AKC Taking Command - a publication of the AKC Government Relations Department
January 2014
News from the State Capitols

Thirty state legislatures and the District of Columbia are in regular session and bills have been prefiled in 13 states. More than 1,000 state bills that could impact dogs and dog ownership have been filed or carried over from 2013. For the latest information on state and federal bills being tracked by AKC GR, visit the 2014 Legislation Tracking page. This page, updated each weekday, provides the latest bill text, status, and legislative alerts posted by the AKC. For more information on any of the measures mentioned, contact us at (919) 816-3720 or doglaw@akc.org.

Here are some highlights of the state-level issues AKC GR is currently tracking:

ArizonaHouse Bill 2242 defines a “commercial dog breeder” as one who sells at least 20 dogs in a calendar year.  It would require all who meet this definition to comply with the same requirements as pet stores.  This would include having females examined by a veterinarian prior to breeding, complying with the state’s consumer protection laws and basic standards of care.  These standards include providing potable water and adequate nutrition, adequate space appropriate for the dog’s age, weight and breed, and a resting board or another object to allow the dogs to rest off a wire floor.  No commercial breeder may sell a dog younger than eight weeks of age.  AKC GR is monitoring this legislation, which has been assigned to the House Agriculture and Water Committee.

Connecticut — Pursuant to HB 5027 , which passed in 2013, the State of Connecticut appointed a task force to investigate the sale of dogs and cats in Connecticut. It has held several hearings and meetings on the issue. Upon completion of the public hearings, it is expected that the task force will draft legislation for consideration in 2014 that would restrict pet sales. AKC GR is closely monitoring this process.

Connecticut — HB 6690 would allow courts to order that a separate, independent advocate be assigned to represent the interests of animals in any proceeding in which the welfare or custody of an animal is at issue. The measure passed the House and several Senate committees before being re-committed to Senate Judiciary committee in 2013. AKC GR has learned that it is likely that this measure will be brought forward again in 2014. AKC GR issued a legislative alert and a letter that expressed concern with the unintended and potentially far-reaching consequences this proposal could have on the legal status of animals in the state. AKC GR and the Connecticut federation continue to work in opposition to this bill.

IndianaSenate Bill 295 would require rescues not managed by cities or counties to comply with the same requirements as commercial dog breeders and acquire a $75 annual license. Cities and counties may enact applicable zoning and business laws on state-licensed commercial breeders and rescues as long as the laws do not prevent them from legally operating. If a breeder or rescue feels they have been adversely affected by a local law that violates the bill, then they may file an action in court for declarative and injunctive relief, as well as actual and attributable damages. The bill also states that any local laws regarding commercial breeders and rescues made on, before, or after July 1, 2014 that are stricter than state law are void. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Kansas — AKC GR has learned that a bill will likely be introduced in 2014 to place restrictions on dog breeders. Although no draft has been formally introduced, activists have indicated that new provisions could include specific temperature requirements, a restriction or ban on stacked crates, and a requirement that all cages must be twice the size of what USDA currently requires. AKC GR has sent an alert to Kansas clubs encouraging them to begin contacting their legislators now and express concerns about potentially unreasonable regulations. AKC GR will continue to monitor this issue and provide more information in the coming weeks.

Maryland — Three bills have been introduced in Maryland to address the issue of liability for dog attacks that result in personal injury.  The bills also seek to reverse a 2012 court ruling that declared all “purebred pit bulls” as vicious.  HB 73 and SB 247 create the rebuttable presumption that a dog owner should have known that their dog had dangerous propensities.  HB 80 would hold dog owners liable for damages if the dog harms someone while running at large.  HB 73 and HB 80 are scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on January 23.  Read more about HB 73 and HB 80.

MassachusettsHB 3762 , which was substituted for HB 1874/SB 401 on November 14, would require “an individual, or a partnership, association, corporation, or an officer or employee thereof that sells animals to the public” to be subject to extensive consumer protection laws. The bill would also prohibit the sale of puppies or kittens less than eight weeks of age, and specifically empower the Department of Agricultural Resources to make rules and regulations for commercial breeder kennels and personal kennels where persons keep at least six intact female dogs between one and eight years of age for the purpose of breeding such dogs and selling the offspring as household pets. The bill is currently under the cognizance of the House Ways and Means Committee.

MassachusettsSenate Bill 767 seeks to allow anyone to bring a legal action for the protection and humane treatment of animals, including those who do not have any legal interest or rights of possession in such animal. AKC GR is concerned that this broad language could allow radical animal rights activists to bring suit against any animal owner, regardless of the merits of the accusation. As a result, owners who are sued could be forced to bear extensive costs to defend themselves against unfounded accusations and could be subject to seizure of their animals, as currently permitted under Massachusetts law. AKC GR, MassFed, and other allied groups are opposing S. 767. Read more about this legislation.

MichiganHouse Bill 4168 makes updates to the licensing requirements in the state's "Dog Law of 1919". This includes removing the current provision requiring sheriffs to locate and kill all unlicensed dogs. Under current law, any sheriff that does not comply would be considered negligent in their duties. AKC GR and its state federation are supporting the repeal of this antiquated and egregious provision. The bill unanimously passed the House and is pending in the Senate Committee on Local Governments and Elections.

MichiganSenate Bill 560 would, among other provisions, limit the number of dogs that can be kept on a single premises and define a “large scale commercial breeder kennel” as one where more than 15 intact female dogs are kept for the purpose of breeding. The bill also includes new regulations and reporting requirements for animal control and animal protection shelters. The Senate Agriculture Committee heard testimony on this bill on October 31, 2013, but no vote has been taken. AKC GR sent a letter of concern to the committee, issued a legislative alert , and continues to work with the Michigan Association of Pure Bred Dogs to address concerns with this measure.

