The following op-ed piece is written by Michigan Humane Society president and CEO Matt Pepper:

Sometimes in the moment, it is hard to truly comprehend the impact of legislative issues. I want to put this past session into perspective. The governor rightfully, and thankfully, vetoing House Bill 5916/5917 and signing Senate Bill 416 both have a very real, and immediate, impact on the animals of Michigan.

House Bill 5916/5917 clearly did not have the best interest of our state’s animals at heart. It would have paved the way for puppy mills and irresponsible breeding to become more prevalent. In short, it would have led to the suffering of countless animals within a breeding industry that is woefully under-regulated.

Governor Snyder’s veto is a clear indication of the elevating value of animals in our lives and in our communities. While the position of the governor was that local municipalities should be free to enact legislation they see fit, the message is that we can, and should, do better.

Senate Bill 416 is distinct nod to the individuality of animals suffering from the most horrible type of cruelty – dog fighting. It further separates the mindset that dogs are nothing more than property and allows for the individual evaluation of these victims. We cannot fool ourselves that dog fighting is a thing of the past. It remains here in Metro Detroit as it remains in other communities throughout the country – rural, suburban, and urban. This legislation has the opportunity to save lives immediately through both offering a chance at life and through dramatically shortening the length of stay through the bond and forfeiture process.

On a national level we saw HR 909, the Pet and Women’s Safety Act (PAWS Act), pass. This bill, co-sponsored by Michigan Senator Gary Peters, amends the federal criminal code to broaden the definition of “stalking” to include behavior that causes a person to experience a reasonable fear of death or serious injury to their pet.

HR 909 also expresses the sentiment that states should include, in domestic violence protection orders, protections against violence or threats against a person’s pet. The Michigan Humane Society is proud that we, as an organization, actively supported House Bill 4778 in the 2016-17 legislative session. Introduced by Rep. Kosowski, that bill provided for the explicit inclusion of animals in personal protection orders. The bill passed and was signed into law in 2017.

These are no small victories. These are important and represent a continuing change in our collective connection to the pets we share our lives with.

This is a foundation to build upon toward the future and a clear step forward for the pets we all care so much about.

Photo credit: Tookapic