Taking Command Newsletter

State Issues: News from the State Capitols

May 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 548, a bill to regulate dog breeders, seeks to establish criminal penalties for failure to comply with undefined and arbitrary requirements for the care, feeding, and housing of dogs. Compliance with the problematic provisions of HB 548 would be required for every person or organization that has “custody or ownership” of ten or more intact dogs over the age of six months for the “purpose of breeding the dogs and selling the offspring”.  This bill would also criminalize certain humane and accepted dog care practices. Violations would be the pejorative crime of “operating a puppy mill”.  HB 548 has been assigned to the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee.

Alabama Senate Bill 468, seeks to establish prohibitions, restrictions, requirements and penalties regarding outdoor tethering and confinement of dogs.  Among other provisions, it would require that dogs kept outdoors be confined by one of the following methods:  1) in a pen or enclosure with adequate space for exercise depending on the age, size, “species”, and weight of the dog; 2) in a fully fenced, electronically fenced, or otherwise securely enclosed yard where the dog has the ability run; or 3) on a trolley system or overhead cable run that meets requirements regarding height, length, and other specifications. The bill does not include provisions for dog owners who enclose dogs in pens or kennel runs with regular access to larger exercise areas, leash walking, visits to dog parks, or other forms of exercise. SB 468 has passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Arkansas — House Bill 1620 sought to enact problematic regulations for dog breeding and require regulation of “commercial breeding kennels” in which ten or more female dogs are maintained for the purpose of breeding. AKC GR issued letters of concern to committee members and legislative alerts. HB 1620 was referred for study by the Joint Interim Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee. 

California — Assembly Concurrent Resolution 56 would designate shelter animals as the state pet. This measure is assigned to the Governmental Organization Committee but has not been set for a hearing.

CaliforniaAssembly Bill 494 would enable courts to include protections for companion animals in restraining orders in cases involving juvenile dependency, elder abuse, and civil harassment. California state law already allows animals to be included in protection orders in domestic violence cases. The American Kennel Club is supporting this legislation. The bill has passed the Assembly and is awaiting hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

CaliforniaAssembly Bill 794 would extend protections provided to law enforcement dogs and horses to dogs and horses being handled by volunteers under the supervision of a law enforcement officer. Specifically, it would enhance penalties for attacking or intentionally injuring a dog or horse in these circumstances. The AKC supports this legislation.

Connecticut — House Bill 6187 seeks to permit courts to order that a separate, independent advocate be assigned to represent the interests of an animal in a criminal proceeding in which the welfare or custody of the animal is at issue.  AKC has concerns with this measure, including the potential for legal confusion about who will be ultimately responsible for making decisions impacting animals, and the potential for providing advocates akin to guardians ad litem that are traditionally used to protect the interests of people.  AKC GR has communicated with the sponsor and committee and sent a legislative alert to clubs.  The bill had a public hearing on April 1.  At the time of publishing, no further action has been taken. Read more about this legislation.  

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. The bill was amended to clarify that a warning will be issued for a first offense. AKC supports SB 22, which has passed the Senate and is pending in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

Florida — House Bill 71 /Senate Bill 414 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 be required to serve 30 hours of community service working for an organization that services those with disabilities. HB 71 passed both houses and has been sent to the governor.

Florida — House Bill 187 and the companion measure, Senate Bill 262, would have regulated greyhound racing in the state by providing that animals may not race if they have been administered certain medications.  It also requires certain drug testing of animals and certain record keeping relating to injured animals, and directs the Division of Pari-Mutuel wagering to direct standards for racetrack surfaces. Both HB 187 and the companion bill, Senate 262, died in committee.

Florida — House Bill 207 and the companion bill, Senate Bill 670 would have allowed 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. Both bills died in committee.

Florida — House Bill 497 and the companion, SB 1234 would have established standards and regulations for animal shelters, require rescue groups to be a 501(c)(3) organization by definition, and direct shelters to work with these rescue groups. Both bills died in committee.

Georgia — Senate Bill 184 would have provided that the regulation of dogs based on breed shall only be established by general law, thereby preventing local breed-specific laws. AKC supported this bill, which passed in the Senate, but was not considered in the House prior to adjournment.

Hawaii — House 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.

Iowa — Senate File 502 (formerly Senate Files 347 and 168) 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. Breeders also could be subject to onerous license fees, and required to purchase multiple licenses if they meet more than one definition (such as a breeder who also grooms, etc.). There is a new license for “small breeders, competitive show breeders, and specialized breeders” who either keep three litters or 30 puppies in a fiscal year, whichever is fewer.  It is unclear if someone would have to purchase both this license and a commercial breeder license if they meet both definitions.  The bill is pending on the Senate floor.  Read AKC’s alert on SF502 for more information on this measure.

