Taking Command Newsletter

State Issues: News from the State Capitols

 

February/March 2015

 

Here are some highlights of state-level issues AKC GR is currently tracking.  Visit the 2015 Legislation Tracking page and click on your state to get the latest updates on state bills monitored by the AKC.

Alabama House Bill 261 seeks to restrict tethering of dogs and to establish minimum outdoor enclosure requirements of 100 square feet for up to two dogs 35 pounds and under; 100 square feet for each dog 36-60 pounds; 150 square feet for each dog 61-100 pounds; and 240 square feet for each dog 101 pounds and over.  Housing a dog in a secured enclosed yard where the dog “has the ability to run” would also be allowed; however, HB 261 does not include provisions for dog owners who enclose dogs in kennel runs of less than the required sizes in conjunction with access to larger exercise areas, leash walking, visits to dog parks, or other forms of exercise.  HB 261 has been assigned to the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Arkansas House Bill 1620 seeks to regulate dog breeding and “commercial breeding kennels” in which ten or more female dogs are maintained for the purpose of breeding offspring to sell as pets.  HB 1620 is on the calendar of the House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development.

Delaware Senate Bill 22 would allow law enforcement, animal control officers, animal cruelty investigators and firefighters to enter a vehicle if it is believed the temperature is such as to cause injury or death to the animal.  The person removing the animal must make a reasonable effort to contact the owner, and if that is unsuccessful, leave written information with local animal shelters with their name and title and the location of the animal.  Owners who leave their animals in vehicles in a situation where their health is endangered will be guilty of a misdemeanor on a first offense.  The bill is scheduled to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 18. Read AKC’s legislative alert for more information on SB 22.

FloridaHouse Bill 71 would broaden the definition of service animal to be consistent with federal regulations and prohibit discrimination by timeshares that are transient housing facilities. It provides that an employee who fails to allow a service animal where one is allowed will be guilty of a second degree misdemeanor and will serve 30 hours of community service working for an organization that services those with disabilities. The bill has passed the Government Operations Subcommittee, will be heard in the Judiciary Committee, and will proceed to the State Affairs Committee if it passes. Senate Companion, SB 414, has been jointly assigned to the committees on Commerce and Tourism, Community Affairs and Fiscal Policy but no hearing has been scheduled.

FloridaHouse Bill 187 would regulate greyhound racing in the state by providing that animals may not race if they have been administered certain medications, requiring certain drug testing of animals and providing for certain record keeping relating to injured animals, and directing the Division of Pari-Mutuel wagering to direct standards for racetrack surfaces. The measure has been jointly assigned to the Business and Professions Subcommittee and the Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. The companion measure, Senate Bill 262 has been assigned to the Committees on Regulated Industries, Criminal Justice and Appropriations.

FloridaHouse Bill 207 would allow local governments to create a special district to levy fees and taxes that would be used to support spay/neuter programs, increase pet retention, reduce surrenders and engage in animal welfare education efforts. The measure has been jointly referred to the Local Government Affairs Subcommittee, Finance and Tax Committee, and the Local and Federal Affairs Committee. The companion bill, Senate Bill 670 has been assigned to the Community Affairs, Finance and Tax, and Fiscal Policy Committees but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

FloridaHouse Bill 497 would establish standards and regulations for animal shelters, require rescue groups to be 501(c)(3)s by definition, and direct shelters to work with these rescue groups. The bill has been assigned to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, Local Government Affairs Subcommittee, and State Affairs Committees but has not yet been set for a hearing. The companion bill, SB 1234 has been filed but not yet assigned to committee.

Georgia Senate Bill 184 would provide that the regulation of dogs based on breed shall only be established by general law, thereby preventing local breed-specific laws. AKC supports this bill, which has been approved by the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee and has passed in the full Senate.

