AKC 2014 Legislative Successes

The following list provides some of the highlights of AKC Government Relations’ (AKC GR) legislative successes through September 3, 2014. Other victories not included in this list have been won by AKC federations, clubs, and responsible dog owners and breeders around the country who continue to work tirelessly to promote positive canine legislation in their state and community.

To view all Legislative Alerts posted for your state in 2014, as well as the latest information on all bills being tracked by the AKC Government Relations Department, visit the 2014 Legislation Tracking page. To see a list of legislative successes from 2013, click here.

Federal/Regulation — The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) released regulations effective November 17 that implement Section 18 of the Animal Welfare Act, which prohibits importation of dogs into the United States for resale unless the dogs are at least 6 months of age and meet basic health clearances. These requirements, which were part of the 2008 Farm Bill, represent years of effort by the AKC, NAIA and other dog experts concerned about the public health impact of large numbers of puppies imported into the United States with little oversight. In many cases, these imported animals come from unknown origins (strays or street dogs) or unregulated high volume commercial breeders and may pose health risks to human and canine populations. The measure is expected to curtail the ”dumping” of potentially ill and parasite-infested imported puppies on US markets, where they may be resold or marketed as “rescues”.

Federal/Regulation – The "Farm Bill ( HR 2642) and the Farm Bill Conference Report, which was signed by the President on February 7, provides two changes negotiated by AKC to reduce the number of small hobby breeders subject to USDA licensing and regulation as pet dealers. It exempts small hobby breeders who maintain more than four "breeding females" but do not transfer more than a "de minimis" (minimal) number of pets sight unseen. Also, the conference report directs APHIS to clarify the term "breeding female" to mean only those female animals capable of reproduction and actively being used in a breeding program should qualify as breeding females. By including only those animals currently part of an active breeder program, breeders will be able to maintain retired intact females or grow out young females without fear of triggering federal licensing requirements. In each instance, USDA APHIS is directed to prepare specific regulations that further address these issues. Visit AKC GR’s online Regulations Resource Page for the latest information.

Connecticut – Senate Bill 445 was developed pursuant to a 2013 task force investigating the "retail" sale of cats and dogs from "inhumane origins". As amended by the Joint Committee on Environment, the measure establishes standards of care for dogs owned by individuals who maintain more than 10 dogs capable of breeding that are consistent with the standards required of animal importers. It requires pet sellers to post the USDA inspection reports of breeders from whom they source puppies, and bans the sale of pets from breeders with certain USDA regulatory violations. The measure further clarifies that the reimbursement under the state’s puppy lemon law is limited to the purchase price of the dog or cat, provided that the pet is diagnosed with a congenital disorder within 6 months of purchase. AKC and the Connecticut Dog Federation submitted testimony and communicated extensively with the task force to ensure a fair, reasonable law. Governor Malloy has signed the bill into law.

Georgia – On February 25, the Albany city commission tabled a proposed ordinance that would  have required registration of "pit bull" dogs, established stringent enclosure requirements, and required owners to maintain $100,000 liability insurance or a $15,000 surety bond. The proposal would have defined "pit bulls" as American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of the breeds. 

HawaiiHouse Bill 2534 would have required anyone who owns or has custody of ten or more unsterilized dogs over the age of one year to register with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. AKC GR issued a legislative alert and sent letters of opposition. The bill was deferred in committee.

HawaiiSenate Bill 414, which carried forward from 2013, sought to require licensing of persons who own or have custody of ten or more intact dogs over the age of 12 months and sell more than 3 litters or more than 25 dogs per year. The bill would have established problematic regulations, prohibited ownership or custody of more than 30 intact dogs over 1 year of age, and prohibited breeding any dog (male or female) older than age 8. SB 414 passed in the Senate in 2013, but did not advance in House committees. AKC GR issued legislative alerts and sent letters of opposition.

Hawaii – Senate Bill 2049 sought to strengthen existing law by providing that the owner of an attacking dog shall be liable for injuries caused by the dog on both private and public property. AKC GR proposed a friendly amendment to add the phrase "without provocation" to the bill text in order to provide protection for a dog and dog owner in the event that the dog reacted to provocation by a human or other animal. The amendment was accepted by the Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee; however, the bill did not advance in additional Senate committees.

