Taking Command Newsletter
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.
Alabama — House Bill 261/Senate Bill 236 seek to restrict the tethering of dogs and to establish minimum outdoor enclosure requirements of 100 square feet for up to two dogs 35 pounds and under; 100 square feet for each dog 36-60 pounds; 150 square feet for each dog 61-100 pounds; and 240 square feet for each dog 101 pounds and over. Housing a dog in a secured enclosed yard where the dog “has the ability to run” would also be allowed; however, the bills do not include provisions for dog owners who enclose dogs in kennel runs of less than the required sizes in conjunction with access to larger exercise areas, leash walking, visits to dog parks, or other forms of exercise. HB 261 has been assigned to the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. SB 236 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
Arkansas — House Bill 1620 sought to enact problematic regulations for dog breeding and require regulation of “commercial breeding kennels” in which ten or more female dogs are maintained for the purpose of breeding. AKC GR issued letters of concern to committee members and legislative alerts. HB 1620 was referred for study by the Joint Interim Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee.
California — Assembly Concurrent Resolution 56 would designate shelter animals as the state pet. This measure is in the Rules Committee awaiting referral.
Connecticut — House Bill 6187 seeks to permit courts to order that a separate, independent advocate be assigned to represent the interests of an animal in a criminal proceeding in which the welfare or custody of the animal is at issue. AKC has concerns with this measure, including the potential for legal confusion about who will be ultimately responsible for making decisions impacting animals, and the potential for providing advocates akin to guardians ad litem that are traditionally used to protect the interests of people. AKC GR has communicated with the sponsor and committee and sent a legislative alert to clubs. The bill had a public hearing on April 1. Read more about this legislation.
Delaware — Senate Bill 22 would allow law enforcement, animal control officers, animal cruelty investigators and firefighters to enter a vehicle if it is believed the temperature is such as to cause injury or death to the animal. The person removing the animal must make a reasonable effort to contact the owner, and if that is unsuccessful, leave written information with local animal shelters with their name and title and the location of the animal. The bill was amended to clarify that a warning will be issued for a first offense. AKC supports SB 22, which has passed the Senate and is pending in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
Florida — House Bill 71 /Senate Bill 414 would broaden the definition of service animal to be consistent with federal regulations and prohibit discrimination by timeshares that are transient housing facilities. It provides that an employee who fails to allow a service animal where one is allowed will be guilty of a second degree misdemeanor and will be required to serve 30 hours of community service working for an organization that services those with disabilities. The bill has passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Committees on Commerce and Tourism, Community Affairs and Fiscal Policy. SB 414 has passed all committees and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.
Florida — House Bill 187 would regulate greyhound racing in the state by providing that animals may not race if they have been administered certain medications. It also requires certain drug testing of animals and certain record keeping relating to injured animals, and directs the Division of Pari-Mutuel wagering to direct standards for racetrack surfaces. The measure has been jointly assigned to the Business and Professions Subcommittee and the Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. The companion measure, Senate Bill 262 has been assigned to the Committees on Regulated Industries, Criminal Justice and Appropriations.
Florida — House Bill 207 would allow local governments to create a special district to levy fees and taxes that would be used to support spay/neuter programs, increase pet retention, reduce surrenders and engage in animal welfare education efforts. The measure has been jointly referred to the Local Government Affairs Subcommittee, Finance and Tax Committee, and the Local and Federal Affairs Committee. The companion bill, Senate Bill 670 has been assigned to the Community Affairs, Finance and Tax, and Fiscal Policy Committees, but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
Florida — House Bill 497 would establish standards and regulations for animal shelters, require rescue groups to be a 501(c)(3) organization by definition, and direct shelters to work with these rescue groups. The bill has been assigned to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, Local Government Affairs Subcommittee, and State Affairs Committees but has not yet been set for a hearing. The companion bill, SB 1234 has been filed but not yet assigned to committee.