HawaiiHouse Bill 702 would require a person who holds a dog license to give notice to the Director of Finance within 14 days of transfer of the dog. Further, every person who seeks a dog license for a dog with a microchip would be required to provide the dog's microchip identification number when applying for a license, or within 14 days if the microchip is obtained thereafter. Failure to provide notice of transfer could result in the most recent license holder being found guilty for acts of abandonment or deprivation involving the dog. This bill passed in the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce and has been transmitted to the House Committee on Judiciary.

IllinoisHouse Bill 3585 would ban debarking unless it is medically necessary to treat an illness, disease or injury.  Anyone who violates the ban would be guilty of a class 3 felony.  In addition, the court could order the person to submit to a mental health evaluation and the person could be banned from owning or possessing any animals or living with anyone who owns animals for a specified amount of time.  Anyone convicted may also be required to take humane education, pet ownership and dog training classes.  Anyone selling a dog that has been debarked must disclose that information and provide a copy of the veterinarian certification stating why it was medically necessary.  HB 3585 is scheduled to be considered by the House Executive Committee on March 18.

IowaSenate File 347 (formerly SF168) would create 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). Those who meet the definition would be required to keep their kennels open for unannounced inspections during “normal business hours”, which could be a challenge for hobby and home-based breeders. They also could be subject to onerous license fees. There are certain exemptions for “special breeders”, including “competitive show breeders”, but it is unclear who would qualify for this designation. SF 347 would also prohibit certain breeders from being involved in rescue activities.  SF347 is pending in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.  Read AKC’s alert on SF168 for more information on this measure.

Kentucky Senate Bill 124 would a allow a local government to pass any ordinance, regulation, or policy concerning dog safety and welfare or public safety, so long as that ordinance, regulation, or policy is not specific to the breed of the dog.  SB 124 passed in the Senate Agriculture Committee.

MarylandSenate Bill 26 would amend the state’s tethering laws to prohibit dogs being tethered outside and unattended for over 1 hour if the temperature is less than 32 degrees. AKC GR believes this would impact those participating in field trials, sled dog, and other outdoor events, and issued a legislative alert and letter of concern. The bill was given an unfavorable recommendation by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.  AKC GR thanks the local clubs and parent clubs who took the time to educate the sponsor and committee on this legislation.

Maryland House Bill 153, like SB 26, would prohibit dogs from being tethered outside and unattended for over one  hour when the temperature is below 32 degrees.  This bill would also prevent dogs from being tethered outside for more than 15 minutes if the temperature is above 100 degrees or a warning has been issued by the National Weather Service.  The AKC again expressed concern about those humanely tethering animals outside in cold temperatures for field trials, sled dog and other outdoor events with breeds that can tolerate low temperatures. A public hearing was held by the House Judiciary Committee on February 19.  Read more about this legislation.  

Maryland House Bill 645 contains many problematic legislative findings, including implying that breeders are the reason for shelter population issues in the state, comparing animals to humans, and using the term “puppy mill.”  The bill would also prevent new pet stores in the state from selling dogs or cats.  This bill has a hearing in the House Economic Matters Committee on March 3.  Read more about House Bill 645.  

Maryland Senate Bill 393 and House Bill 362 would force individuals charged with—but not convicted of— animal cruelty to forfeit ownership of their pets, even after they are later found not guilty of those charges, if they are unable to pay for a care bond for animals seized subsequent to a criminal charge. For defendants already incurring high costs to defend themselves in a criminal proceeding, the additional cost of daily boarding and care fees could prove an impossible burden to meet. In cases where a verdict of not guilty was reached or charges were dropped, a defendant unable to pay would be permanently deprived of their property, with no recourse. SB 393 was heard in the Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 26.  HB 362 was heard by the House Judiciary Committee on March 4. AKC wrote letters in opposition to the bills.   

MichiganSenate Bills 28 and 29 would increase the penalties for acts of animal cruelty. AKC GR and the Michigan Association for Pure Bred Dogs are requesting amendments to clarify some definitions and are expressing concern regarding a proposed definition of breeder which, as currently written, would include anyone “who breeds animals other than livestock for the purpose of making a profit.” AKC and its federation are asking that this vague and unnecessary definition be removed from the bills. The bills were passed with amendments on January 27, and are pending consideration by the full Senate.

