State Issues: News from the State Capitols

Here are some highlights of state-level issues AKC GR is currently tracking. Visit the 2016 Legislation Tracking page and click on your state to get the latest updates on state bills monitored by the AKC.

California — Current law imposes certain penalties on those who are responsible for the injury or death of a service animal while it is working. Assembly Bill 1824 will apply those same penalties and add damages related to loss incurred by the service dog owner specifically related to the animal’s inability to perform its tasks, even if the animal is not working when the injury or death occurs.

CaliforniaAssembly Bill 1825 will remove the provision in current law which deems dogs seized as part of a dog fighting ring as vicious. The measure has not yet been assigned to committee.

California — House Resolution 28 calls on the Superintendent of Public Education and local school districts to ensure that humane education is part of the core curriculum and to work with local nonprofit organizations to provide humane education to all students. The measure has been assigned to the Education Committee but not yet scheduled for a hearing.

CaliforniaAssembly Concurrent Resolution 9 declared January 2016 to be Pet Care Education Month and encouraged Californians to observe the month by ensuring that their companion animals receive the proper preventative care, establishing a financial plan for pet health emergencies, and by contributing to charitable organizations that provide low-cost spay and neutering services and vaccinations or funds to help low-income individuals pay for veterinary care. 

CaliforniaSenate Bill 945 will establish standards of care for pet boarding facilities, defined by the bill as “any lot, building, structure, enclosure or other premises whereupon four or more dogs, cats or other pets in any combination are boarded for profit.” The introduced version of the bill establishes care requirements, sets standards for primary and temporary enclosures and provides for certain recordkeeping.

Connecticut HB 5443 would make it illegal for insurance companies to cancel, refuse to renew or establish minimum premiums for homeowners or tenants insurance policies based solely on the breed of dog owned by the insured or the applicant. The measure will be heard by the Joint Insurance and Real Estate Committee on March 3.

Connecticut The Task Force on Humane Treatment of Animals in Municipal & Regional Shelters was established in 2015, pursuant to SB 351 for the purpose of researching and addressing issues regarding the welfare of animals in shelters in CT. The task force was to disband upon submission of their final report or January 1, 2016, whichever came later. Late in 2015, the task force proposed an initiative to make the task force permanent and dramatically expand their mission to include abuse registries, mandatory spay/neuter, and breeder licenses. In January, a representative of the Connecticut Federation testified against breeder licenses, and this proposal has been dropped. However, the task force remains in effect, and the other proposals may come forward in the near future.

ConnecticutRaised Bill 228 would allow for courts to award additional damages for the loss of companionship when a companion animal has been intentionally injured or killed. Courts could consider length of ownership and the disposition or temperament of the animal in determining damages. 

FloridaHB 329 would make it a misdemeanor to intentionally confine an animal in an unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of the animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, physical injury or death. AKC is asking that food and water be removed as a criterion in this bill, as owners who keep a dog in a vehicle for a short time should not be required to always make food and water available to a dog while in a vehicle. AKC GR continues to work with the Florida Federation of Dog Clubs to secure appropriate amendments to protect responsible dog owners.

Iowa SF 502/HSB 560 as introduced would have created 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). The bills have been amended to create a new “Quality Assurance Council” that will be charged with reviewing applications from commercial breeders “who seek to receive a quality assurance certificate denoting the breeder as one of the leading commercial breeders” in Iowa. To qualify, the breeder must demonstrate “a long history of caring for dogs or cats in a manner than consistently exceeds the standards of care” required by both current state laws and the federal Animal Welfare Act. It is very unclear exactly how council membership would be determined or how the measure would be implemented. AKC believes such a council should include multiple experts on animal husbandry and be representative of all who are impacted and licensed under the law, including representatives of kennel clubs and smaller-scale licensees as well as larger-scale breeders. AKC GR is working closely with local club members and breeders to address concerns and provide more positive, effective solutions. Read more about this legislation.

Kentucky Senate Bill 14 seeks to increase penalties for dog fighting. An earlier version of this bill could have had unintended consequences for owners and breeders of hunting, herding and livestock guardian dogs. Kentucky dog owners, sportsmen, and agricultural groups worked together to amend the bill to provide protection for owners and breeders of working dogs that are used for legal hunting, field trials, and agricultural purposes. SB 14 has passed in the Senate.

