Hillsborough Co. (FL): Dog Trainer Ordinance Hearing Wednesday, 11/15 – Take Action Today!

Citizens of Hillsborough County and dog trainers who have concerns about the proposed ordinance are encouraged to immediately contact Hillsborough County Commissioners to express your opposition, and to attend the meeting on November 15.

On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, the Hillsborough County Commission is scheduled to conduct a public hearing and vote on an ordinance that would arbitrarily regulate, require registration and licensing, require payment of fees, and establish extensive record keeping requirements for certain dog trainers and dog training businesses in the county.

Citizens of Hillsborough County and dog trainers who have concerns about the proposed ordinance are encouraged to immediately contact Hillsborough County Commissioners to express your opposition, and to attend the meeting on November 15.  Please scroll down for meeting and contact information. 

PROVISIONS OF CONCERN 

Please scroll to bottom to view concerns with the most recent draft of the ordinance. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  1. Immediately contact members of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners by telephone and email to state your concerns and politely ask them to VOTE NO on the dog trainer ordinance. Due to the volume of calls, you may need to leave a brief voice mail message. Phone and fax numbers are listed below.
  2. Click on this link to access an online email form to send your message to each of the county commissioners: https://webappsnet.hillsboroughcounty.org/Forms/BOCC/ContactCommissioners
  3. Attend the Hillsborough County Commission meeting. Arrive early if you wish to sign up to speak on this issue. Speaking opportunities and time are limited. 

Date:  November 15, 2017
Time:  9:00 a.m. (arrive early!)
Location:  The County Center, 2nd Floor, 601 E Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33602

Board of County Commissioners Contact Information:

 

(Mr.) Stacy White, Chairman
District 4 Commissioner
(813) 272-5740, Fax (813) 272-7049 

Sandra L. Murman, Vice Chairman
District 1 Commissioner
(813) 272-5470, Fax (813) 272-7046 

Victor Crist
District 2 Commissioner
(813) 272-5452, Fax (813) 272-7047 

Lesley "Les" Miller, Jr.
District 3 Commissioner
(813) 272-5720, Fax (813) 272-7048

Ken Hagan
District 5 Commissioner (Countywide)
(813) 272-5725, Fax (813) 272-7052 

Pat Kemp
District 6 Commissioner (Countywide)
(813) 272-5730, (813) 272-7053 

Al Higginbotham
District 7 Commissioner (Countywide)
(813) 272-5735, (813) 272-7054

Concerns with the draft ordinance dated 11/15/2017 include, but are not limited to:

The ordinance appears to define a “dog training business” as a business in which dog training is performed outside of the presence or observation of the owner. However, the ordinance does not provide a corresponding definition of an individual “dog trainer” as a person who conducts dog training outside the presence or observation of the owner. This places a greater burden for compliance on an individual trainer. 

The proposal requires each trainer to have a dog training plan for each client dog, however the proposed definition of “Dog Training Plan” contains vague, undefined terms, for example, “physical corrections”, “Dog Training techniques that may be used in the correction process”, and “deprivation techniques”.  A representative of the county attorney’s office has stated that the Webster’s Dictionary definition would be used, even though the online Merriam-Webster dictionary does not define such terms. The ordinance also requires a dog trainer to disclose in writing to clients the “associated risks” of the training, without limitation. Consequently, it would be difficult for a trainer to understand or comply with the requirements of the ordinance. 

The death or injury of a dog that occurs while in the care of a dog trainer or training business is defined as an “extreme violation”.  This fails to acknowledge that a dog’s death or injury could result from a pre-existing condition, prior exposure to disease, or an injury that incurred prior to coming into the care of the dog trainer. Similarly, the terms “serious illness” and “serious injury” fail to differentiate pre-existing conditions such as illnesses and injuries that are unknown or unreported by the owner, or pre-existing conditions that are first observed while a dog is in the care of a trainer.

The proposal would empower the Pet Resources Department (“the Department”) to promulgate procedures for implementation without legislative or citizens’ review.

An exemption for certain not-for-profit corporations does not provide exemption for not-for-profit dog training clubs whose “primary source of funds” comes from dog training fees. Likewise, it is unclear if an exemption for dog training performed by unpaid volunteers would be interpreted as an exemption for a not-for-profit dog training corporation (such as a training club) that receives fees for training that are its primary source of funds. 

The costs of registration and license fees are not provided in the ordinance.

Only “new” dog training businesses are required to provide the results of criminal background checks for owners, employees and contractors. This provision sets a different standard for new businesses than for existing businesses, and economically favors existing businesses.

The proposal unreasonably penalizes a trainer or training business for failure to “abide by the training plan.”  This could result in unsafe conditions for the dog and trainer and in less effective training results for the dog should the dog’s behavior require an immediate response that was not noted in the plan. Further, the process of training would be significantly delayed if the trainer shall be required to procure the owner’s signature on any deviation from the plan. This delay could also result in increased costs for the trainer and/or diminished training results for a dog.

Dog trainers and training businesses would be required to keep individual training plans, consumer acknowledgement forms, and records related to initial and renewal registration and license applications on file for four years. This is arbitrary, burdensome, and provides no benefit to the consumer. Retention of training plans and consumer protection documents should be the responsibility of the consumer. The mandated license/registration applications should be retained by the Department.

It is burdensome and unreasonable to require consumer acknowledgement forms to be forwarded by trainers and training businesses to the Department monthly. No public or consumer benefit is served by this overreaching requirement.

Reporting requirements regarding the death, illness or injury of a dog are arbitrary and could unnecessarily reduce time that could be utilized in providing care for an injured or ill dog.

The measure requires a dog that dies while in the care of a trainer or training business to be retrieved by the Department, which also decides if the department will perform a necropsy or will refer the matter to a state or university animal diagnostic laboratory. The decision of whether to perform a necropsy should be made by the dog’s owner.

In the case of a death that results from the failure of a trainer or training business to exercise reasonable care in the training, boarding, or care of the dog, the proposed ordinance requires that the trainer or training business shall reimburse the County for “any and all expenses”, including the costs of necropsy. A trainer is not a veterinary professional and cannot be held to equivalent standards of care should a dog die from a pre-existing condition or from a condition that manifested while in the trainer’s care and which the trainer failed to diagnose. Reimbursement of expenses and necropsy costs should not be required unless it is definitively determined that the death of the dog resulted from the gross negligence or criminal act of animal cruelty by the trainer or a trainer employed by a training business.

The “Fines and Penalties” section of the ordinance states that, among other penalties, the penalty for an “extreme violation” (the accidental death or injury of a dog that requires emergency medical attention of any kind or veterinary expenses of more than $1000) while in the care of trainer or training business is revocation of registration and/or license. As written in this section, a trainer or training business could be charged with civil penalties of up to $500 and lose licensure/registration if a dog slipped and suffered a cruciate ligament tear, succumbed to a pre-existing condition, or otherwise suffered injury or illness unrelated to the care or training provided while in the custody of a trainer. 

Violations that occur at different locations of training businesses with common ownership would be combined when determining penalties. This is akin to shutting down all McDonald’s restaurants because one location had a health violation.

It is unreasonable to allow revocation of licensure or registration based on the broad and vague provision of “some other judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding.”

The findings of the ordinance state that the Board of County Commissioners desires for all dog trainers to disclose their background, qualifications and Training Plans. These findings do not acknowledge that certain trainers and training businesses are exempted.

Click here to view the proposed ordinance, then open the PDF file for the 11/15/17 meeting agenda, then click on item D1.

For more information, please contact AKC Government Relations at 919-816-3720 or doglaw@akc.org.