogs "often times have to work in inclement weather, which would typically violate animal cruelty laws," but that the legislation is needed to protect farmers "from an unknowing public."
Magee said Thursday he's heard of only a few cases in which farmers were accused of animal cruelty or neglect for their treatment of farm dogs. "This was probably a minor issue," he said.
In the face of the strong opposition, he decided to drop the bill.
"We didn't think it was necessary," Magee said.
A message left with the Farm Bureau was not immediately returned Thursday.