Kentucky — Senate Bill 124 would have allowed 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. This measure to prevent breed-specific legislation passed in the Senate Agriculture Committee, but did not advance to a floor vote prior to the end of the legislative session. 

Louisiana — House Bill 710 seeks to require certain dog breeders to register annually with their parish and to submit to annual inspections of their facilities by local officials.  AKC GR expressed concern that the bill unnecessarily duplicates federal regulatory oversight of breeders, employs vague and potentially unconstitutional requirements, imposes an unfunded mandate on localities, and risks empowering individuals without expertise in canine husbandry matters to inspect kennels.  The bill was considered on May 14 by the House Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development Committee.  Due to the opposition from the AKC and other organizations, the committee deferred initial consideration of the bill. The bill is currently scheduled to be considered again on May 28.  Click here to read AKC’s alert on HB 710.  

Michigan — Senate Bill 239 would prohibit local governments from enacting any breed-specific rules or ordinances.  The bill also states that a local government may enact ordinances that place restrictions or additional requirements on dog owners.  SB 239 has passed the Senate Local Government Committee and is pending in the Senate Agriculture Committee. 

Montana — House 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.

Montana — House Bill 608 sought to establish licensing, inspections, problematic regulations, fees and penalties for dog and cat breeders and certain dog rescue participants based on the ownership of eight or more intact adult dogs or cats or the sale or transfer of 31 or more dogs per year.  AKC GR issued letters of concern and a legislative alert. HB 608 was tabled in the Senate Business and Labor Committee.

Montana— Senate 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. AKC GR issued letters of concern and a legislative alert. SB 115 did not advance in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Montana — Senate 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 AKC’s support for this measure.

Nebraska — Legislative Bill 360 makes several changes to the state’s animal control and breeder laws.  Among other provisions, it 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 bill was signed by the Governor on May 19. Read more about this legislation.

Nevada — Assembly 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 is in the Assembly Taxation Committee but has not been heard.

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 has passed both houses and been sent to the governor.

New Hampshire  House 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 would 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; permit courts to order forfeiture of animals of those found guilty/civilly-liable for violating animal statutes; provide for new animal control officer rules and regulations; and create a statewide animal cruelty registry. This bill has passed the Assembly and is currently pending in the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

New Jersey  Assembly 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 Jersey  Assembly Bill 3037 would create 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 Jersey  Assembly 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 Jersey  Senate 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 Mexico — House Bill 415, as introduced, sought to allow methods to fund a spay/neuter program, but also contained a provision that requires the state’s animal shelter board to develop and implement a statewide spay and neuter program.  After concerns were raised by the AKC and local clubs, the Senate Public Affairs Committee amended the bill to require the board to develop a voluntary spay/neuter program, and removed the requirement that they must implement the program. The board must also develop criteria for individuals, groups, shelters and “euthanasia agencies” to receive assistance for dog and cat sterilization from the animal care and facility fund. A tax return check-off will also be included to allow donations to the program.  Some concerns remained about the lack of transparency by the animal shelter board and the lack of plan if tax donations do not fully fund the program; however, the AKC thanks those who took the time to contact the Senate and successfully got the bill amended to remove the mandatory spay/neuter concerns.  The bill has been signed by the governor and will go into effect on July 1.

New York – Assembly Bill 1451 would require licensing, inspections and other regulations for “pet grooming facilities”, defined as a business where a pet may be bathed, brushed, clipped or styled and pet grooming is the establishment’s predominant source of sales.  The bill has passed the Assembly Economic Development Committee and is pending in the Assembly Codes Committee.  Read more about this legislation.  

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 has been approved by the Assembly and is pending in the Senate Agriculture Committee. Read more about Assembly Bill 1679.

New York — Assembly Bill 7033 provides reasonable clarifications to current laws regarding minimum standards for dogs kept in outdoor shelters in inclement weather and extreme temperatures.  The AKC supports this bill, which passed the Assembly Agriculture Committee on May 19 and is pending in the Codes Committee.  Read more about this legislation.

New York — Senate Bill 3850 would allow owners to take their companion animals on public transportation if a state of emergency is declared.  This is a bill that would partner with virtually identical legislation passed in New Jersey to assist those utilizing public transportation through the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  The animal must be under the owner’s control (leash, crate, etc.), and passengers with service animals will be given first priority.  The bill has passed committee and is pending consideration by the full Senate.  Read more about this legislation

New York — Senate Bill 4327/Assembly Bill 5956 would allow dogs in outdoor dining areas, as long as certain requirements are met.  “Food service establishments” would be required to provide a separate entrance for customers bringing their dogs, and dogs must be leashed or in a pet carrier.  Dogs would not be permitted on seats, benches, or other fixtures within the dining area.  AKC supports these measures, which are both pending in the Assembly Health Committee.  Read more about these bills.

