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 — 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 declares January 2016 to be Pet Care Education Month and encourages 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. The measure passed the Assembly and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

Maryland Senate Bill 36 expands current law to allow anyone to remove an animal from a vehicle if they believe the animal’s health or safety is in danger. Current law only allows certain first responders, law enforcement officers or animal control to remove animals from vehicles. Those who remove animals from vehicles would be exempt from all liability. AKC, the state federation and local dog owners contacted the committee and sponsor to express concerns about pet theft, lost dogs, and the lack of recourse for dog owners who were being responsible. The sponsor has agreed to work on amendments to address these concerns. The bill is scheduled for a hearing on January 19.

MassachusettsHouse 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 will be considered by the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee on Thursday, January 21. Click here to read AKC GR’s alert on HB 1826 and SB 1103.

MassachusettsHouse 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 will be considered by the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee on Thursday, January 21. Click here to read AKC GR’s alert on HB 1866 and SB 1085.  

MassachusettsHouse 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 is scheduled for a hearing on January 21.

New Jersey 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 is currently under the cognizance of the Senate Economic Growth committee, but has not yet been scheduled for consideration. AKC GR is working with a broad-based coalition of interested parties to address this bill.

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 been placed again on the Assembly third reading calendar and could be scheduled for a vote at any time. Read more about this bill and how to contact the Assembly.

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 were signed into law in December.

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 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, 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.

Virginia — House Bills 38 and 211 would allow private citizens to remove companion animals from vehicles if they believe the animal is at risk of serious injury or death. The bills further state that the person may not be held liable for any damages, including loss of the animal or any injury caused by the animal. There is no requirement that the person removing the dog should stay with the vehicle, or leave any kind of message as to who removed the animal and where it was taken. The bills do require that the person attempt to call a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services officer, an animal control officer, or 9-1-1. There is also no recourse for the owner for damage incurred when the animal in the car was not in danger, or for protection if the dog harms someone as a result of being removed from the vehicle. The bills are scheduled for consideration by the House Courts of Justice-Civil Law Subcommittee on January 18. Read more about these bills.

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 in the 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 important legislation.

WisconsinAssembly Bill 487 would make several changes to current law regarding animals taken by shelters and local humane societies. These changes include decreasing the amount of time an animal is held at a shelter from 7 days to 4 days. Another provision would require those accused (but not convicted) of “crimes against animals” to continue to pay for the care of the animals during an ongoing trial. If a payment is missed, their ownership rights will be forfeited forever – even if they are ultimately found not guilty or charges are dropped. AKC and its state federation have expressed several concerns with these provisions. The bill had a public hearing on January 13. Read more about this legislation.