Washington State Considering Animal Rights/Environmental Terrorism Legislation

On January 12, several Washington State Senators introduced legislation to address acts of environmental and animal rights terrorism in that state modeled on legislation introduced last year in the U.S. House of Representatives.

According to the legislative summary of the bill,

An “animal rights or ecological terrorist organization” is
defined as any association, organization, entity, coalition, or combination of two or more
persons with the purpose of intimidating, coercing, or causing fear with the intent to obstruct,
impede, or deter any person from participating in an activity involving animals, activity
involving natural resources, animal facility, research facility, horticultural educational or
research facility, or the lawful activity of mining, foresting, harvesting, gathering, or
processing natural resources.

It is unlawful to: (1) deprive an owner of an animal or natural resource from lawfully
participating in an activity involving animals or an activity involving natural resources under
specified circumstances, (2) obstruct or impede the use of an animal facility or the use of a
natural resource without effective consent under specified circumstances, or (3) participate
in or support animal or ecological terrorism by performing specified acts. The prohibition
does not apply to government agencies and their employees, employees of financial
institutions, secured parties, employees of an animal control authority acting within the scope
of employment, or participants in otherwise legal employee or employment organization
labor-related disputes. If the damage to property does not exceed $1,500, the offender is
guilty of a gross misdemeanor (up to one year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine). If the damage
to property exceeds $1,500, the offender is guilty of an unranked class C felony (up to one
year in jail and/or a $10,000 fine). Any violation that results in the intentional or negligent
infliction of bodily harm to any individual is punished as a class B felony ranked at level 6
on the sentencing grid (12+ to 14 months imprisonment and/or a $20,000 fine for a first
offense). A sentence outside the standard range is authorized if any of the offenses result in
the death of a human being or the death or destruction of an animal.

In addition the bill calls for the creation of a publicly available registry of anyone convicted under the statute,

A registry of animal and ecological terrorists is created. Upon conviction for an act
contained in the chapter, the offender must register with the Attorney General on a proscribed
form and notify the Attorney General if the information changes. The Attorney General
creates a website containing the information. The offender’s information remains on the
website for not less than three years. After that time, the offender may apply to the Attorney
General for removal of the information after a hearing.

On January 29, the bill was approved on a 6-2 vote by the Senate’s judiciary committee and moved on to the Ways and Means committee for its consideration.

The law was proposed in response to the August release of about 10,000 mink from a Sultan, Washington farm. Kate Roesler, co-owner of the mink farm, told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that existing laws would impose a maximum punishment of 1 year in jail for the release which caused an estimated $500,000 loss.

On the other hand, Lindsay Saibara of the Northwest Animal Rights Network told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that she worried the law might harm groups like hers,

It can target organizations like ours, that work within the legal system
and above ground.

At the time of the release, the Northwest Animal Rights Network celebrated the release of the mink and dismissed suggests that the mink might pose any ecological threat. As NARN’s Andrew Knight said at the time,

The amount of suffering that has been prevented by releasing them [the mink] from cramped cages and freeing them from an extremely cruel death more than justifies a temporary disruption to the ecosystem.

The full text of the proposed bill can be read here.


Bill targets ‘eco-terrorism’; It would toughen penalties, create registry. Richard Roesler, Spokane Spokesman-Review (Washington), January 16, 2004.