North Carolina — House Bill 159 seeks to define “commercial breeder” as any person who owns, has custody of, or maintains 10 or more female dogs over the age of 6 months for the purpose of breeding. Kennels that keep and breed dogs primarily for hunting, sporting, field trials or show 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 passed the House and being held in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

North Carolina — House Bill 199Senate Bill 247 would allow Raleigh law enforcement and police officers to adopt the animals they worked with or handled during the animal’s service.  H199 has passed the House and is pending in the Senate Committee on State and Local Government.  S247 has passed the Senate with an amendment to add Mecklenburg County to the legislation. The AKC supports this legislation.  Read more about these bills.

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 passed the House and is on Second Reading in the Senate.

Oregon  Senate 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 will be carried over to the 2016 session.

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 carried over to the 2016 session.

Oregon  Senate 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 the 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.

Pennsylvania — Senate Bill 22 makes several changes to the Commonwealth’s consumer protection laws, including clarifying that a dog may not be rendered “unfit for purchase” if the dog has intestinal or external parasites, unless the dog is clinically ill or dies, or if the dog has an injury or illness likely contracted subsequent to the date of sale.  SB 22 also requires “releasing agencies (rescues, shelters, etc.) to provide health certificates including vaccinations, medical treatments, and known medical conditions and any illness or disease the dog currently has or has ever had.  The bill also amends the timelines for dogs being considered unfit for purchase.  The AKC and Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs both support this legislation, which unanimously passed the Senate Consumer Protection Committee on April 15.  Read more about this legislation.

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 373 would amend the commonwealth’s cruelty laws to regulate tethering and sheltering for dogs kept outdoors.  The bill would prohibit tethering a dog outside for more than 30 minutes if the temperature is below 32 degrees. The AKC is concerned that this would impact field trials, sledding, dog training, and other activities where a dog could be humanely tethered in these temperatures.  AKC GR is recommending that the bill be clarified to instead state that a dog should not be left outdoors in conditions where the health and safety of the dog is in immediate danger.  The bill has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is pending consideration by the full Senate.  Read more about this legislation.  

Rhode Island — In 2013, Rhode Island took an important stand against discriminatory dog legislation by establishing a fair statewide breed-neutral animal control policy.  In the legislative sessions that have followed, up to and including this year, certain localities have attempted to create exceptions to the state policy.  HB 5800 is yet another attempt at rolling back the state’s protections against local breed-specific laws.  If enacted, HB 5800 would automatically reinstate local breed-specific ordinances that were in effect prior to the state’s 2013 ban.  The AKC opposed HB 5800. The Rhode Island House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee considered the bill on April 29 and recommended it be held for further study.  This likely ends consideration of this bill for the remainder of the current legislative session. 

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.  HB 5573 would remove those exemptions, and require those parties to comply with the state’s statutory restrictions.  The AKC expressed concern that should HB 5573 be enacted, some long-accepted humane practices utilized by trainers and handlers in AKC performance events and other lawful activities would be unnecessarily and unreasonably restricted and potentially put dogs in danger.  AKC further expressed belief that current law appropriately protects dogs and does not increase the risk of inhumane treatment.  The Rhode Island House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee considered the bill and recommended it be held for further study, likely ending its consideration for the remainder of the current legislative session. 

Tennessee  Senate Bill 1204, which establishes a state animal abuser registry, was signed by the governor and takes effect January 1, 2016.

Tennessee — Proposed amendments to House Bill 1142 and Senate Bill 1020 seek to require licensing, fees, and inspections for “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 bills also would grant access to dog owners’ private property and give enforcement powers to “appointees” who are not government employees or law enforcement officers and would further empower “appointees” and “designees” to be granted administrative warrants to come onto the property and examine the records of any dog owner in order to determine if a violation has occurred.  This authority could be granted based on a “complaint”. AKC GR issued letters of concern and legislative alerts.  These measures were deferred to the 2016 legislative session, and HB 1142 has been withdrawn.

South CarolinaHouse 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.

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.

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 House Judiciary Committee but not yet set for a vote. AKC GR supported this legislation which is eligible to be heard again in 2016.

Washington  Senate 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 submitted a letter in support of this legislation. A modified version of the bill was signed into law by the Governor. (Washington state law allows for a partial veto.)