MissouriHouse Bill 1116 would prohibit municipalities from enacting breed-specific laws. AKC GR supports this bill, which has been assigned to the House General Laws Committee.

New Jersey Senate Bill 1804 and Assembly Bill 3445 would permit pet owners to board public transportation with domesticated animals during emergency evacuations. The AKC applauds the New Jersey legislature's efforts to protect the Garden State's dogs – and owners who might otherwise not evacuate a dangerous area – by providing the means by which responsible owners and their pets can escape areas of danger. The bills were signed into law on January 21. Read more about these bills.

New York Assembly Bill 740 / Senate Bill 3753 clarify that counties and municipalities can regulate "pet dealers," so long as the laws are not less stringent than state law. The bills also allow municipalities to enact local laws and regulations governing pet dealers to address “the source of animals offered for sale by pet dealers” and whether spaying/neutering should be required prior to all sales. "Pet dealer" is defined in current law as those who sell 9 or more dogs per year. Breeders who raise dogs on their residential premises are exempt, so long as they sell fewer than 25 dogs per year. The bill was signed into law on January 10 and took effect immediately. Read more about this new law.

New YorkAssembly Bill 1204 / Senate Bill 2271 seek to ban the practice of canine "devocalization". The only exemptions are for instances when it is medically necessary to treat or relieve a physical illness or an abnormality causing pain or harm. Veterinarians who perform the procedure could have their license revoked.  The bills have been reintroduced in the 2014 session and Assembly Bill 1204 is pending a vote by the full Assembly. Read more about these bills and how to contact the Assembly.

New YorkAssembly Bill 3952 prohibits insurers from refusing to issue, renew or cancel or raise premiums for homeowners’ insurance based solely on the breed of dog (or mixed-breed) owned by the policyholder. The bill does allow for insurance companies to take these actions if the dog has been declared dangerous based on current law.  This bill was reintroduced for the 2014 session and is pending a vote by the full Assembly.  Read more about this bill and how to contact the Assembly.

North CarolinaHouse Bill 930 would establish standards of care for "large commercial dog breeding facilities", which are defined as those who own 10 or more intact females over the age of six months. AKC GR has expressed concern with the definition of commercial dog breeder being based on ownership rather than actual sales or commerce. HB 930 has passed the House and is pending in the Senate Agriculture Committee. Read more about this measure.

OhioHouse Bill 274 modifies the state’s animal cruelty laws and creates a new definition of “serious physical harm” against a companion animal. This is considered any harm that carries a substantial risk of death, results in partial or total incapacity, or involves acute and substantial pain. Those who knowingly cause serious physical harm as defined in the bill are guilty of a fifth degree felony. This penalty will also be assessed to any kennel owners or any person who confines or is the custodian or caretaker of a companion animal and negligently commits an act of cruelty or deprives the animal of proper food, water and shelter. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on December 4. AKC GR continues to monitor this legislation.

OklahomaHouse Bill 2637 revises local requirements regarding kennels. Under current law, a kennel (where 4 or more dogs are housed) may not be built within 2,500 feet of a school or day care. This bill modifies the law by stating that this prohibition applies solely to commercial pet breeders.  Commercial kennels already in existence are exempt.  HB 2637 has not yet been assigned to committee.

PennsylvaniaSenate Bill 82 would make positive changes to the commonwealth's consumer protection laws. Among other changes, it clarifies that a dog cannot be declared "unfit for purchase" if the dog has intestinal or external parasites (unless the dog is clinically ill or dies), if the dog has an injury or illness likely contracted after the sale, or if the dog has a health problem that is disclosed in writing by the seller prior to the sale. The bill would also make reasonable changes to the timeframe for when a dog may be declared unfit for purchase and when the seller must be notified. It was amended by the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee to require rescues and shelters to provide certain information regarding the animal’s health care and known illnesses prior to sale. AKC GR and its Pennsylvania federation are supporting this measure, which had unanimous support in the Senate and is pending on the House floor. Read more about this legislation .

PennsylvaniaSenate Bill 1068 would make several amendments regarding field trials and dog training areas in the state. These amendments include making it unlawful for anyone to “willfully, negligently or maliciously” kill, injure or interfere with a dog engaged in training or field trials within a designated dog training area. It also makes it unlawful for someone to negligently or maliciously interfere with a person training dogs, participating in field trial events, or lawfully hunting or trapping in a designated dog training area. Another amendment changes the minimum area for dog training areas from 100 acres to 50 acres. The bill unanimously passed the Senate and is pending in the House Game and Fisheries Committee. Read more about this bill.

Tennessee — The Tennessee Commercial Breeder Act expires on June 30, 2014. The law urges, but does not require, the state comptroller to remit a study on the impact of the act to the General Assembly by January 15, 2014. AKC GR has requested a copy of the report.  It is anticipated that an extension or a more restrictive breeder law may be proposed.

WashingtonHouse Bill 1202 / Senate Bill 5204 would create a civil infraction for "failure to provide care" in cases where behavior does not amount to animal cruelty in the first or second degree. These bills would also remove economic distress as a defense to second degree animal cruelty. House Bill 1202 has passed the House Judiciary Committee and has been re-referred to the House Rules Committee. Senate Bill 5204 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Law and Justice; however, a hearing has not been scheduled.

Washington — A public hearing has been held on House Bill 2117 which would amend the state's dangerous dog law and prohibit local governments from banning possession of a particular breed or declaring a specific breed of dog to be dangerous or potentially dangerous and a vote in scheduled in the House Judiciary Committee for January 30th. AKC has sent a letter in support of the bill to the committee members and has asked Washington residents to advocate in support of the bill as well.