The war on rural Colorado: The animal rights legislation circus |

The war on rural Colorado: The animal rights legislation circus

Photo from Colorado Governor’s Office website

Colorado’s First Gentleman Marlon Reis has long been forthright about his commitment to veganism and his dedication to fight for the rights of animals and his involvement in and support of legislation thus far in the session both in testimony and on social media has reflected that.

The Humane Pet Act, HB20-1084, which failed on a 6-5 vote in the House Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee, would have prohibited the sale of dogs and cats in public places or by pet stores, also would have limited breeders to keeping, housing, or maintaining more than 25 dogs, cats, or any combination of more than 25 dogs and cats that are more than 6 months of age and have not undergone sterilization. Bill language also specified enclosure flooring types, limits litters per year, and mandated exercise as well as required engagement in “mentally stimulating and social behaviors.”

Reis said in a social media post that the failure of the Humane Pet Act taught proponents of animal rights that groups opposed to such bills are organized and vocal. He also indicated that the public’s understanding that USDA-licensed facilities and humanely raised animals are synonymous is untrue.

In addition to the Humane Pet Act, Reis is a vocal supporter of SB20-125, Prohibit Exotic Animals in Traveling Performances. Sponsored by Sen. Joann Ginal, D-District 14, without bipartisan sponsorship, the bill was heard on Feb. 13, 2020, by the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee.

The bill prohibits the use of exotic animals in a traveling animal act, and places restrictions on months of use for an animal used as part of an environmental education program that meets certain standards of accreditation. The bill excludes pet animals, livestock and alternative livestock, defined by statute as domesticated elk or fallow deer.

In his testimony, Reis asked committee members to support the bill and keep in mind the years stolen from animals in the name of entertainment.

“If these animals are lucky enough to live out their days in places like the sanctuary, too often it comes after the best years of their lives are stolen from them by traveling acts,” Reis testified. “For us, cheap thrills. For them, life itself.”

Kelly Sloan, a public affairs consultant representing Trunks and Humps, said he is among those who find mistreatment of animals deplorable but doing away with the use of animals for all purposes is different than eliminating the root problem.

“Let’s go after what the problem is and the problem is animals being treated badly, being treated cruelly, being starved, not being taken care of or denied veterinary treatment,” he said. “If the problem is animal cruelty or animal abuse, let’s deal with that.”

Additional oversight by the state veterinarian’s office or increased reporting requirements could, he said, better address cruelty rather than a blanket ban.

“If your goal is to do away with the use of animals for human use, then I guess that’s a different conversation,” he said.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-District 1, is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and heard testimony Thursday.

“This appears to be just the camel’s nose under the tent for this administration and the animal rights activists to eventually shut down animal agriculture in rural Colorado,” Sonnenberg said. “This bill will do nothing to protect any species. The assertions that were made by those testifying in favor of the bill are the same ones that have been used against agriculture in other states and in other bills.”

Sonnenberg calls this bill a part of the escalating war on rural Colorado.

The bill was laid over to a future date.

Following the Oscar speech comments made by Joaquin Phoenix, Reis shared an article by Erica Chayes Wida. The article, dated Feb. 11, 2020, appeared on said “various types of abuse against animals that occur within conventional farming operations (have) been well documented over the years”.

The article went on to claim that legislation protecting animals raised for dairy and meat has been slow in implementation, leading to these animals being subjected to cruel acts. Wida also said “this, coupled with a new wave of concern for the environment, has prompted a steady rise in people turning to veganism and plant-based lifestyles over the past few years” and has also been reflected in a significant rise in sales of plant-based proteins and alternative milks.

In a social media post linking Wida’s article, the first gentleman said he found it meaningful to have a high-profile advocate speaking out on behalf of animals and said, “We finally have attention being drawn to the fact that animals deserve better than to be treated as ‘things’ or property.”

A request for an interview with Reis was denied.

Other upcoming bills of interest to animal rights proponents include SB20-142 Pet Animal Facility Licensing, SB20-104 Powers of Bureau of Animal Protection Agents and SB20-164 Treatment Dogs and Cats in Shelters and Rescues. ❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at or (970) 392-4410.

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