IowaSenate File 2361 (formerly SF 2166 and SF 2254) would have created many new restrictions and requirements for "commercial breeders", which are currently defined as someone who has four or more intact dogs and receives any kind of consideration for breeding. Provisions of concern included significantly increasing license fees to pay for a new "animal rescue remediation fund" to pay for the "rescue" of animals from commercial kennels. All who meet the definition of commercial breeder would have been required to open up their kennels for unannounced inspections and by 2015 the primary enclosures would have to be two times that required by USDA. In addition, breeders would have been prohibited from being involved in certain rescue activities. A "special" license would have been provided to "small breeders, competitive show breeders, or specialized breeders", but none of these terms were defined, and these licensees would still have been subject to many regulations. AKC issued legislative alerts and letters to the Senate, and worked closely with numerous breeders, fanciers, and AKC club members in opposition to this bill. Read more about this victory for Iowa dog breeders.

Kentucky – BR1720 would have established standards of animal care which were written so broadly that an owner could be charged with felony cruelty if an animal suffered an accidental injury. AKC GR sent letters of concern. The measure was withdrawn by the sponsor.

Kentucky House Bill 409 would have established "minimum care standards" which, among other problematic provisions, would have required owners to provide dogs and cats with "continuous access" to an exercise area. This would have criminalized many responsible pet owners, particularly apartment dwellers and others who lack such facilities. Failure to provide such standards of care would have been the crime of felony torture. HB 409 also would have allowed officers to seize a pet without a warrant and required the owner to either relinquish ownership prior to adjudication or post bond for care of the impounded animal. If found not guilty or if the charges were dropped, the owner would have been reimbursed only the unused funds. AKC GR sent letters of opposition. HB 409 did not advance in committee.

Louisiana – In response to a tragic bite event in a neighboring parish, a Lafourche Parish councilman publicly discussed introducing breed-specific restrictions. Because of AKC GR’s outreach, along with those of several concerned residents, the council ultimately considered breed-neutral updates to the Parish’s dangerous dog ordinances instead. Lafourche Parish remains a breed-neutral jurisdiction.

Maryland HB 73 and SB 247 repeal the Tracey v. Solesky Court of Appeals ruling that declared all "pit bulls" as inherently dangerous. The AKC supports the repeal of this discriminatory court ruling. The measures also establish that the owner of a dog is liable for any injury, death, or loss to person or property caused while their dog is running at large unless the loss was caused by someone committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense or if the dog was being teased, tormented, abused or provoked. The bills were signed by the governor in April and go into effect immediately. AKC sent letters in support of repealing this breed-specific court ruling.

MichiganHouse Bill 4168 makes updates to the licensing requirements in the state's "Dog Law of 1919". This includes removing the current provision requiring sheriffs to locate and kill all unlicensed dogs. Under current law, any sheriff that did not comply would be considered negligent in their duties. AKC GR and its state federation supported the repeal of this antiquated and egregious provision. The bill was signed by the governor on March 12, 2014.

New Jersey
Senate Bill 1804 and Assembly Bill 3445 would permit pet owners to board public transportation with domesticated animals during emergency evacuations. The AKC applauds the New Jersey legislature's efforts to protect the Garden State's dogs – and owners who might otherwise not evacuate a dangerous area – by providing the means by which responsible owners and their pets can escape areas of danger. The bills were signed into law on January 21.

New YorkAssembly Bill 1204 / Senate Bill 2271 would have banned the practice of canine "devocalization". The only exemptions would have been for instances when it is medically necessary to treat or relieve a physical illness or an abnormality causing pain or harm. Veterinarians who performed the procedure could have their license revoked. AKC GR issued legislative alerts and sent letters of concern on these bills.  A.1204 passed the Assembly, but both A.1204 and S.2271 were held in the Senate Agriculture Committee. 

