Rhode Island Bill “Grandfathering” Local BSL, Other Bills to be Heard April 29

Rhode Island House Bill 5800 would reinstate localities’ breed-specific ordinances that were enacted prior to the state’s 2013 ban on such local law; while House Bill 5573 would do away with exemptions from the state’s restrictions on tethering for hunters, field trial participants, persons raising or training hunting dogs, and sled dog owners.

Monday, April 27, 2015

On Wednesday, April 29, the Rhode Island House’s Health, Education, and Welfare Committee will consider numerous bills that may impact dogs and their owners.  Of specific concern, House Bill 5800 would reinstate localities’ breed-specific ordinances that were enacted prior to the state’s 2013 ban on such local laws. House Bill 5573 would do away with exemptions from the state’s restrictions on tethering for hunters, field trial participants, persons raising or training hunting dogs, and sled dog owners.  The American Kennel Club (AKC) strongly encourages Rhode Island purebred dog fanciers, enthusiasts, and other dog owners to contact the committee members and respectfully express their concerns with any of the bills the committee will consider. 

The American Kennel Club is specifically concerned with the following bills:

  • HB 5800 – In 2013, Rhode Island took an important stand against discriminatory dog legislation by establishing a fair statewide breed-neutral animal control policy.  In the legislative sessions that have followed, up to and including this year, certain localities have attempted to create exceptions to the state policy.  HB 5800 is yet another attempt at rolling back the state’s protections against local breed-specific laws.  If enacted, HB 5800 would automatically reinstate local breed-specific ordinances that were in effect prior to the state’s 2013 ban. 

    The American Kennel Club strongly opposes any legislation that determines a dog to be “dangerous” based on specific breeds or phenotypic classes of dogs.  Instead, we support reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to govern the ownership of all dogs. We support laws that: establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as “dangerous” based on stated, measurable actions; impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners; and establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs proven to be dangerous.  The AKC believes that the state’s current breed-neutral policy is far more preferable and fair than exceptions that would be created if HB 5800 was enacted, and therefore opposes HB 5800. 
     
  • HB 5573 – Current Rhode Island law provides specific exemptions from the state’s restrictions on the practice of tethering animals.  Exempted parties include licensed hunters, sled dog owners, training facilities, and individuals under an order by an animal control officer to tether or confine dogs.  HB 5573 would remove those exceptions, and require those parties to comply with the state’s statutory restrictions. 

    The AKC encourages and strongly supports the interaction and mutual enjoyment of owners and dogs in sporting activities such as hunting and field trials; in working circumstances such as herding, tracking, and pulling; and in competition events such as dog shows, obedience trials, agility trials, and other performance events and tests.  The AKC believes that dogs should be properly cared for, humanely trained, and not pushed beyond reasonable limits for which they were bred. 

    The AKC is concerned that should HB 5573 be enacted, some long-accepted humane practices utilized by trainers and handlers in AKC Performance events and other lawful activities would be unnecessarily and unreasonably restricted and potentially put dogs in danger.  For these reasons, AKC opposes HB 5573 and believes that current law appropriately protects dogs and does not increase the risk of inhumane treatment. 

Other dog-related bills that will be considered on April 29 include:

  • HB 5162 would prohibit any dog from being kept outside by tether, pen, cage, fencing, or otherwise confined without access to an outdoor housing facility when the ambient temperature is beyond the standard for weather safety as set forth in the most recent version of the Tufts Animal Care and Condition Weather Safety Scale, if the dog is showing signs of poor health due to weather conditions. 
     
  • HB 5504 would add the hoarding of non-livestock animals to the list of animal cruelty offenses.  As defined in the bill, “hoarding” means the accumulation of a large number of animals, to a point where the owner, possessor or person having the charge or custody of the aforementioned animals fails to or is unable to provide adequate living conditions, food, water and sustenance, or necessary veterinary care and who keeps said animals in an overcrowded environment resulting in a negative impact on the health and well-being of the animals and/or the owner of said animals. 
     
  • HB 5585 seeks to require that any dog lawfully seized as a result of dog fighting, or trained, tormented, badgered, baited, or used for the purpose of unprovoked attacks upon human beings or domestic animals, be placed in the care of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for the dog’s physical care and suitability for transfer to an appropriate rescue organization or adoptive home. 
     
  • HB 5799 would require those entrusted with the care of animals—including any Rhode Island licensed veterinarian, veterinarian technician, and animal shelter or animal kennel personnel—to report any neglect or abuse reasonably believed to have been inflicted upon an animal.  Any party who reports in bad faith or with malice will not be protected in the provisions of the bill. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Rhode Island dog fanciers, enthusiasts, and other owners concerned with HB 5800, HB 5573, and any other the bills listed above are strongly encouraged to contact the members of the House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee (listed below), and respectfully let them know your concerns.

Representative Joseph M. McNamara, Committee Chair - rep-mcnamara@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Samuel A. Azzinaro, Committee Vice Chair - rep-azzinaro@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Grace Diaz, Committee Deputy Chair - rep-diaz@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Dennis M. Canario, Committee Secretary - rep-canario@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Marvin L. Abney - rep-abney@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Mia A. Ackerman - rep-ackerman@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Gregg Amore - rep-amore@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative David A. Bennett - rep-bennett@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Arthur J. Corvese - rep-corvese@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Kathleen A. Fogarty - rep-fogarty@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Arthur Handy - rep-handy@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Robert B. Lancia - rep-lancia@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Shelby Maldonado - rep-maldonado@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative James N. McLaughlin - rep-mclaughlin@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Michael Morin - rep-morin@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative Justin Price - rep-price@rilin.state.ri.us

Representative J. Aaron Regunberg - rep-regunberg@rilin.state.ri.us

For more information on pending Rhode Island legislation, contact AKC Government Relations at (919) 816-3720, or email doglaw@akc.org.