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 2015 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:

HR 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. 674/H.R. 749/S.1732 — The Pets on Trains Act would establish an Amtrak pilot program that would allow train passengers to travel with their pets on certain trains operated by Amtrak. AKC is working with the bill sponsor and actively supporting this measure. The measure was subsequently added to HR 749, the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015. In July, this language was also added to S. 1732, the Senate Transportation budget authorization bill. Read AKC’s legislative alert for more information on HR 749. In October, Amtrak announced that they will begin a pilot program to allow small pets in carriers to travel on trains on certain Northeast corridor routes. Combined with their carriers, pets participating in the new program must weigh less than 20 pounds.

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 is 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.

HR 1735 — Section 352 of the FY 2016 Defense Authorization bill clarifies the adoption policy of the US Military Working Dogs Programs with regard to providing preference for former Military Working Dog handlers who seek to adopt a dog they handled at the end of its working career.

HR 2029 — The 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act  provides and increases fiscal year 2016 funding appropriations to the Department of Defense for military construction, military family housing (among other programs) and for Veterans Affairs funding including veterans benefits and health care programs. In November, the Senate passed a version of this measure with a report (S. Rept. 114-57) that contains language, supported by AKC, that would expand veterans’ access to service and therapy dogs. Read more about this proposal.