Georgia — Senate Bill 184 would provide that the regulation of dogs based on breed shall only be established by general law, thereby preventing local breed-specific laws. AKC supports this bill, which passed in the Senate, but was not considered in the House prior to adjournment.
Hawaii — House Bill 702 would require a person who holds a dog license to give notice to the Director of Finance within 14 days of transfer of the dog. Further, every person who seeks a dog license for a dog with a microchip would be required to provide the dog's microchip identification number when applying for a license, or within 14 days if the microchip is obtained thereafter. Failure to provide notice of transfer could result in the most recent license holder being found guilty for acts of abandonment or deprivation involving the dog. This bill passed in the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce and has been transmitted to the House Committee on Judiciary.
Iowa — Senate File 347 (formerly SF168) would create many new regulations for “commercial breeders”, which are currently defined as someone who has four or more intact dogs and receives any kind of consideration for breeding (including stud fees or a puppy back). Those who meet the definition would be required to keep their kennels open for unannounced inspections during “normal business hours”, which could be a challenge for hobby and home-based breeders. Breeders also could be subject to onerous license fees. There are certain exemptions for “special breeders”, including “competitive show breeders”, but it is unclear who would qualify for this designation. SF 347 would also prohibit certain breeders from being involved in rescue activities. SF347 is pending in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. Read AKC’s alert on SF168 for more information on this measure.
Kentucky — Senate Bill 124 would have allowed a local government to pass any ordinance, regulation, or policy concerning dog safety and welfare or public safety, so long as that ordinance, regulation, or policy is not specific to the breed of the dog. This measure to prevent breed-specific legislation passed in the Senate Agriculture Committee, but did not advance to a floor vote prior to the end of the legislative session.
Maryland — House Bill 153 would have prohibited dogs from being tethered outside and unattended for over one hour when the temperature is below 32 degrees. This bill would also have prevented dogs from being tethered outside for more than 15 minutes if the temperature is above 100 degrees or a warning has been issued by the National Weather Service. The AKC expressed concern about those humanely tethering animals outside in cold temperatures for field trials, sled dog and other outdoor events with breeds that can tolerate low temperatures. The House Judiciary Committee gave the bill an unfavorable report, and it did not advance this session.
Maryland House Bill 645 contained many problematic legislative findings, including implying that breeders are the reason for shelter population issues in the state, comparing animals to humans, and using the term “puppy mill.” The bill would also have prevented new pet stores in the state from selling dogs or cats. This bill was given an unfavorable report by the House Economic Matters Committee and did not advance.
Maryland — The original versions of Senate Bill 393 and House Bill 362 would have forced individuals charged with—but not convicted of—animal cruelty to forfeit ownership of their pets, even after they were later found not guilty of those charges, if they were 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 have proven an impossible burden to meet. In cases where a verdict of not guilty was reached or charges were dropped, a defendant unable to pay would have been permanently deprived of their property, with no recourse. AKC wrote letters in opposition to the bills as they were originally worded. Both bills were subsequently amended to address our concerns. Both SB 393 and SB 362 were passed by both houses, but with significant differences. A conference committee of legislators has been appointed to address those differences.
Montana — House Bill 179 would make it illegal for a humane shelter or its employees to engage in activities at an animal facility without the owner’s consent. It would not apply to the lawful activities of a government agency or its employees carrying out their duties under law. This bill did not advance in committee.
Montana — House Bill 608 sought to establish licensing, inspections, problematic regulations, fees and penalties for dog and cat breeders and certain dog rescue participants based on the ownership of eight or more intact adult dogs or cats or the sale or transfer of 31 or more dogs per year. AKC GR issued letters of concern and a legislative alert. HB 608 was tabled in the Senate Business and Labor Committee.
