Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/29/2003 01:37 PM Senate L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
        SB 176-CIVIL LIABILITY FOR LIVESTOCK ACTIVITIES                                                                     
CHAIR BUNDE announced SB 176 to be up for consideration.                                                                        
MR. BRIAN  HOVE, staff to  Senator Seekins,  said that SB  176 is                                                               
largely  a  reincarnation  of  HB 111,  introduced  in  the  22nd                                                               
Legislature. It is  intended to give livestock  owners and others                                                               
associated  with  livestock  activities   a  certain  measure  of                                                               
protection  from frivolous  lawsuits. It  recognizes that  people                                                               
assume  some  degree  of  risk when  placing  themselves  in  the                                                               
vicinity  of livestock.  The livestock  owner, with  the best  of                                                               
intentions, cannot  completely prevent accidents  from happening.                                                               
SB  176 will  not  protect the  livestock owner  who  acts in  an                                                               
unreasonable manner, but  by reducing some of  the liability, the                                                               
expectation is  that this legislation  will create  an atmosphere                                                               
that will  encourage more  livestock activity.  This bill  is the                                                               
work of 4H  members statewide and 44 other  states currently have                                                               
similar legislation.                                                                                                            
MS. GABI DOMINGUEZ, a livestock owner, supported SB 176.                                                                        
MR. TED FRANKE,  Camp Director, Camp Leila, supported  SB 176. He                                                               
said Camp  Leila is a  non-profit organization and has  about 450                                                               
kids each summer and additional kids who come up to visit.                                                                      
MS. LAUREN WILFER,  Tanana Whirlwinds 4H Club,  supported SB 176.                                                               
She has  fiends who have horses  and other animals. SB  176 would                                                               
help  her friend  who is  a riding  instructor at  the University                                                               
with  liability if  one of  her  students was  killed or  injured                                                               
accidentally. Anyone who accepts any  payment is not considered a                                                               
volunteer and isn't eligible for the University's insurance.                                                                    
MS.  KATE  SANDERS   said  she  is  thinking   about  becoming  a                                                               
veterinarian and supported  SB 176. Right now, if  an owner helps                                                               
her hold  or restrain their  animal and  gets hurt, they  can sue                                                               
her. That is unfair. She also thought  it was a good idea for the                                                               
person  who owns  an animal  to do  the restraining,  because the                                                               
animal is more familiar with that person.                                                                                       
MS. BEVERLY NESTER, Associate  Coordinator, Cowboy Mounted Action                                                               
Shooters,  said she  is  also  the founder  of  the Alaska  Trail                                                               
Riders  Association. She  has worked  with  horses, horsemen  and                                                               
private landowners  for over four  decades. She supported  SB 176                                                               
because  it would  add much  needed common  sense to  the lawsuit                                                               
crazed society we live in today.                                                                                                
MS.  SHIRLEY   SCHOLLENBERG,  Secretary,  Kenai   Peninsula  Farm                                                               
Bureau, said  she had  been a  4H leader for  26 years  and gives                                                               
riding lessons  and does tours on  her farm. She said  the bureau                                                               
voted  to  support  the  bill.  She is  also  treasurer  for  the                                                               
Ninilchik  Fair  Association  and   this  bill  would  definitely                                                               
benefit fairs, since they are  continually dealing with liability                                                               
MR. STEVE  CONN, AKPIRG, said there  are parts of this  bill that                                                               
AKPIRG very much supports.                                                                                                      
TAPE 03-26, SIDE B                                                                                                            
MR. CONN  continued to say  AKPIRG doesn't support some  parts of                                                               
it, for  example the  part that  lists rabbits,  hamsters, guinea                                                               
pigs, turkeys,  chickens, pheasants, peafowls, pigeons  and ducks                                                               
as inherently dangerous and unpredictable livestock.                                                                            
He  said  this  immunizing  bill   stretches  the  definition  of                                                               
livestock and  the reach  of individuals  pretty far.  He pointed                                                               
out  that the  conclusion on  page  3, lines  16 -  20, does  not                                                               
affect  a  civil action  resulting  from  what  may be  the  core                                                               
problem,  which  is when  a  participant  who provides  livestock                                                               
makes a  reasonable and prudent  effort to determine  the ability                                                               
of someone  to safely manage  the livestock activity.  He thought                                                               
this bill might not be as strong as the 4H folks think it is.                                                                   
MR.   MATT  ROBUS,   Acting   Director,   Division  of   Wildlife                                                               
