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.

Alabama House Bill 91 would have created a civil cause of action of wrongful injury or death of a companion or service animal when a caretaker of the animal, through negligence or reckless or willful misconduct, caused the serious injury or death of the animal. It also would have provided for the recovery of compensatory and punitive (non-economic) damages for the loss of a pet. HB 91 was not considered in the House Judiciary Committee prior to adjournment.

Alabama  House Bill 201 sought to define “shelter” under existing animal cruelty laws. HB 201, as amended, passed in the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, and was indefinitely postponed in the House.

Alabama   House Bill 202 sought to limit tethering.  As written, this bill could have prohibited a person from safely securing a dog to a grooming table.  HB 202 was not considered by the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security prior to adjournment.

AlabamaHouse Bill 524 would have provided that a person was immune from liability for property damage or injury that resulted from forcible entry into a vehicle if he or she believed that a person or pet in the vehicle was in imminent danger of suffering bodily harm. The person must first contact law enforcement, EMS, or animal control. HB 524 passed in the House Judiciary Committee. The committee did not consider AKC’s recommended amendments, which sought to ensure that persons and animals removed or released from vehicles remained secure until emergency responders arrived, and that the rights of responsible persons, animal owners, and property owners would remain protected. HB 524 was indefinitely postponed in the House. Read more about this legislation. 

AlabamaSenate Bill 17 /House Bill 45 as introduced, would have created a commission with authority to license, regulate, and inspect dog and cat owners who possess 11 or more adult intact dogs or cats and who sell or offer to sell 20 or more dogs or cats per year, provided for “third party inspectors”, and other functions. A proposed amendment to SB 17 sought to regulate every person who advertises to sell a dog or cat in the state and to award governmental and law enforcement powers to a “humane society.” AKC Government Relations expressed opposition to these bills, recommended alternate language to regulate all high-volume dog sellers, and issued alerts to Alabama clubs and dog owners.  SB 17 did not advance in the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. HB 45 was not considered by the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.

AlabamaSenate Bill 168, among other provisions, allows Class 5 and 8 municipalities to establish civil penalties for violations of local animal control laws in amounts of up to $1,000 for any violation and establish the position of certified animal control officer, with authorization to issue citations for violations of local animal control laws.  SB 168 was enacted as Act No. 2017-320.

AlabamaSenate Bill 231 would have exempted agricultural work dogs from local leash laws. SB231 passed in the Senate and House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, but did not come before the House prior to adjournment.

AlabamaSenate Bill 273 permits the use of therapy dogs and certified facility dogs in certain courtroom situations. SB 273 was enacted as Act. No 2017-413

California Assembly Bill 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 and non-profit rescue groups. The bill will limit consumer choice, favor unregulated sources of pets over regulated sources, encourage international trafficking of dogs, and seriously impact small businesses. The AKC, our California federations, and key constituents are working in opposition to this onerous bill. It was approved by the Assembly on May 30, and will be considered by the Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee on June 26. 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. 

Connecticut Proposed House Bill 5617 would prohibit “the sale of puppies produced by out-of-state puppy mills in Connecticut pet stores.”  While the text is not yet available, it is expected this will be similar to bills seen throughout the country that seek to only allow pet stores to sell pets from shelters or rescues, thereby removing an opportunity for Connecticut residents to obtain a purebred dog from a licensed, regulated breeder.  The bill has been assigned to the Joint Committee on Environment.

FloridaSenate Bill 212 sought to define and penalize “animal hoarding”.  The bill included a vague provision that “keeping a large number of companion animals in overcrowded conditions” would be the felony crime of “animal hoarding”, punishable by imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. SB 212 was indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration.

FloridaSenate Bill 1270 sought to provide for compensatory damages for the injury or death of a pet. SB 1270, which passed in the Senate Committee on Judiciary, was indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration. Read more about this legislation. 

FloridaSenate Bill 1466/House Bill 979, among other provisions, sought to require a pet dealer to only sell or offer for sale a dog procured from a humane society, an animal shelter, or a person or entity who has not been adjudicated and issued certain citations for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act. “Pet dealer” was defined as any person, firm, partnership, corporation, or other association which, in the ordinary course of business, engages in the sale of more than two litters, or 20 dogs or cats, per year, whichever is greater, to the public. This definition included breeders of animals who sell such animals directly to a consumer. Per this definition, HB 979 could have been interpreted to prevent breeders from breeding and selling more than two litters or 20 dogs or cats a year. The bills were indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration.

FloridaHouse Bill 151, which allows the use of therapy dogs in certain court proceedings, was enacted as Chapter No. 2017-13.

FloridaHouse Bill 515 and similar bill, Senate Bill 1162, sought to direct animal shelters to take certain measures relating to the holding, treatment, and euthanasia of animals and to provide for declaratory or injunctive relief actions by individuals to compel compliance. Both bills were indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration.

FloridaHouse Bill 627 sought to require person transporting dog in open areas of certain vehicles or trailers to secure dog and to preempt local regulation of transportation of dogs in vehicles.  HB 627 was indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration.

FloridaHouse Bill 871 sought to establish an animal abuser registry, require pet dealers to verify the identity of a prospective purchaser and that the person is not on the registry list, and to establish penalties for selling or delivering an animal to a person without performing these verifications.  HB 871 was indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration.

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 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.  The bill has been removed from the calendar and further amendments are expected.  AKC continues to request amendments to this proposal to ensure an effective measure 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 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 sent to the governor for signature. 

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 to SB 1155. It has been assigned to the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government.

New Jersey – Assembly Bill 772 deals with the payment for the care of animals seized when the owner is charged with a cruelty violation. The owner would be required to pay for the costs of care, which much be itemized. While the owner does have the ability to contest the costs in court, and the court may take into account the owner’s ability to pay, all costs deemed necessary by the court must be paid before the owner can have possession of their animals again. If payments are not made, then 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.

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.  While a temporary victory, this means that 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 throughout the remainder of this session, which is expected to adjourn in early January.  AKC Government Relations will continue to provide updates on battling this effort. 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 bond for 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 results 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. It 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 has passed the Assembly Agriculture Committee and is pending in the Codes Committee. 

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 has passed the Assembly and is pending committee assignment in the Senate.  Read more about this bill.

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 has significant concerns with this bill, which has passed the Assembly Judiciary and Codes Committees and is pending review by the Rules Committee before being sent to the full Assembly for a vote. 

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 has been assigned to the Senate Agriculture Committee, but no hearing has been scheduled.  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 has passed the Senate and is pending 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 has passed the Senate and is pending in the Assembly Agriculture 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.

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.

Tennessee Senate Bill 282/House Bill 265 (also Senate Bill 283/House Bill 120)) seek to register any person who, during a 12-month period, possesses or maintains ten or more intact female adult dogs for the primary purpose of selling their offspring as household pets.  SB 282 and HB 265 have been assigned to committee. HB 120, an unrelated bill, has been amended to include essentially the same language and is assigned to the House Consumer and Human Resources Committee. SB 283, which is likely to be similarly amended, was taken off notice in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on March 21. These bills could be considered again in the 2018 carry-over session. Click here for more information. Click here to read AKC’ latest legislative alert on HB 120. 

Tennessee Senate Bill 519/House Bill 568 seek to establish consumer protection for persons who purchase pets from pet stores.  AKC GR recommended an amendment to more clearly define “retail pet store”.  SB 519 passed in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. SB 519 passed in the Senate, but failed in the House and has been referred to the House Calendar and Rules Committee.