State Issues: News from the State Capitols

Here are some highlights of state-level issues AKC GR is currently tracking. Visit the 2015 Legislation Tracking page and click on your state to get the latest updates on state bills monitored by the AKC.

Illinois Senate Resolution 1152 would designate a statewide “Puppy Mill Awareness Day”. The AKC and Illinois Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners both expressed concern about the use of the offensive term “puppy mill” and questioned claims made that there are “tens of thousands” of unclaimed animals in Illinois shelters and refuted the false statement that breeders are responsible for shelter population concerns. AKC also objected to the use of the phrase “adopt not shop” in the resolution, which essentially calls on Illinois residents to boycott humane, regulated, legal businesses in the state by telling them to not purchase a dog from a breeder. AKC encouraged the legislature to instead focus on programs that would encourage all people to care for their dogs, regardless of whether the dogs are being bred or where the animal was obtained. The resolution has been held in the Senate Assignments Committee.

Michigan  House Bill 4898 seeks to regulate “large scale dog breeding kennels”, defined as those who own over 15 intact female dogs over 4 months of age. The bill would limit the number of dogs that can be kept on a single premises to 50 intact females over 4 months of age. It also creates new regulations regarding the importation of dogs into the state. These regulations would also apply to animal shelters. The AKC agrees that importation laws should apply to all who are bringing dogs in from out of state. The bill has passed the House Appropriations Committee. The Michigan Legislature is in recess until December 1. Click here to read more about this legislation.

Michigan  Senate Bill 239 would prohibit local governments in the state from enacting or enforcing breed-specific policies. The AKC and its Michigan federation both support this bill, which has passed the Senate and is pending in the House Local Government Committee. The Michigan Legislature is in recess until December 1.

New Jersey — Assembly Bill 991 seeks to establish a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for harming or threatening to harm animals owned or used by a law enforcement agency or a search and rescue dog. This bill has passed the Assembly, and has been assigned to the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

New Jersey — Assembly Bill 2264 seeks to regulate dog groomers. AKC and its New Jersey federation have provided the sponsor, Assemblywoman Huttle, information and assistance regarding a proposal to license and regulate dog groomers. AKC provided legislative language and recommendations for a revised measure to improve health and safety oversight, clarify licensing requirements and potentially establish a private-public partnership to better benefit the state. The bill has been assigned to the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee, but has not yet received a hearing.

New Jersey — Assembly Bill 2389 would bar employment at animal-related enterprises, or ownership of animals for at least two years, of those convicted of or found civilly-liable for any animal crime; permit courts to order forfeiture of animals of those found guilty/civilly-liable for violating animal statutes; provide for new animal control officer rules and regulations; and create a statewide animal cruelty registry. This bill has passed the Assembly and is currently pending in the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

New Jersey  Assembly Bill 2961/Senate Bill 1341 support legislation enacted in 2009 by establishing a penalty for failure to include a bittering agent in antifreeze. SB 1341 has unanimously passed the Senate, and both bills have been approved by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The AKC supports the legislation. AB 2961 was substituted by SB 1341, which has passed both houses and is awaiting a concurrence vote.

New Jersey — Assembly Bill 3034 originally sought to force individuals charged with—but not convicted of—animal cruelty to forfeit ownership of their pets if they are unable to pay for a care bond for animals seized subsequent to a criminal charge. For defendants already incurring high costs to defend themselves in a criminal proceeding, the additional cost of daily boarding and care fees could prove an impossible burden to meet. Even in cases where a verdict of not guilty was reached or charges were dropped, a defendant unable to pay would be permanently deprived of their property, with no recourse. AB 3034 also fails to protect the property interests of non-possessory co-owners of seized dogs. AKC GR wrote a letter in opposition to AB 3034 as introduced. The bill was amended by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on in June, and remains on second reading.

New Jersey  Assembly Bill 3381, as introduced, expands the animal cruelty statute to include theft or release of animals during burglary. The AKC supports AB 3381 as currently written, and has sent a letter of support and issued a legislative alert. This bill passed the Assembly in December, and is currently under the cognizance of the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

New Jersey  Senate Resolution 102 endorses AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Program and supports its effort to promote responsible dog ownership. SR 102 passed the Senate Economic Growth Committee, and is pending on second reading. AKC strongly supports SR 102.

New Jersey — Senate Bill 2625 would require registration of animal importers and licensing of animal grooming facilities and animal training facilities. The bill would define an animal importer as, “a person who brings any cat or dog into the State from any other state or sovereign entity for the purpose of offering the cat or dog for sale, adoption, or transfer in exchange for any fee, sale, voluntary contribution, service, or other consideration”, and includes any commercial or nonprofit animal rescue, adoption, or humane relocation or delivery organization that is not otherwise required to be licensed by the Department of Health. Animal importers conducting sales or adoption events in locations open to the public would be required to provide notice to the Department of Health. Additionally, those who own, operate, or plan to establish a grooming or training facility would be required to obtain a license from the municipal clerk in the municipality where the facility is located. The Commissioner of Health would be charged with developing rules and regulations for such facilities as well as rules and regulations establishing the procedures and registration and reporting requirements for animal importers, and the importation of cats and dogs into the State. The bill has passed the Senate Economic Growth Committee, and has been referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Read more about this legislation.

New York — Assembly Bill 5956/Senate Bill 4327 allow dogs in outdoor eating establishments, as long as certain conditions are met. Conditions include if the owner chooses to allow dogs and the dogs are kept on leash or in a pet carrier. The dining area must also follow specific guidelines, including having a separate entrance for diners bringing their dogs and posting clear signage stating that companion dogs are allowed. The AKC supported these bills, which were signed by the governor and are now in effect. Read AKC’s blog about this legislation.

New York — Assembly Bill 6626/Senate Bill 5372 would allow victims of domestic violence to bring their service or therapy dogs with them when going to an emergency shelter. The AKC supports these bills, which have passed the legislature and will be sent to the Governor.

New York — Assembly Bill 7220 would make several changes and clarifications to the laws regarding hunting dogs. This includes stating that the dog may not be declared “at-large” if the dog is released on a property where hunting is permitted and is wearing a tag, collar or other device that includes contact information for the owner or handler. This bill and its companion Senate Bill 3440 have passed both the Assembly and the Senate and will be sent to the governor’s desk. Read more about this legislation.

North Carolina – A new program has been approved in North Carolina that establishes a cruelty hotline to allow North Carolina residents to report possible violations of the state’s animal cruelty law directly to the state’s attorney general. These reports will be forwarded to local law enforcement or the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, depending on the allegation. The person making the allegation must provide their name, telephone number and any other information required by the Attorney General’s office to adequately document and address the reported actions. This program, which is supported by the AKC, is based on Senate Bill 209, which was developed by two veterinarians serving in the North Carolina Senate.

Pennsylvania — Senate Bill 22 makes several changes to the Commonwealth’s consumer protection laws, including clarifying that a dog may not be rendered “unfit for purchase” if the dog has intestinal or external parasites, unless the dog is clinically ill or dies, or if the dog has an injury or illness likely contracted subsequent to the date of sale. SB 22 also requires “releasing agencies" (rescues, shelters, etc.) to provide health certificates including vaccinations, medical treatments, known medical conditions and any illness or disease the dog currently has or has ever had. The bill also amends the timelines for dogs being considered unfit for purchase. The AKC and Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs both support this legislation, which unanimously passed the Senate Consumer Protection Committee and is pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Read more about this legislation.

Pennsylvania — Senate Bill 77 would make several changes regarding dog training areas. This includes making it unlawful for anyone to “willfully, negligently, or maliciously” kill, injure or interfere with a dog engaged in training or field trials, or to negligently and maliciously interfere with a person training dogs, participating in field trials or lawfully hunting in a dog training area. The bill has passed the legislature and is pending action by the governor. Read more about this legislation.

Pennsylvania — Senate Bill 373 would amend the commonwealth’s cruelty laws to regulate tethering and sheltering for dogs kept outdoors. The bill would prohibit tethering a dog outside for more than 30 minutes if the temperature is below 32 degrees. The AKC is concerned that this would impact field trials, sledding, dog training, and other activities where a dog could be humanely tethered in these temperatures. AKC GR is recommending that the bill be clarified to instead state that a dog should not be left outdoors in conditions where the health and safety of the dog is in immediate danger. The bill passed the Senate in June and has not yet had a committee assignment in the House. The AKC is working closely with local clubs and sportsmen organizations to address concerns with this measure. Read more about this legislation.

South Carolina — House Bill 4120 seeks to require licensing and to establish standards for “commercial dog breeders”, defined as a “person or business that owns, has custody of, or maintains twenty or more female dogs over the age of six months that are capable of reproduction and kept primarily for the purpose of breeding and selling the offspring to a person, business, or pet store for resale as pets to the general public”, with certain exemptions. HB 4120 has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs and may be considered during the 2016 legislative session.

South Carolina — Senate Bill 800 seeks to require licensing, fees, and inspections as a “Professional Dog Breeder” for persons who own or control “ten or more intact female adult dogs for the primary purpose of breeding and selling”. S.800 would establish extensive requirements for breeders and empower the Director of the Department of Health and Environmental Control or his/her designee to promulgate additional regulations. The home-based raising of puppies would not be feasible under the requirements of S.800. Inspections and unlimited re-inspections could be conducted by appointees with no training or certification, and such appointees' organizations would receive resulting fees and civil penalties of up to $5000 per day. Violations subject to these extreme penalties could include minor infractions such as the use of incorrect food storage receptacles. This bill would also expand animal cruelty laws applicable to all animals and establish penalties that would include imprisonment for up to five years and fines of up to $15,000. S. 800, which was referred to Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, may be considered in the 2016 legislative session.

Tennessee — Proposed amendments to HB 1142 and SB 1020 sought to regulate “professional breeders”, defined as a person who possesses or controls ten or more unsterilized female dogs over the age of 6 months for the primary purpose of breeding and selling the offspring as pets. These amendments would also have granted “appointees” who were not government employees or law enforcement officers access to dog owners’ private property and further empower them to be granted administrative warrants to come onto the property and examine the records of any dog owner to determine if a violation had occurred. AKC GR issued letters of concern and legislative alerts about these bills. HB 1142 was withdrawn and SB 1020 was deferred to the 2016 legislative session.

Wisconsin  Assembly Bill 308 allows citizens to use reasonable force to enter a vehicle if it is believed that a person or domestic animal in the vehicle is in imminent danger. Citizens are immune from civil liability for any property damage or injury that results from the forced entry, as long as certain criteria are met. These include that the citizen has a good faith belief that the person or animal in the car is in imminent danger of bodily harm; the person contacts law enforcement, emergency workers, or animal control before entering the vehicle and stays with the vehicle until they arrive; and if the person leaves before the owner of the vehicle returns, they leave a note on the windshield with their name and contact information and the location of the person or animal if known. The AKC and its Wisconsin federation expressed concern that there is no recourse for the owner if there is a misunderstanding, and the concern over the potential for increased pet theft. The bill was signed by the governor and went into effect on November 13.