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Pennsylvania State Senate
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: May 1, 2013 03:16 PM
From: Senator Mike Brubaker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Responsible Reporting
 
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation to address animal and farm safety. There are a number of states that have passed bills that would criminalize the taking of pictures or videos on farming operations without the consent of the owner in order to protect farmers from animal rights activists. While I understand the need for protection of law-abiding farmers, I also realize that undercover investigations can uncover inhumane treatment of animals or unsanitary conditions on farming operations which is unacceptable under any condition.

My office has consulted with both farmers and animal protection groups to understand their concerns surrounding the issue. So, in order to address those concerns, I intend to reintroduce my previous proposal, SB 1596 of 2011-2012, with a significant modification. My bill will now amend the Crimes Code, Section 3503 (Criminal Trespass) to make it a crime to take pictures or videos on farms without the owner’s consent unless these images are shared exclusively with the proper authorities to investigate the claims of animal abuse.

It is my belief that by allowing investigations to be conducted, we can continue to identify and address farming operations that fail to adhere to the high standards that are set by the Commonwealth and the United States Department of Agriculture. Furthermore, by requiring that images recorded on farming operations be submitted exclusively to the Pennsylvania State Police, a local police department, or a Humane Society Police officer, we can ensure that an investigation will be conducted. If stopping animal abuse is the goal, proper authorities should be notified first so they can address the claims appropriately; law enforcement should not be made aware of suspected animal abuse from the media, social networking sites, and/or websites when the witness can contact them directly.

Additionally, by requiring suspected animal abuse to be reported to the proper authorities, we can assure due process will be given to farmers and their operations. When images are shared publicly, through websites or social media outlets, farmers can be impacted financially by boycotts and reputations ruined by unsubstantiated claims without the opportunity to respond or defend themselves. Considering the financial burdens most farmers already face, allowing them to be tried before the court of public opinion prior to being fully investigated is not only unfair, but it puts our agriculture sector in danger.

If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please contact Stephanie Buchanan at 717-787-4420 or sbuchanan@pasen.gov.