State Issues: News from the State Capitols

Here are some highlights of state-level issues AKC GR is currently tracking. Visit the 2017 Legislation Tracking page and click on your state to get the latest updates on state bills monitored by the AKC.

California — After a 22-month process, the California Fish and Game Commission unanimously voted on Dec. 6, 2017, to amend state code by deleting language that prohibits the use of global positioning system (GPS) collars and treeing switches on dogs used to hunt pigs and deer. The commission initially moved to amend the code in April 2016, but delayed that move after opponents filed a lawsuit contending the proposed code changes violated California environmental law. The commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife both determined the changes would have little effect on the environment. The new regulations will take effect in April 2018.

Massachusetts House Bill 1080/ Senate Bill 1155 seek to expand restrictions on dog breeders, establish fines for anyone who fails to license their kennel or require them to relinquish ownership of their dogs, and empower the Department of Agricultural Resources to create regulations for those who own eight intact female dogs. The AKC has strong concerns about the bill and joined local dog owners and other organizations in testifying in opposition to these bills in the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee on October 17.  SB 1155 was reported favorably from the committee, and has been further assigned to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  HB1080 was retained by the committee, and amendments are expected. Read AKC’s legislative alert for more information on these bills.

Massachusetts – House Bill 1078 shares the consumer protection provisions in HB 1080/SB 1155.  It also allows, but does not mandate, kennel inspections, and improves current law by providing for written citations explaining noncompliant issues and for a time period for the kennel to come into compliance.  It would also provide that kennel standards would apply to those with 10 or more sexually intact female dogs or cats between 1-8 years of age for the purpose of breeding and selling the offspring as household pets.  AKC’s testimony to the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee on October 17 stated that the definition in this bill was preferable to HB1080/SB1155. Read more about this legislation.

Massachusetts - House Bill 1079 would increase the fines for cruelty to animals, with the increases designated toward a special account in the municipality where the violation occurred.  Those monies must be used solely for funding improvements to the local municipality’s animal shelter; or, if the municipality does not have an animal shelter, to be used at the municipality’s discretion, providing it benefits local groups dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and/or the promotion of the adoption of shelter animals.  The bill was considered by the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee on October 17. Read more about this legislation.

Massachusetts - House Bill 1084 is similar to, but has more reasonable provisions than, H.1080/S.1155.  It shares those bill’s consumer protection provisions.  It also provides for, but does not mandate, kennel inspections, and improves current law by providing for written citations or notices explaining noncompliant issues and for a time period for the kennel to come into compliance.  This bill would also empower the Department of Agricultural Resources to create rules for commercial and personal kennels, but provides that such standards would apply to those kennels with 10 or more sexually intact female dogs or cats between 1-8 years of age for the purpose of breeding and selling the offspring as household pets.  AKC’s testimony to the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee on October 17 stated that the definition in this bill was preferable to that contained in House Bill 1080/Senate Bill 1155.

Massachusetts – House Bill 2419/Senate Bill 1159 feature many provisions, including increases in fines for violations of dog control laws and licensing and sales requirements.  These bills also feature a provision that restricts insurance companies that offer homeowners or renters insurance coverage from refusing to issue or renew, cancel or charge or impose an increased premium rate based in whole or in part on the breed of dog kept on the insured premises.  The bill was considered by the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee on October 17, which later approved both bills.  HB 2419 has since been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. Read more about this legislation.

Massachusetts – House Bill 3024 would make it an unlawful practice for local or state administrative, legislative or regulatory bodies or instrumentalities to engage in discriminatory land use practices.  The definition of “discriminatory land use practice” specifically includes taking any action…the purpose or effect of which would make unavailable or deny housing accommodations for families or individuals…because a person possesses a trained guide dog as a consequence of blindness, hearing impairment, or other handicap.  AKC supports this bill, which was considered by the Joint Judiciary Committee on October 16. Read AKC’s legislative alert for more information.

Massachusetts - House Bill 3212 seeks to create consumer protections for pet store purchasers, mandates extensive shelter record keeping requirements, and prohibits local pet store sales bans.  AKC GR testified in support of this bill in the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee on October 17, which subsequently reported the bill favorably.  The bill is now under the cognizance of the House Ways and Means Committee. 

Massachusetts – Senate Bill 912 would protect access for service animal trainers and employees or volunteers with service animal training organizations.  AKC GR testified in support of this bill at the Joint Judiciary Committee hearing on October 16. Read AKC’s legislative alert for more information. 

New Jersey – Assembly Bill 772 requires animal owners to pay for the cost of boarding and caring for their animals if the animals are seized pursuant to a charge of animal cruelty. While the owner can contest specific costs in court, and the court may consider the owner’s ability to pay; all costs deemed necessary by the court must be paid before an innocent owner can have possession of their animals again. If payments are not made, the owner will permanently lose their animals, even if the charges are ultimately dropped or the owner is found not guilty. The bill has passed the Assembly, and has been referred to the Senate Economic Growth Committee. Click here to read further.

