New Year, New Dog Laws – What Does This Mean for You and Your Dogs?

2017 was another busy year for AKC Government Relations, its state federations, and responsible dog owners and breeders advocating for dogs.  Over 2,000 bills impacting animals were monitored by AKC GR.  Several new laws impacting dog owners and breeders were enacted over the past year, and it is imperative for responsible owners to ensure they are in compliance with all laws.

Examples of new laws that were enacted in 2017 include the following:

Delaware became the 19th state to declare that a dog cannot be declared dangerous under state law based solely on the dog’s breed. Determining whether a dog is dangerous or potentially dangerous will now be decided by a Justice of the Peace Court, as opposed to the Dog Control Panel that was previously responsible for these determinations under state law.  The new law also prohibits municipalities from enacting breed-specific laws, further protecting Delaware dog owners. 

Hawaii passed a law to address the issue of when a local humane society could petition the court for an animal to be forfeited to their control.  Under this new law, humane societies may petition the court prior to cruelty charges being filed in addition to during an ongoing trial.  At the request of AKC GR and our Hawaii federation, amendments were made prior to the bill passing that ensured appropriate protections for defendants were kept in law.

Two states enacted laws regarding pet stores.   Illinois enacted the “Safe Pets Act”, which was supported by the AKC, the Illinois Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners, the Illinois Veterinary Medical Association, pet store owners, and many other groups.  It creates new regulations for the operation of stores operation.  California passed a law that requires all dogs, cats, and rabbits offered for retail sale to be obtained solely from animal shelters or rescue groups. 

Kennel regulations continue to be an issue at the forefront for many state legislatures.  Maryland has expanded who is required to obtain a local kennel license.  The state now requires that anyone who keeps 8 or more unspayed females over 6 months of age for the purpose of breeding, or anyone who sells dogs from 6 or more litters in a year must obtain a kennel license.   Anyone who maintains more than 8 intact females and does not wish to obtain a license must be able to prove they are not keeping the dogs for breeding.  This law went into effect in November, and applies to all counties in the state, including Baltimore County.  Check with your local animal control on where to obtain the license for your area. South Dakota passed a new law that deferred all commercial breeder oversight to the USDA and private registration organizations such as the AKC. 

The issue of how to handle dogs left in vehicles continues to be a concern for lawmakers. It is important to ensure when you are traveling with your dogs or attending events and shows that you are taking extra precautions to ensure that any dogs left in vehicles are clearly protected from the elements and dangerous temperatures. 

Nevada passed a new law with amendments requested by the AKC that prohibits anyone from leaving a pet unattended in a parked or standing motor vehicle if conditions such as extreme heat or cold present a significant risk to the animal’s health or safety.  In addition, a peace officer, animal control officer, public safety officer, a member of the fire department, or a search and rescue organization under supervision of a sheriff are all permitted to use “any reasonable means necessary” to protect a pet if they believe a violation has occurred.  Pet owners who violate the new law will be considered in violation of state cruelty laws.  An exception is made for someone who unintentionally locks their vehicle with their pet inside. The Georgia House of Representative passed a resolution that, while not a law, encourages Georgia residents to keep pets safe in hot weather by leaving them at home if they will otherwise be left unattended in a vehicle. 

This is not a comprehensive list, and also does not include any local measures that may have passed in your community. 

All dog owners and breeder advocates are urged to contact local animal control to check if any measures or new requirements impacting dog ownership were passed in the last year at the local or state level, and to ensure you are always in compliance with all local and state laws.