MontanaHouse Bill 179 would make it illegal for a humane shelter or its employees to engage in activities at an animal facility without the owner’s consent.  It would not apply to the lawful activities of a government agency or its employees carrying out their duties under law. This bill did not advance in committee.  

MontanaSenate Bill 115 sought to limit the court’s discretion regarding bonds for care for animals seized under allegations of animal cruelty. It would have expanded existing law by requiring accused owners to pay impoundment costs prior to retrieving their animals even when the court directs that the animals be released to the owner pending adjudication. SB 115 would also have required the court to order payment of a bond for care in certain civil proceedings. Further, officers of an undefined “animal welfare agency” would have been empowered to order euthanization of seized animals. This bill did not advance in committee.  

MontanaSenate Bill 239 would have prohibited local governments from enacting or enforcing an ordinance, policy, resolution or other regulation that is specific to the breed or perceived breed of a dog. This bill did not advance in committee.  Read more about this measure.

Montana — House Bill 608 seeks to establish licensing, inspection, regulations, fees, and penalties for dog and cat breeders.  A “commercial breeder” would be defined as a person or entity who owns, keeps or harbors eight or more intact dogs or cats 9 months of age or older used for breeding or who sells, exchanges, leases, transfers or offers to sell, exchange, lease or transfer 31 or more dogs in a calendar year. Penalties for violations of rules adopted pursuant to the act would range from $100 to $1,000 per day per violation.  HB 608 has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee.

Nebraska – Legislative Bill 377 could force a dog owner to forfeit their animals for only a suspicion of animal cruelty – even before a conviction by the court.  Within 10 days of an impoundment for suspicion of cruelty, a hearing must be scheduled.  If the court finds probable cause (not a conviction) that violations exist that may threaten the animal’s health and safety, then the court may order the immediate forfeiture of the animals and authorize “appropriate disposition” – including sale at a public auction, adoption of the animal, “donating” the animal to a shelter, or euthanasia.  The court may also require the owner to pay a bond for the care of the animal throughout the trial.  If a payment is missed, then all ownership rights would be forfeited.  The Nebraska Legislature’s Agriculture Committee held a public hearing on this bill on February 17.  Read more about LB 377.  

NevadaAssembly Bill 119 would authorize a veterinarian or veterinary technician who is licensed in another state to provide professional services in Nevada during a critical incident under certain circumstances. Local responsible dog owners and breeders are working with state officials on language to clarify who may declare a critical incident and under what circumstances. The measure was heard in the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee on March 2nd, but no action was taken.

Nevada Senate Bill 147 would require peace officers to be trained in effective responses to incidents involving dogs or where dogs are present. This will include education on aggressive and nonthreatening behaviors in dogs as well as nonlethal methods of handling aggressive dogs. The bill was heard in the Government Affairs Committee on March 2nd, but no action was taken.

New Hampshire – House Bill 624 would force individuals charged with—but not convicted of— animal cruelty to forfeit ownership of their pets, even after they are later found not guilty of those charges, if they are unable to pay for a care bond for animals seized subsequent to a criminal charge. For defendants already incurring high costs to defend themselves in a criminal proceeding, the additional cost of daily boarding and care fees could prove an impossible burden to meet. In cases where a verdict of not guilty was reached or charges were dropped, a defendant unable to pay would be permanently deprived of their property, with no recourse.  AKC GR and the Dog Owners of the Granite State (DOGS) opposed HB 624.  AKC GR issued a legislative alert and letter in opposition to the bill.  HB 624 was heard by the House Environment and Agriculture Committee, which recommended that the bill was inexpedient to legislate, likely ending its consideration for the year.