New Jersey  Senate Bill 3041 is a new version of Senate Bill 63/Assembly Bill 2338, , which AKC, the New Jersey Federation of Dog Clubs, and allied organizations have actively opposed since it was first introduced in January 2016. An amended was approved by the legislature, but was conditionally vetoed by Governor Christie.  An attempt to override the veto failed, but an attempt may be made again before the legislature adjourns in early January 2018. Click here for further information.

New JerseySenate Bill 2454 as introduced sought to impose cost of care requirements for those charged with, but not convicted of, subjecting animals to criminal treatment. Defendants unable to pay would have been subject to forfeiture of their property regardless of the final outcome of the case. It also did not prevent permanent alteration of seized dogs during a case, and did not protect the rights of non-possessory co-owners. As amended, it requires a court to determine a defendant’s ability to pay prior to setting costs, but does not address AKC’s concerns about permanent alteration and the property interests of non-possessory co-owners. SB 2454 passed the Senate and is pending in the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

North Carolina – House Bill 179 seeks to regulate as “large commercial dog breeders” all who own or maintain 10 or more intact female dogs over the age of six months.  AKC GR has expressed concerns with defining a commercial breeder based solely on dog ownership and not on actual sales or commerce.  The bill is pending in the House Judiciary II Committee and AKC GR is working to address concerns and develop effective solutions.

Ohio – HSUS is seeking signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November 2018 that would place constitutional regulations on anyone who has 8 or more intact female dogs of any age. The measure also seeks to make vague and problematic humane standards part of the Ohio constitution. AKC is closely monitoring this and potential legislative proposals and will provide more information as it becomes available.

Ohio – House Bill 263 would allow dogs in outdoor eating establishments, with permission from the business owner.  AKC is supporting this bill, which would allow responsible dog owners more opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities with their well-behaved pets.  The bill was amended by the House Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee to provide reasonable clarifications and regulations for outdoor eating establishments that choose to allow dogs.  It is expected to pass committee and be considered by the full House in the coming weeks. Read AKC’s legislative alert for more information on how to join AKC in supporting this measure.

Pennsylvania – House Bill 1216 allows law enforcement, emergency responders, and animal control officers to remove animals from vehicles without liability if there is a good faith, reasonable belief the animal is in imminent danger. An effort must be made to locate the driver prior to entry, and steps must be taken to “ensure or restore the well-being of the dog or cat.”  These first responders would not be immune from liability if there is evidence of gross negligence, recklessness or wanton misconduct. AKC believes this is a reasonable bill to address the issue of dogs and cats left in potentially dangerous situations. The bill unanimously passed the House on July 7 and is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  AKC GR and its Pennsylvania federation continue to monitor this and other measures regarding this issue that are under consideration in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Pennsylvania – House Bill 1652 considers how to handle a companion animal during a divorce case when there is division of property.  It allows the court to consider the best interest of the animal, including determining which party would best ensure the pet’s proper care, safety and socialization.  AKC appreciates that this bill ensures the care of animals while still defining them as property.  Both AKC and its Pennsylvania federation are concerned, however, about the declaration of dogs and cats as “family members” in the legislative findings of the bill, which could set a precedent later for changing the legal status of animals. The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

Pennsylvania – Senate Bill 636 allows police officers, humane officers, and other first responders to remove an animal from a vehicle under extreme weather circumstances.  AKC GR is working with the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs to request amendments to protect owners from liability should their animal harm someone in the course of being removed from the vehicle, and also to clarify that any actions taken by the first responders must be both reasonable and necessary.  The bill has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

South Carolina   Senate Bill 3 /House Bill 3668 seek to provide a person found guilty of animal cruelty may be required to pay the costs of care of an impounded animal.  S 3 passed in the Senate and has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.

South Carolina House Bill 3009 seeks to license and regulate as a “commercial dog breeder” any person who owns 20 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, with certain exemptions.  The House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs has deferred action on this legislation.

South Carolina House Bill 3069 seeks to regulate and certify “commercial kennel operators” and “certified animal caretakers”, which could include owners and certain employees of boarding kennels and other pet care businesses.  HB 3069 has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs.

South CarolinaHouse Bill 3272,  among other provisions, seeks to make it unlawful to hunt deer with a dog unless on a fenced property of more than 1,000 acres; provides that the owner of a deer hunting dog that enters onto private property without the owner’s permission must pay $50 to the person who “restrains” the dog; and provides for escalating civil penalties and damages equal to one-fifth of the current assessed value of the landowner's entire property.  H 3272 has been referred to House Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs.