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 AB 485 seeks to require all dogs, cats, and rabbits offered for retail sale in California to be obtained solely from public or private animal shelters located in California or non-profit rescue groups. The bill will limit consumer choice, favor unregulated sources of pets over regulated sources, encourage international trafficking of dogs, and harm small businesses. The AKC, AKC California federations, and key constituents are working in opposition to this bill. AB 485 is scheduled for consideration by the Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee on Monday, July 17. Click here to read further.

California – In an effort to address predatory pet leasing schemes, Assembly Bill 1491 originally sought to ban all leases in the state that had dogs and cats as their subjects. The AKC opposed the original version of the bill. The Animal Council, an AKC-recognized California federation, worked with Assembly staff to explain how AKC sanctions leasing for the limited purpose of facilitating the breeding of purebred dogs. The bill was subsequently amended to address concerns prior to passage by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

IllinoisSenate Bill 1882 as amended provides regulations for pet stores, including prohibiting the stores from sourcing animals from breeders that have committed certain federal laws and regulations and requiring that all dogs sold in a pet store be microchipped. It also prohibits home rule municipalities from regulating the sourcing of dogs and cats sold in pet stores. The bill has passed the Senate Licensed Activities and Pensions Committee.

Illinois – House Bill 2810 would increase the instances in which an animal is seized on suspicion of cruelty. It would allow for the court to order those charged (but not yet convicted) of cruelty to animals to pay for the care of seized animals during an ongoing trial. Those who have an animal seized from a motor vehicle, if it is perceived that the animal’s health may be at risk, would also be included in this section and required to pay for the care of animals during the trial. Further, if the animals are forfeited, no one residing in the person’s household may own those animals. AKC is concerned that innocent individuals who lack the resources to board one or multiple pets for months on end during a trial, could be forced to give up their animals before a verdict is reached, even if the court finds them not guilty. The bill was rushed through the legislature and is pending with the Governor. AKC GR is working with the federation to express concerns to the governor. Read more about this legislation.

Illinois – House Bill 2981 would allow courts to appoint a “special advocate” to represent the interests of animals during cases that involve the animal’s health, safety, or an injury. The “special advocate” would be a law student. An amendment has been proposed to only apply this law to Cook County (Chicago), but the AKC and its state federation are actively opposing the measure. The bill was reassigned to the Rules Committee and will likely not advance this year.

Kansas Senate Bill 47 would further regulate rescues and shelters. AKC has expressed concern that it would also regulate anyone who has “all or part of three or more litters” on their property. Those who meet this vague definition would be required to submit to inspections and to be regulated the same as high volume commercial kennels. The bill passed the full Senate and the House Committee on Agriculture but did not advance further. AKC will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure an effective measure in the future that will not be overly burdensome for hobby breeders.

LouisianaHouse Bill 466, among other provisions, terminates a state animal control advisory commission that provided seats for a dog breeder and for representatives of a horse breeding organization. Among other provisions, it establishes the Louisiana Animal Control Advisory Task Force and provides for certain oversight of animal shelters. HB 466 was signed by the Governor on June 26 and goes into effect on August 1, 2017.

Massachusetts – House Bill 852 would create an animal abuser registry, which would list all those who reside in Massachusetts and have been convicted of an animal abuse crime. Abuser registration would remain in effect for five years, and those convicted of animal abuse would be required to pay $50 annually to be included. All animal breeders in Massachusetts would be prohibited from transferring an animal to any person listed on the registry. Breeders failing to comply would be subject to fines of not less than $1,000 and imprisonment of up to five years. AKC is concerned that the requirements could be easily evaded, and therefore unfairly punish those breeders attempting to comply. The bill is scheduled to be considered by the Joint Judiciary Committee on July 18. Read more about this legislation.

Massachusetts – Filed pursuant to a constituent request, HB 2290 seeks to change the legal status of pets from personal property to companion animals. The AKC and the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners (MassFed) both strongly oppose HB 2290. The bill is scheduled for consideration by the Joint Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, July 18, which is scheduled to hear limited testimony on the bill. AKC and MassFed are working in opposition to HB 2290. Read more on this bill.

Massachusetts Senate Bill 1155 expands restrictions on dog breeders, establishes fines for anyone who fails to license their kennel or requires them to relinquish ownership and control of their dogs, and empowers the Department of Agricultural Resources to create rules and regulations for personal kennels with as few as eight intact female dogs. The AKC continues to work with local fanciers in opposition. It has been assigned to the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. AKC GR expects consideration in the coming months.

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 is pending a vote in the Assembly. 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. As originally introduced, S.63/A.2338 sought to prohibit the sight-unseen sale of dogs and cats; required pet shops to sell dogs and cats only from shelters, pounds, or an animal rescue organization; and repealed the state’s Pet Purchase Protection Act. Amendments preserved the consumer protection law and removed pet store sale restrictions, but established other onerous regulations including designating anyone who transfers 10 dogs in a year as a “pet dealer.” This measure was approved by the legislature, but was conditionally vetoed by Governor Christie. On May 25, State Senator Lesniak, the bill’s chief sponsor, led an attempt to override the conditional veto, but failed. He may try again to garner the required number of votes to override the conditional veto of S.3041 at future voting sessions of the State Senate, which is expected to adjourn in early January. Click here for further information.

New JerseySenate Bill 1640 seeks to restrict some tethering practices. Since its introduction, the bill has been significantly amended. The bill was passed by the Senate and is on second reading in the House.

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.

New YorkAssembly Bill 1279 would create a task force to “examine, evaluate and determine how to improve the relationship between animals and humans and the animal protection laws.”  The task force would be comprised of 17 members appointed by various members of legislative leadership, the governor, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Department of Health. The only requirement is that appointees must have “expertise in fields or disciplines related to animals, animal abuse, and/or investigations”, and that the appointments must cover all geographic regions of the state. The task force would hold at least three public hearings across the state and have one year to develop a report of findings, conclusions, and recommendations to the legislature and the governor. The bill passed the Assembly Agriculture Committee but did not advance further prior to the legislature adjourning for the year.

New York – Assembly Bill 4225 would prohibit homeowner’s insurance providers from refusing or cancelling coverage or increasing insurance premiums based solely on the breed of dog owned by the policy holder. AKC supports this bill, which passed the Assembly and is expected to be considered again in the 2018 legislative session.

New York — Assembly Bill 4749 would require non-economic damages in cases involving the injury or wrongful death of a companion animal. This means that in addition to the fair monetary value of the animal and veterinary bills, a person would be liable for the loss of “society, companionship, comfort, protection and services” that were provided by the animal. AKC expressed significant concerns with this bill, which passed the Assembly Judiciary and Codes Committees but did not advance further prior to the end of the legislative session. AKC will continue to closely monitor this issue.

New York Senate Bill 144 seeks to establish “licensing and educational standards” for those providing “basic obedience courses to dogs and their owners.”  The bill does not provide details on what the licensing and standards would entail. This bill was assigned to the Senate Agriculture Committee, but no hearing was scheduled before the end of the legislative session. Nassau County is also considering a measure to regulate dog trainers, but it also has not been scheduled for any public hearing or vote.  

New York — Senate Bill 302 would require that all who meet the state’s definition of pet dealer must submit to inspections every two months if the State Department of Agriculture has filed an affidavit that states it is believed the pet dealer is violating any provision of state law regarding the care of animals. The inspections would continue until there is a final disposition of charges. If the pet dealer is ultimately found guilty, then inspections will continue to be made on a quarterly basis for one year. If the pet dealer is found not guilty, then inspections will be made annually, or when there is a complaint, as stated in current law. The bill passed the Senate, but was held in the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

New York — Senate Bill 5515 sets minimum standards of care for dogs in animal shelters, including requiring appropriate vaccinations and veterinary care, proper shelter, and potable water. The bill passed the Senate, but did not advance in the Assembly prior to the end of session. It is likely this bill will be considered again in 2018.

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.

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. A reasonable effort must be made to locate the driver prior to entry, and reasonable 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 committee assignment in the Senate.

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.