Massachusetts House Bill 1826 and Senate Bill 1103 seek to establish consumer protection laws to cover the purchase of puppies in Massachusetts, as well as expanded criteria for inspections and limitations on the purchase of animals for pet shop resale. These bills represent the current work product of animal interest stakeholders from across the ideological spectrum. Both bills were considered by the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee in late January, with no further action taken. Click here to read AKC GR’s alert on HB 1826 and SB 1103.  

Massachusetts House Bill 1866 and Senate Bill 1085 seek to expand the parties that may enforce Chapter 140, Section 174E of the Commonwealth’s General Laws, which regulates the tethering of an animal, to include the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Animal Rescue League of Boston officers appointed under Chapter 22C, Section 57. Both bills were considered by the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee in late January. No further action has been taken on either bill. Click here to read AKC GR’s alert on HB 1866 and SB 1085.  

Massachusetts House Bill 3266 would expand commercial breeder licensing by requiring commercial breeder kennels to obtain an annual license from the municipality where they are located. Municipalities would set the licensing fees, replace individual licenses with commercial breeder kennel licenses as applicable, and promulgate requirements for tagging individual dogs. HB 3266 would also empower the Commissioner of Agriculture to develop regulations for standards of care for licensed facilities and allow the Commissioner or an animal control officer to inspect those facilities at any time. HB 3266 was considered by the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee on January 21. No further action has been taken on the bill.

Massachusetts — A new bill (currently Senate Docket No. 2459) filed by Senator Montigny seeks to require state licensing of all dog breeders. Breeders would be required to apply for a $100/year license, would have to undergo an inspection of their facilities prior to licensure and during each year thereafter, and would be forced to display the license at their homes in a location visible to the public. The proposal also seeks to limit females to whelp one litter annually. The bill’s licensing provisions specifically do not apply to government agencies, nonprofit animal rescues, and humane societies, “permitted dog shows”, licensed pet shops, or commercial boarding or training kennels. AKC-GR will provide additional updates once this bill is formally introduced.

Michigan SB 566 would allow private citizens to remove children or animals from vehicles if they believe their health or safety is in immediate danger. The person must comply with several requirements, including calling the local fire or police department or 9-1-1 prior to entering, leaving a note on the person’s windshield, and remaining near the vehicle until first responders arrive. AKC GR and AKC’s Michigan federation are asking for amendments to protect the owner from liability if a dog bites or harms the person removing them from the vehicle, as well as recourse to protect the owner if the animal was in fact not in danger. The bill passed the Senate on February 23 with amendments and is now pending in the House Judiciary Committee.

Missouri HB 1811 would prohibit counties and municipalities from passing breed-specific laws and nullify current breed-specific laws. AKC GR and its state federation support this legislation, which passed the House Emerging Issues Committee on February 9 and is pending in the Select Committee on General Laws. Read more about this legislation.

New Hampshire HB 1615 would establish reasonable regulations on the trafficking of animals into New Hampshire bound for distribution through the shelter system. The bill was considered by the New Hampshire House Environment and Agriculture Committee on February 16, and has been assigned to a House Executive Session in early March.

New Jersey As introduced, Senate Bill 63 seeks to prohibit sight-unseen sale of dogs and cats; requires pet shops to sell dogs and cats only from shelters, pounds, kennels operating as a shelter or pound, or from an animal rescue organization; and repeals the state’s Pet Purchase Protection Act (consumer protection laws for puppy buyers). SB 63 was considered by the Senate Economic Growth Committee on Monday, February 8. The committee held the bill for further input of recommended amendments. An amended version of the bill is expected to be considered at the committee’s next meeting in early March. AKC GR is working with a broad-based coalition of interested parties to oppose this bill.

New Jersey -- ACR-136 is a non-binding concurrent resolution that encourages municipalities to require that pet shops only sell cats or dogs obtained from shelters, pounds, or animal rescue organizations. The resolution’s findings cite false and misleading information and news media reports that impugn breeders of purpose bred dogs. AKC believes that owners should have the opportunity to choose the pet that best matches their lifestyle and recognizes that such pets can come from a variety of sources. AKC opposes the concept of this resolution.

