Federal Issues: From Our Nation’s Capitol

The AKC Government Relations team continues to monitor Congress for issues of interest to dog owners. Visit our 2016 Legislation Tracking page and click on “US Fed” on the map to get the latest updates on federal bills currently being monitored by the AKC. Highlights of issues we are currently addressing on the federal level include:

H.R. 1258/S.1559 — The Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS) would add federal protections for the pets of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence. It would include pets in protection orders for human victims and would provide that a person who commits an interstate violation of a protection order would be subject to fines and/or imprisonment and could be required to pay restitution for veterinary care of a victim’s pet that was harmed as the result of an offense. It creates an Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance Grant Program to award grants to eligible entities to carry out programs to provide assistance to victims of crimes related to stalking and domestic violence. The AKC supports this measure and has been working with members of Congress to advance it. At the request of AKC and other groups, a Senate companion bill S. 1559 was introduced by Senators Ayotte and Peters. The Senate version has been referred to the Senate Agriculture committee. Read AKC’s legislative alert for more information.

H.R. 359 — This bill directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a pilot program in conjunction with non-government organizations to study the effectiveness of therapy dog training for post-deployment mental health and PTSD symptoms. The measure provides specific study design and data collection and reporting requirements.

H.R. 528 — This bill directs federal public land management officials to facilitate use of and access to public lands for fishing, sport hunting (including field trials and the training of hunting dogs), recreational shooting and other purposes. AKC supports this measure, which could improve opportunities for dog owners and sportsmen to use federal public lands for field trials and dog training.

H.R. 4613 — This bill, known as the “Help Extract Animals From Red Tape” (HEART) Act, provides procedures to protect both animals and their owners if animals are seized as part of an alleged violation of Animal Welfare Act animal fighting prohibitions, or federal prohibitions on illegal gaming. It would require the person showing an interest in the animal to provide a bond for reasonable costs of care for the animal from the date it was seized until it is released by the court. The measure takes into consideration the financial ability of the interested party to pay for the bond, requires the unspent portion of the bond to be returned upon resolution of forfeiture proceedings, and entitles the interested party to receive full reimbursement of the bond amount if that person prevails in the forfeiture proceedings.

Senate Resolution 447 would designate May 1 as National Purebred Dog Day. The resolution recognizes the important role and contribution of purpose-bred dogs and honors responsible purebred dog breeders for their dedication to improving the health and well-being of dogs and preserving breeds. AKC encourages dog owners and breeders to contact their member of Congress in support of SR 447. Read more and learn how you can help support this measure. Read AKC’s blog for more information on National Purebred Dog Day.

H.R. 4764/S. 3051 — This measure directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a five-year pilot program that provides service dogs and veterinary health insurance for post-9/11 veterans suffering from PTSD. To carry out the program, the VA may enter into contracts for the procurement and training of service dogs from qualified service providers that are certified by Assistance Dogs International or a similar organization. The measure provides a variety of requirements for the dogs, including passing the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test prior to placement.  HR 4764 is scheduled for markup in the House Veterans Committee on June 23.

S. 3064 — The Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal Act provides for the establishment of medals or other commendations to recognize valor or meritorious achievement by handlers of military working dogs and military working dogs.  Each secretary of a military department would specify the design and elements of such medals or commendations to be awarded within that department.