Happy Easter! Not so much for baby chicks in Florida.
Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill ending a 45-year-old ban on artificially dying fowl and other small animals.
The language - which also permits chicks to be sold before they are four weeks old - was inserted into an agriculture bill at the last minute by state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff at the urging of a dog groomer who wanted to compete in pet beauty contests.
Animal welfare adovates and other lawmakers said allowing dying of chickens, rabbits and ducks to look like holiday toys will mean higher sales at Easter and more abandoned or mistreated pets later.
Florida Senate Democratic Minority Leader Nan Rich, who tried to block the amendment, said the original ban was to ensure "that we don't have a lot of adorable ducks, rabbits and chickens that are given away at Easter time and look so cute, and then 2 or 3 or 4 months later nobody wants them.”
Bogdanoff maintained that she was just looking out for the rights of dog groomers, who should be able to compete in shows and parades.
Animal rights groups petitioned Scott to veto the bill to allow baby birds to be dyed while still in their eggs.
“Humane societies are overflowing with these animals after Easter every year,” Don Anthony of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida told the New York Times. “This law has protected thousands of animals from neglect and abuse, and it shouldn’t be lifted on the whim of one dog groomer who wants to dye poodles purple.”
About half the states and a few municipalities have laws against the practice. Dyed Easter chicks have been a seasonal tradition in some parts of the country for generations, though the practice has gone largely underground as society’s tastes have changed, according to the New York Times.
“A lot of the hatcheries will no longer do the dyeing of the animals,” said Andrew Malone, a poultry farmer in Melbourne, Fla., adding that he had seen other farmers sell them here and there in Florida. “If someone comes to me and wants colored chicks during the Easter time, I could do it, but I stay away from it because I don’t want to be in the pet business.”
The color lasts only a few weeks: it comes off as chicks shed their fluff and the feathers grow in a normal color. As long as the dye is nontoxic, poultry experts say, the chicken’s health is not affected. And there are scientific and educational purposes: wildlife management researchers have used the technique of injecting dye into eggs to track birds as they leave their nest, and teachers have dyed chicks for classroom use, to show students how the feathers come in.
Animals welfare advocates contend the coloring process is stressful to the chicks. In addition at a time when state laws around the country, including PEnnsylvania are increasing the age at which pets are sold (in PA it is now illegal to sell a puppy under 8 weekss of age) reducing the age at which pets may be sold makes the animal more vulnerable to disease and injury.