New HampshireHouse Bill 661 would require licensed animal shelters and rescues to compile, maintain, and report certain records for any animal born; accepted from a transporter, animal control officer, or its owner; cared for; sold or otherwise transferred; or which died while in a licensed facility’s possession.  The information would then be reported to the New Hampshire Director of Charitable Trusts for publication.  HB 661 was heard by the House Executive Departments and Administration Committee on Tuesday, February 17; and awaits further committee action.  AKC and its New Hampshire federation both support HB 661.  AKC issued a legislative alert and a letter to the committee in support of the bill. 

New Jersey – Assembly Bill 991 seeks to establish a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for harming or threatening to harm animals owned or used by a law enforcement agency or a search and rescue dog. This bill has passed the Assembly, and has been assigned to the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

New Jersey – Assembly Bill 2389 attempts to bar employment at animal-related enterprises, or ownership of animals, for at least two years, of those convicted of or found civilly-liable for any animal crime; permits courts to order forfeiture of animals of those found guilty/civilly-liable for violating animal statutes; provides for new animal control officer rules and regulations; and creates a statewide animal cruelty registry. This bill has passed the Assembly and is currently pending in the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

New JerseyAssembly Bill 2961/Senate Bill 1341 support legislation enacted in 2009 by establishing a penalty for failure to include a bittering agent in antifreeze. SB 1341 has unanimously passed the Senate, and both bills have been approved by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The AKC supports the legislation.  AB 2961 was substituted by SB 1341, which as passed both houses and is awaiting a concurrence vote. 

New JerseyAssembly Bill 3037 creates a minimum penalty for animal cruelty offenses and revises the state’s animal fighting laws. One provision would allow the court to sever ownership rights when someone has been convicted of cruelty. AKC has asked for an amendment to allow co-owners the opportunity to claim the animal prior to the dog being surrendered to a shelter or rescue. The bill has passed the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and awaits further action by the full Assembly.

New JerseyAssembly Bill 3306 and Senate Bill 1870 seek to impose additional requirements on pet shops and pet dealers, including providing consumers with specific breeder information; posting information on enclosures and in internet/print advertisements; prohibiting pet shops from selling, offering for sale, or purchasing for resale, any animal purchased from any breeder/broker who fails to meet certain standards; mandating that pet shops submit annual reports to the state; and allowing localities to impose more significant restrictions. Failure to comply with the requirements and prohibitions established under the bills would result in a $500 penalty. AKC GR is working with concerned fanciers and groups to respond to the proposals. AB 3306 was consolidated into SB 1870, which was signed into law by Governor Christie on February 5.

New JerseyAssembly Bill 3381, as introduced, expands the animal cruelty statute to include theft or release of animals during burglary. The AKC supports AB 3381 as currently written, and has sent a letter of support and issued a legislative alert. This bill passed the Assembly in December, and is currently under the cognizance of the Senate Economic Growth Committee. 

New JerseySenate Resolution 102 endorses AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Program and supports its effort to promote responsible dog ownership. SR 102 passed the Senate Economic Growth Committee, and is pending on second reading. AKC strongly supports SR 102.

New MexicoHouse Bill 415 seeks to allow methods to fund a spay/neuter program, but also contains a provision that requires the state’s animal shelter board to develop and implement a statewide spay and neuter program.  As written, it is very broad and could allow for a mandatory spay/neuter program to be implemented in the state.  The bill has passed the House and is pending in the Senate Public Affairs Committee.  New Mexico’s legislature adjourns on March 21, so the bill could move through the Senate very quickly.  Read AKC’s legislative alert for more information.

New York Assembly Bill 1679 would ban debarking in the state unless it is medically necessary to treat an illness, disease or injury.  Anyone who performs the procedure for any other purpose is guilty of a misdemeanor.  Any veterinarian who performs the procedure for any other purpose could have their license suspended or revoked.  The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Agriculture Committee on March 10. The bill has been approved by the Assembly Agriculture Committee and will be considered by the Assembly Codes Committee on March 17. Read more about Assembly Bill 1679.