Montana— Senate Bill 115 sought to limit the court’s discretion regarding bonds for care for animals seized under allegations of animal cruelty. It would have expanded existing law by requiring accused owners to pay impoundment costs prior to retrieving their animals even when the court directs that the animals be released to the owner pending adjudication. SB 115 would also have required the court to order payment of a bond for care in certain civil proceedings. Further, officers of an undefined “animal welfare agency” would have been empowered to order euthanization of seized animals. AKC GR issued letters of concern and a legislative alert. SB 115 did not advance in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Montana — Senate Bill 239 would have prohibited local governments from enacting or enforcing an ordinance, policy, resolution or other regulation that is specific to the breed or perceived breed of a dog. This bill did not advance in committee. Read more about AKC’s support for this measure.
Nebraska — Legislative Bill 359 makes several changes to the state’s breeder, dealer and pet shop license fees. As amended by the Agriculture Committee, it would increase the license fees by $25, except that the fee for those with over 500 dogs or cats would increase by $100. An additional annual fee for those who qualify as a commercial breeder, pet shop, dealer, or boarding kennel and keep over 10 dogs would be assessed at a rate of $2 times the average of animals kept in the previous year. The bill was added as an amendment to LB 360.
Nebraska — Legislative Bill 360 as amended by the Agriculture Committee would make several changes to the state’s Commercial Dog Breeder and Operator Inspection Act, which applies in part to anyone who owns or harbors at least four dogs “intended for breeding” within a 12 month period. The bill defines “significant threat to the health or safety of dogs or cats”, which is a term that has been used in statute but never previously defined. Under these amendments, the term would now refer to egregious abuse, refusal to treat life-threatening injuries, and failure to provide shelter from extreme weather resulting in life-threatening situations. The bill also requires a one-time (rather than annual) license fee of $125 in addition to the graduated annual fee already required based on the number of dogs or cats kept. Unannounced inspections are permitted during normal business hours, which are defined as being between 7am and 7pm, and licensees have the option to inform the Department of Agriculture if times outside these hours are more convenient. Intentional refusal of an inspection would result in a fine and possibly other penalties. Inspections may also be conducted if there is a suspicion of cruel neglect, abandonment or mistreatment. The bill has been amended to include LB 359 and LB 377 and is pending a final vote by the full legislature. Read more about these amendments.
Nebraska — Legislative Bill 377 could force a dog owner to forfeit their animals for only a suspicion of animal cruelty – even before a conviction by the court. Within 10 days of an impoundment for suspicion of cruelty, a hearing must be scheduled. If the court finds probable cause (not a conviction) that violations exist that may threaten the animal’s health and safety, then the court may order the immediate forfeiture of the animals and authorize “appropriate disposition”, including sale at a public auction, adoption of the animal, “donating” the animal to a shelter, or euthanasia. The court may also require the owner to pay a bond for the care of the animal throughout the trial. If a payment is missed, then all ownership rights would be forfeited. The bill has passed the Agriculture Committee with amendments and was combined with LB 360. Read more about this legislation.
Nevada — Assembly Bill 119 would authorize a veterinarian or veterinary technician who is licensed in another state to provide professional services in Nevada during a critical incident under certain circumstances. Local responsible dog owners and breeders are working with state officials on language to clarify who may declare a critical incident and under what circumstances. The measure is in the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee but has failed to be heard despite two scheduled hearings.
Nevada — Senate Bill 147 would require peace officers to be trained in effective responses to incidents involving dogs or where dogs are present. This will include education on aggressive and nonthreatening behaviors in dogs as well as nonlethal methods of handling aggressive dogs. The bill was heard in the Government Affairs Committee on March 2nd, but no action was taken.
New Hampshire — House Bill 624 sought to force individuals charged with—but not convicted of— animal cruelty to forfeit ownership of their pets, even after they are later found not guilty of those charges, 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. 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. AKC GR and the Dog Owners of the Granite State (DOGS) opposed HB 624. AKC GR issued a legislative alert and letter in opposition to the bill. HB 624 was heard by the House Environment and Agriculture Committee, which recommended that the bill was inexpedient to legislate, likely ending its consideration for the year.
New Hampshire — House Bill 661 would require licensed animal shelters and rescues to compile, maintain, and report certain records for any animal born; accepted from a transporter, animal control officer, or its owner; cared for; sold or otherwise transferred; or which died while in a licensed facility’s possession. The information would then be reported to the New Hampshire Director of Charitable Trusts for publication. HB 661 was heard by the House Executive Departments and Administration Committee on Tuesday, February 17, and awaits further committee action. AKC and its New Hampshire federation both support HB 661. AKC issued a legislative alert and a letter to the committee in support of the bill.
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 2389 attempts to 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; permits courts to order forfeiture of animals of those found guilty/civilly-liable for violating animal statutes; provides for new animal control officer rules and regulations; and creates 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 as passed both houses and is awaiting a concurrence vote.
New Jersey — Assembly Bill 3037 creates a minimum penalty for animal cruelty offenses and revises the state’s animal fighting laws. One provision would allow the court to sever ownership rights when someone has been convicted of cruelty. AKC has asked for an amendment to allow co-owners the opportunity to claim the animal prior to the dog being surrendered to a shelter or rescue. The bill has passed the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and awaits further action by the full Assembly.
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 Mexico — House Bill 415, as introduced, sought to allow methods to fund a spay/neuter program, but also contained a provision that requires the state’s animal shelter board to develop and implement a statewide spay and neuter program. After concerns were raised by the AKC and local clubs, the Senate Public Affairs Committee amended the bill to require the board to develop a voluntary spay/neuter program, and removed the requirement that they must implement the program.The board must also develop criteria for individuals, groups, shelters and “euthanasia agencies” to receive assistance for dog and cat sterilization from the animal care and facility fund. A tax return check-off will also be included to allow donations to the program. Some concerns remained about the lack of transparency by the animal shelter board and the lack of plan if tax donations do not fully fund the program; however, the AKC thanks those who took the time to contact the Senate and successfully got the bill amended to remove the mandatory spay/neuter concerns. The bill has been signed by the governor and will go into effect on July 1.
New York — Assembly Bill 1679 would ban debarking in the state unless it is medically necessary to treat an illness, disease or injury. Anyone who performs the procedure for any other purpose is guilty of a misdemeanor. Any veterinarian who performs the procedure for any other purpose could have their license suspended or revoked. The bill has been approved by the Assembly and is pending in the Senate Agriculture Committee. Read more about Assembly Bill 1679.
North Carolina — House Bill 159 would seek to define “commercial breeder” as any person who owns, has custody of, or maintains 10 or more female dogs over the age of 6 months for the purpose of breeding. Kennels that keep and breed dogs primarily for hunting, sporting, field trials or show would be exempt, but it is unclear how this would be determined. AKC GR is concerned about defining commercial activity solely on animal ownership and transferring oversight away from those with animal husbandry expertise. The bill has passed the House and is pending committee assignment in the Senate.
North Carolina — House Bill 199/ Senate Bill 247 would allow Raleigh law enforcement and police officers to adopt the animals they worked with or handled during the animal’s service. H199 has passed the House and S247 has passed the Senate with an amendment to add Mecklenburg County to the legislation. The AKC supports this legislation. Read more about these bills.
North Carolina — House Bill 271 would amend the state’s dangerous dog laws in order to hold owners accountable for their dog’s actions and create a definition of “at-risk” dog to require owners whose dogs display aggressive tendencies to go through a training class in an effort to prevent more serious actions. The designation may be removed if there are 24 months with no further incidents. The “at risk”, “dangerous” and “vicious” designations each have certain requirements for the owners, and each designation is subject to a hearing and may be appealed. The bill would also prevent localities from enacting breed-specific laws and regulations. AKC supports this bill, which is pending in the House Wildlife Resources Committee.
North Carolina — Senate Bill 209 would establish the “NC Pets We Care Hotline” to allow North Carolinians to report any act of animal cruelty or any violation of the state’s Animal Welfare Act directly to the state’s Attorney General. Reports would be forwarded to local law enforcement and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The bill also provides resources to help local communities offset the costs of enforcing cruelty laws. AKC supports this legislation. Read AKC’s legislative alert for more information on this bill.
Oregon — Current law prohibits carrying a dog on the hood, fender, running board or other external part of any automobile or truck that is upon a highway unless the dog is protected by framework, carrier or other device sufficient to keep it from falling from the vehicle. House Bill 2687 would provide an exception to this provision if the person is operating a registered farm vehicle. The measure has been referred to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Oregon — Senate Bill 4 would clarify that a rescue entity includes any group that maintains legal custody of ten or more animals, whether physically located at a facility operated by the entity or kept, housed or maintained elsewhere. The measure has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.
Oregon — Senate Bill 378 would define a boarding kennel as “a facility that provides care for a fee to dogs that stay at the facility an average of less than 30 days.” It also clarifies that a person operating a boarding kennel is not to be considered a “keeper” of an animal. The bill will be heard by the Judiciary Committee.
Oregon — Senate Bill 419 would direct animal impounding facilities to work with animal rescue groups (defined as a tax exempt 501(c)3 that operates to find permanent homes for lost, homeless, surrendered or abandoned animals) to facilitate adoption of animals. It further establishes requirements for animal care and adoption processes for animal impounding facilities. Finally, the measure authorizes a humane investigative agency volunteer to be commissioned by the Superintendent of State Police as humane special agent. Current law allows only employees to perform in this capacity. The bill has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee.
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, and 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 on April 15. Read more about this legislation.
Rhode Island — 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 AKC opposes HB 5800. It is scheduled for a hearing in the House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee on April 29.
Rhode Island — 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 exemptions, and require those parties to comply with the state’s statutory restrictions. 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. The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee on April 29.
Tennessee — House Bill 147 / Senate Bill 1204 seek to establish an animal abuser registry. HB 147 has advanced in House committees and is on the House calendar. SB 1204 has passed in the Senate and is ready for transmittal to the House.
Tennessee — Proposed amendments to House Bill 1142 and Senate Bill 1020 seek to require licensing, fees, and inspections for “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 bills also would grant access to dog owners’ private property and give enforcement powers to “appointees” who are not government employees or law enforcement officers and would further empower “appointees” and “designees” to be granted administrative warrants to come onto the property and examine the records of any dog owner in order to determine if a violation has occurred. This authority could be granted based on a “complaint”. AKC GR issued letters of concern and legislative alerts. These measures were deferred to the 2016 legislative session, and HB 1142 has been withdrawn.
Utah — For the purposes of issuing municipal business licenses, House Bill 61 would define a commercial breeder as “a person who for a fee or other consideration maintains in a kennel at any time six or more dogs for breeding or six or more cats for breeding and sells, leases, trades, barters, auctions, or provides to another person the offspring of those dogs or cats.” The bill states that a commercial breeder does not include an animal shelter or a person with five or fewer unsterilized dogs over six months old. It defines a kennel as “a facility where a commercial breeder keeps, maintains or houses dogs or cats.” AKC GR is working with local concerned breeders to initiate a dialogue with the bill sponsor. The bill was tabled in the House Political Subdivisions Committee and returned to the Rules Committee.
Washington — House Bill 1018 would make changes to the state’s dangerous dog law preventing local governments from enacting breed-specific ordinances. It has been heard House Judiciary Committee but not yet set for a vote. AKC GR staff is working with local clubs and responsible dog owners to support this legislation.
Washington — Senate Bill 5501 amends state animal cruelty laws to make it a class 2 civil infraction to leave or confine any animal unattended in a motor vehicle or enclosed space if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation or lack of necessary water. It allows animal control officers and law enforcement officers who believe the animal is in danger to remove the animal from the vehicle. AKC GR has submitted a letter in support of this legislation.