The "Cruelty to Animals" bill sponsored by state Rep. John Ulmer (R-Goshen) would ask the courts to consider counseling as part of a sentence imposed on an adult or juvenile who has committed animal cruelty. Passing out of the Senate (9-0 in committee and 48-0 in the full Senate chamber), this bill - popular with animal welfare advocates - now goes to the House. Ulmer, however, has also pushed for House Resolution 4 that would make it a constitutional right to hunt, fish and trap game in Indiana - subject to laws prescribed by the General Assembly. The full Senate chamber heard a reading of HR 4 on March 21, and agreed to send it on toward ratification.
Paula Yeager, executive director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation, sees HJR 4 as a benefit to Indiana's ecology. "Most of the hunters and fisherman I know care very deeply about our environment because they our out there," she said. "They see the changes in wildlife because habitat is disappearing, or because of the river or lake seems taken over by algae or zebra mussels. It is their dollars that pay to try to protect this for everyone."
She went on to say, "The overwhelming support of the resolution is a reflection on how the Legislature recognizes the values of hunting and fishing as a wildlife management tool, the enormous economic benefits that it brings to Indiana and the quality outdoor recreational opportunities it provides."
But HJR 4 raises some questions for animal welfare advocates because it protects trapping. Many consider this a cruel method of capturing an animal. Caught in these devices, animals often die slowly of dehydration or starvation.
Also, animals not intended for the traps become casualties.
But Yeager explained, "Animals that are caught in leg hold traps, if they are not killed by the way in which the trap is set, they are dispatched quickly and humanly by the trapper. Trapping, like hunting, is a viable wildlife management tool and can be used to control excess populations, stop or inhibit the spread of disease. Fur is a renewable resource and, like hunting, there are no species threatened in the U.S. because of the legal methods of trapping. In most cases the animals are not trapped for meat."
Visit the Indiana General Assembly homepage at www.in.gov/legislative/ to contact legislators and voice your support or opinions. Look up the bills at www.in.gov/apps/lsa/session/billwatch/billinfo.