North CarolinaHouse Bill 159 would seek to define “commercial breeder” as any person who owns, has custody of, or maintains 11 or more female dogs over the age of 6 months for the purpose of breeding.  Among other provisions, the bill would also transfer the oversight of all animal welfare activities in the state from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Public Safety.  Someone who keeps or breeds dogs exclusively for herding, hunting, tracking, or exhibiting in dog shows, performance events or obedience trials would be exempt, but it is unclear how this would be determined.  AKC GR is concerned about defining commercial activity solely on animal ownership and transferring oversight away from those with animal husbandry expertise.  The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary II and Finance Committees.

North CarolinaSenate Bill 209 would establish the “NC Pets We Care Hotline” to allow North Carolinians to report any act of animal cruelty or any violation of the state’s Animal Welfare Act directly to the state’s Attorney General.  Reports would be forwarded to local law enforcement and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  The bill also provides resources to help local communities offset the costs of enforcing cruelty laws.  AKC supports this legislation.  Read AKC’s legislative alert for more information on this bill.

Oregon – Current law prohibits carrying a dog on the hood, fender, running board or other external part of any automobile or truck that is upon a highway unless the dog is protected by framework, carrier or other device sufficient to keep it from falling from the vehicle. House Bill 2687 would provide an exception to this provision if the person is operating a registered farm vehicle. The measure has been referred to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

OregonSenate Bill 4 would clarify that a rescue entity includes any group that maintains legal custody of ten or more animals, whether physically located at a facility operated by the entity or kept, housed or maintained elsewhere. The measure has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Oregon – Senate Bill 378 would define a boarding kennel as “a facility that provides care for a fee to dogs that stay at the facility an average of less than 30 days.” It also clarifies that a person operating a boarding kennel is not to be considered a “keeper” of an animal. The bill will be heard by the Judiciary Committee.

OregonSenate Bill 419 would direct animal impounding facilities to work with animal rescue groups (defined as a tax exempt 501(c)3 that operates to find permanent homes for lost, homeless, surrendered or abandoned animals) to facilitate adoption of animals. It further establishes requirements for animal care and adoption processes for animal impounding facilities. Finally, the measure authorizes a humane investigative agency volunteer to be commissioned by Superintendent of State Police as humane special agent. Current law allows only employees to perform in this capacity. The bill has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee.

TennesseeHouse Bill 147 / Senate Bill 1204 seek to establish an animal abuser registry.  HB 147 would also redefine “animal” and “companion animal” as used in this legislation.  HB 147 will be heard by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on March 17. SB 1204 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Tennessee – extensive language that would significantly affect dog breeders and owners in the guise of a new commercial breeder regulation bill is expected to be inserted into an existing bill mid-session.  This could potentially could allow little time for comment.  AKC GR continues to monitor this situation.

Utah – For the purposes of issuing municipal business licenses, House Bill 61 would define a commercial breeder as “a person who for a fee or other consideration maintains in a kennel at any time six or more dogs for breeding or six or more cats for breeding and sells, leases, trades, barters, auctions, or provides to another person the offspring of those dogs or cats.” The bill states that a commercial breeder does not include an animal shelter or a person with five or fewer unsterilized dogs over six months old. It defines a kennel as “a facility where a commercial breeder keeps, maintains or houses dogs or cats.” AKC GR is working with local concerned breeders to initiate a dialogue with the bill sponsor. The bill was tabled in the House Political Subdivisions Committee and returned to the Rules Committee.

WashingtonHouse Bill 1018 would make changes to the state’s dangerous dog law preventing local governments from enacting breed-specific ordinances. It has been heard 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.

WashingtonSenate Bill 5501 amends state animal cruelty laws to make it a class 2 civil infraction to leave or confine any animal unattended in a motor vehicle or enclosed space if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation or lack of necessary water. It allows animal control officers and law enforcement officers who believe the animal is in danger to remove the animal from the vehicle. AKC GR has submitted a letter in support of this legislation, which is scheduled to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee.