What’s New from AKC Government Relations

This issue of Taking Command reviews major issues and emerging trends in legislation.  Among other developments, an increasing number of proposed laws seek to establish arbitrary dog care requirements that are not based on scientific criteria or accepted animal husbandry practices. 

For example, some states and communities have proposed laws that would require owners to provide dogs with “constant and unfettered access” to an outdoor enclosure. Others are doing the exact opposite, making it a crime to leave a dog outdoors unattended, even in a safe enclosure with shade, water, other animals as companions, and a snug dog house.

Proponents of these conflicting laws claim to have the dogs’ best interests at heart. However, such laws fail to recognize that dogs come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  Some breeds were developed to work, live and thrive in desert conditions while other breeds happily work, play and live in icy sub-zero temperatures. The housing, feeding, exercise, socialization, and care that should be given to a Great Pyrenees that guards a flock is quite different from the care required by a silky-coated five-pound Maltese.  

Knowledgeable dog owners recognize these differences and provide care suited to the breed, age, conditioning, and health of each individual dog.  The ill-advised one-size-fits-all requirements contained in many dog bills do not consider the needs of different breeds or of individual dogs, and may even pose risks to the health and wellbeing of dogs. Such harmful provisions must be vigorously opposed.

Arbitrary animal care laws also create a confusing patchwork of contradictory requirements that not only may fail to protect dogs, but also are barriers to responsible dog ownership. How many good, caring owners could be criminalized because of nonsensical laws? How many people will miss out on the joy of dog ownership because of arbitrary agendas?

In 2015, AKC Government Relations tracked more than 1,700 bills that contained provisions of potential interest to dog owners. This year is an election year, and for many states 2016 is the second year of two-year legislative session.  Legislative sessions are often shorter in election years, and legislators will be under pressure to advance bills quickly before returning to their districts.  

Animal bills that are perceived to be popular by legislators may be allowed to advance rapidly or be used as political bargaining tools. That’s why it is important for all responsible dog owners to remain vigilant, support positive legislation, and immediately take action to oppose measures that could damage the future of responsible dog ownership.

As canine legislation and regulations become increasingly complex, the devil is in the details. The use of “and” versus “or”, and “may” versus “shall” in a bill can have significant consequences for dogs and dog owners. AKC GR’s comments and action on legislative issues are based on analysis of the details of each measure, in accordance with AKC’s policy statements and what is in the best interest of dogs.  The AKC also works to support positive legislation that protects dogs and preserves the rights of owners to own, breed, compete, and enjoy their dogs.

We encourage AKC clubs that do not already have one to appoint a Legislative Liaison to serve as an important contact person for AKC GR.  Also, please consider joining your state federation and becoming part of a coalition of constituents dedicated to protecting the rights of dog owners.  If your state does not currently have a federation, AKC can assist you in forming one and connect you with others in your area who take an active role in canine legislation. 

AKC Government Relations is here to help you!  We provide information and tools to assist you with legislative issues that may arise in your community or state. AKC GR staff members are also available to help analyze legislation and connect you with other advocates who can help you communicate with lawmakers. 

For questions on legislation, or to advise us of an emerging local legislative issue, please contact the AKC GR Department at (919) 816-3720 or doglaw@akc.org.