New York Assembly Bill 1679 would ban “debarking” unless it is deemed medically necessary to correct an injury, illness, or congenital defect. This bill passed the Assembly in 2015 but was held in the Senate. It has now passed the Assembly again and is pending in the Senate Agriculture Committee. Read more about this bill and how to contact the Senate committee.

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.  House Bill 7062, a carryover bill from 2015, would remove those exceptions, and require those parties to comply with the state’s general statutory restrictions. AKC-GR posted a legislative alert and contacted the House Health, Education, and Welfare committee expressing opposition to the bill, which considered it on February 24. No further action has been taken on the bill.

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.

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 unapproved 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 has been referred to Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

South DakotaSB 157 seeks to provide additional regulations for commercial breeding operations, including clarifying when inspections of commercial breeding operations may occur, require dogs kept in such facilities be provided veterinary care reasonably deemed necessary, mandate that all primary enclosures feature solid flooring, and prohibit the stacking of primary enclosures. The bill was considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, February 18. Future action on SB 157 has been deferred until a future date.

Tennessee — SB 2175 and HB 2303 would require regulation, inspection, and potentially exorbitant registration fees for persons who own or maintain 16 or more intact adult female dogs or who sell 40 or more dogs in a calendar year. Certain exemptions are included to provide that certain herding, farm, hunting, and competition dogs shall not be counted among the intact adult female dogs. These bills leave the door open for any person—potentially including individuals and representatives of organizations that oppose dog breeding—to be authorized to conduct inspections and unlimited re-inspections, and to determine if violations are occurring. Any violation of the proposed law and of any rules written for its enforcement would be subject to both criminal and civil penalties, including fines of up to $1000 per violation per day and imprisonment. SB 2175 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on February 29. HB 2303 is scheduled to be heard by the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 8. 

Utah HB 132 would define a commercial breeder to potentially include anyone with six or more intact animals who sells or gives away even one puppy. The bill is in response to League of Cities actions seeking to require business licenses in order to increase revenues in local municipalities. AKC GR is working with local clubs and the sponsor to change this definition to reflect commercial activity, and to protect responsible hobby breeders from burdensome regulation.

Virginia House Bills 38, 211, and 1323 would have allowed private citizens to remove companion animals from vehicles if they believe the animal is at risk of serious injury or death. The bills further stated that the person may not be held liable for any damages, including loss of the animal or any injury caused by the animal. These bills were all tabled for the year and an identical Senate bill, SB 9, has been amended to only apply these laws to law enforcement and first responders. It no longer allows private citizens to remove dogs.

Washington — House Bill 1018 would make changes to the state’s dangerous dog law preventing local governments from enacting breed-specific ordinances. The House Judiciary Committee amended the bill to allow jurisdictions with existing breed-specific ordinances to retain them if they meet certain criteria. The bill was referred to the Rules Committee for review prior to being set for a floor vote. AKC GR staff is working with local clubs and responsible dog owners to support this important legislation.

WashingtonHouse Bill 2644 will amend the law relating to animals seized in cruelty cases. Current law requires certain actions to be completed in business days and this legislation will adjust that to calendar days in order to expedite the judicial process.

West Virginia — House Bill 4653 would require all dogs and cats to be sterilized with very few exceptions. The bill is pending in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and must be considered by February 29 to meet the committee deadline. Read more about this bill and how to contact the committee in opposition to this measure.

WisconsinSB 450 makes several changes to current law regarding animals taken by shelters and local humane societies. These include reducing the hold period for an animal from 7 days to 4 days. Although an amendment was approved that a dog may not be euthanized until day 7, the amendment did not change that an owner may not reclaim a dog after 4 days. The bill also requires anyone accused (but not convicted) of “crimes against animals” to pay for the care of the animals during an ongoing trial. If a payment is missed, ownership rights would be permanently forfeited – even if the accused is found not guilty or charges are dropped. The bill has passed the legislature and is on the governor’s desk. Read more about how to contact the governor on this bill.