Gov. Bill Haslam is getting an earful about a piece of legislation that some say would protect people who abuse animals in Tennessee.
The Livestock Cruelty Prevention Act would require anyone recording images of animal abuse to submit unedited footage or photos to law enforcement within 48 hours.
The bill's House sponsor says animal safety is the top priority, but critics contend the bill's short reporting deadline would result in short, incomplete investigations and say the bill discourages would-be whistleblowers from coming forward out of fear of prosecution.
The ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and Mercy for Animals have all appealed to Haslam to veto the bill - as has country music artist Carrie Underwood, who tweeted to her fans on Twitter to contact the governor about what she called the "Ag Gag bill."
A spokesperson for the governor's office said they have received about 4,500 emails and nearly 1,800 phone calls about the issue so far, and almost all of them have been against the bill.
Dawn Roberts, of Springfield, delivered a petition to Haslam's office full of 6,000 signatures. She is not a lobbyist or a member of an animal rights group. She's just an animal lover who knows first hand what it takes to stop abuse.
"When you are driving by there everyday and you're seeing horses laying on the ground or see a horse and you picture it, and then a week later and it's thinner. And then a week later, it's thinner. And then you see a dead horse," Roberts said.
Roberts documented a tough case near her home. She said Robertson County sheriff's deputies would run out to Lee Krisle's farm, and Krisle would say, 'Oh, that horse - just bought home. He came that way.' So, it didn't go anywhere.
Roberts and her neighbors then started taking photographs - daily, for months - and all of a sudden it wasn't "he said, she said." It was "look at the proof."
"We showed that it was the same animal for a period of time and what he was telling the law enforcement or the agriculture extension officer was not correct," Roberts said.
A grand jury indicted Krisle this week on multiple counts of animal cruelty, and all horses have been taken off the farm belonging to Krisle - a convicted horse rustler and felon.
If the governor signs the legislation, the kind of investigation Roberts and her neighbors conducted would no longer be legal.
The governor has 10 days from the time a bill reaches his desk to either sign it into law, veto it or do nothing - in which case it becomes law anyway.
For now, the attorney general's office is reviewing the bill, and Haslam hasn't said which way he is leaning on the issue.
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