Conservation, pointed out the definition  of livestock on page 4,                                                               
line 19, includes  caribou and they are,  by definition elsewhere                                                               
in  statute, a  game animal  and not  a domestic  animal. Caribou                                                               
cannot be  owned by a  person and can  only be possessed  under a                                                               
permit  from  the department.  Therefore,  a  caribou is  not  an                                                               
appropriate  animal  for the  list.  The  domestic form  of  that                                                               
species is  reindeer, which  is on  the list.  Furthermore, there                                                               
are  three  species   that  can  legally  be   owned  under  some                                                               
circumstances  that would  otherwise be  game animals.  Those are                                                               
bison,  musk ox  and elk.  Wild populations  are managed  as game                                                               
animals, but if  a person has a  bill of sale that  is proof that                                                               
they are  owned as  domestic animals. He  suggested that  for the                                                               
purposes  of   this  definition  of  livestock,   it  be  clearly                                                               
indicated  that the  bill only  addresses the  domestic forms  of                                                               
those species.                                                                                                                  
Finally,  Mr.  Robus suggested  regarding  the  word "duck"  that                                                               
there are other water fowl that  are owned and shown as livestock                                                               
under these conditions. He suggested  removing "duck" and, at the                                                               
end of the  list, after "alpaca," inserting  "waterfowl for which                                                               
a  permit  from  the  U.S.  Fish  and  Wildlife  Service  is  not                                                               
SENATOR SEEKINS said he would work  on language with Mr. Robus to                                                               
make sure the bill protects the people they intend to protect.                                                                  
MR. JIM  DOUGLAS, Cooperative Extension  Service, UAF,  said this                                                               
bill is an  attempt by the Cooperative Extension  Service and the                                                               
4H program  to try to get  kids to understand the  process of law                                                               
by choosing a  pertinent issue and finding out what  happens to a                                                               
bill. They do  not have litigious folks in their  group, but they                                                               
certainly have  litigious insurance  companies that tend  to look                                                               
at the  University and property  owners as deep pockets.  He said                                                               
an excellent example is an  incident that occurred last year when                                                               
four new  horses were in  a judging activity and  someone slapped                                                               
one of them and was seriously  stepped on. In that situation, one                                                               
might question whether the person  should have been that close to                                                               
the horses in the first place,  even though he was just trying to                                                               
help out. The bill is designed for people to use common sense.                                                                  
SENATOR  FRENCH  said that  kids  like  to pet  attractive  furry                                                               
animals. He questioned why an  owner wouldn't put a screen around                                                               
such an animal so that a child doesn't get his fingers bit.                                                                     
MR. DOUGLAS  replied that the  fair provides the cages,  but it's                                                               
difficult to find a screen  with holes that small. Domestic cages                                                               
have about  a half-inch  space and  it does  take some  amount of                                                               
force to get a child's fingers  through them, but some kids still                                                               
try - even with warning signs and moving the cages back.                                                                        
SENATOR FRENCH asked if anyone he  knew had been sued under these                                                               
circumstances aside from the owner of the horse who was slapped.                                                                
MR.  DOUGLAS replied  no,  he has  not  seen a  lot  of suits  in                                                               
Alaska, but fellow extension agents  around the West are starting                                                               
to see them. He thought Alaskans had a little tougher mentality.                                                                
SENATOR  FRENCH  had  some  hesitance  about  this  bill  because                                                               
individual responsibility could go both ways.                                                                                   
MR.  DOUGLAS responded  that the  bill says  gross negligence  as                                                               
opposed to just negligence.                                                                                                     
MS. JAN HANSCOM, 4H leader  in the Tanana Valley, favored keeping                                                               
small  animals like  chickens and  guinea pigs  in the  bill. She                                                               
said they  are very well behaved,  but they do bite  because kids                                                               
pull their hair and ears.                                                                                                       
SENATOR  SEEKINS  moved  to  pass  SB  176  from  committee  with                                                               
individual recommendations.                                                                                                     
The roll was called. SENATORS  STEVENS, FRENCH, SEEKINS and BUNDE                                                               
voted yea and SB 176 moved from committee.                                                                                      

Document Name Date/Time Subjects