EDITORIAL: Animal planet

Sixteen years ago, voters enshrined in the state constitution specific limits on the Legislature’s ability to intrude on our lives, erode our freedoms, burden our businesses and pile ever more laws into the Nevada Revised Statutes. Biennial regular sessions were capped at 120 days because Nevadans wanted lawmakers to focus on essential business, such as passing a budget, then go home.

But instead of honoring the will of voters and staying away from special-interest pap, lawmakers see the 120-day cap as a challenge: How many more bills can we introduce this session?

As proof that legislators have no sense of priorities, Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle, D-Sparks, this month submitted a bill draft request to require convicted animal abusers to undergo counseling and pay for the service themselves.

Animal rights and animal welfare activists, who relentlessly push proposals that make little to no difference in the lives of Nevadans, have found a compliant audience in Carson City. Lawmakers, fearful of being called anti-animal or pro-abuser during re-election campaigns, get to portray themselves as pro-pet. And animal welfare groups get legislation that helps them raise money.

Never mind that all the time dedicated next year to bills such as Mr. Sprinkle’s could be better spent addressing Nevada’s abysmal mental health system, the state’s underachieving K-12 schools, tax reform or the many overpriced inefficiencies at every level of government.

“I feel very confident that this will get passed through the Legislature and signed by the governor,” Mr. Sprinkle told the Review-Journal’s Whip Villarreal. “Far more important is the link that we have been able to show between those who abuse animals and then move on to potentially abuse humans as well. This is a necessary step to try to cut that link and to get the help that these people probably need.”

But what Mr. Sprinkle and animal welfare advocates consider absolute truth is very much in doubt, and has been for decades. Animal abuse is not a definitive predictor of violent crime against humans, and the assumption that it is unfairly labels such low-level offenders — to say nothing of kids who grow up on farms — future serial killers.

You’d think animal welfare groups would celebrate a request for legislation that supports their agenda. Alas, they’re like so many other lobbies that primarily are concerned with who gets credit.

“Why did we know nothing about this bill and why were we not consulted?” Gina Greisen, president of Nevada Voters for Animals, said when told about the proposal by a reporter. “For anything to be successful in this state, every animal advocate has to work together.”

Somebody hand Ms. Greisen a puppy to cuddle. She’ll get her chance to lobby and testify on Mr. Sprinkle’s bill, as well as the bill from state Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, to require police training to prevent the shooting of owners’ pets, and the bill from state Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, to require Nevadans convicted of intentional acts of animal cruelty to have their names included on a public registry and be banned from owning pets.

Legislative candidates are campaigning for November’s election. It’s an excellent opportunity for voters to remind them to get serious and quit wasting time on feel-good law. In a 120-day session, lawmakers don’t have time for such nonsense.

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