New YorkAssembly Bill 3371 would have required all breeders to be licensed and inspected if they breed three or more animals a year “for profit”. AKC GR sent a message opposing the definition of “breeder”, explaining that this would require people to open up their private homes for unannounced inspections. The bill was held in the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

New York Assembly Bill 6368 / Senate Bill 7336 would have prevented any person from participating in a “circus” if they have had a USDA violation within the past two years. The definition of “circus” included any event where an animal is trained to “perform some behavior or action”, unless the organization hosting the event is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. This would potentially have defined numerous AKC and AKC club events in New York State as “circuses” and could have subjected them to further regulation. The AKC sent a letter of opposition to this definition to the Assembly Economic Development Committee. A. 6368 was scheduled for a committee hearing on May 28, but no action was taken. S 7336 was held in the Senate Consumer Protection Committee.

New York Assembly Bill 7064 would have required any permanent structure where animals are kept to be equipped with a fire suppression system and an alarm system that directly connects to the local police and fire departments. AKC GR sent a letter of concern over the extensive unnecessary cost and burden this would place on animal owners. The bill had a public hearing in the Assembly Agriculture Committee, but was ultimately held.

New York — Senate Bill 7684 / Assembly Bill 8185 would increase the penalty when someone deliberately removes the collar or any form of identification from a companion animal without the owner’s permission. The bills also would increase the penalty when someone entices or seizes a dog when it is properly identified, or transports a companion animal for the purpose of killing or selling it without the owner’s express permission. The AKC supports these bills, which were signed by the governor on July 23 and take effect immediately.

North Carolina — Senate Bill 744, the Appropriations Act (the state budget) for 2014, passed the General Assembly without problematic amendments initially approved by the House. The House amendments would have transferred jurisdiction of the state’s Animal Welfare Act out of the state Department of Agriculture to the Department of Public Safety, and established vague new dog dealer definitions that would have required individuals who own more than 10 intact female dogs to be licensed and regulated by the state as commercial “dog dealers”, regardless of actual breeding or commercial activity. It also would have transferred funds from the state’s spay/neuter program to set up a fund that would allow donations by private groups to pay for kennel inspections required by the proposed new regulations. These amendments were not included in the final budget that has been signed by the governor.  AKC GR encourages dog owners and breeders to contact key legislators and thank them for not allowing these problematic amendments to be included in the budget.

North Carolina — House Bill 930 would have defined “large commercial dog breeding facilities" as individuals who own 10 or more intact females over the age of six months. It also would have established care and conditions within criminal — rather than typical animal welfare — codes for this group. AKC GR expressed strong concern with the definition of commercial dog breeder. Senate leadership ultimately held the bill due to some tactics used by some of the bill’s supporters, AKC GR is conducting outreach with key officials to develop a long-term strategy for addressing these canine policy concerns in North Carolina.

Rhode IslandHouse Bill 7198 sought to roll back some of the state’s protections against local breed-specific legislation that were enacted in 2013 by permitting localities to mandate spay/neuter requirements on specific breeds. AKC GR issued a legislative alert and wrote a letter in opposition to the bill. Upon its consideration of the bill on February 6, the House Municipal Government Committee recommended that the bill be held for further study. The legislature adjourned without taking further action on this bill.

Rhode Island — Like HB 7198, House Bill 7630 also seeks to roll back some of the state’s protections against local breed-specific legislation by specifically allowing the City of Warwick to enact ordinances to require the spaying/neutering of “pit bulls” and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. AKC GR issued a legislative alert opposing HB 7630 and wrote the committee urging opposition to the bill. The bill was considered on March 20, by the House Municipal Government Committee, which recommended that the bill be held for further study.  The bill did not advance this session. 

Rhode IslandHouse Bill 8205 seeks to limit all Rhode Island dog owners from owning or harboring any dog six months of age and older that has not been spayed or neutered. To be excepted from the mandatory spay/neuter requirement, individuals would be required to purchase an annual “intact” dog permit costing $100 per dog. AKC GR issued a legislative alert, wrote a letter in opposition to the bill, and worked with resident dog breeders and owners to oppose the bill.  The House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee held the bill for further study.  A special legislative commission was created to further look at this issue, and AKC GR will be closely following this commission and any recommendations that may be proposed.

South DakotaSenate Bill 75 prohibits local governments from enacting, maintaining, or enforcing breed-specific laws. AKC GR sent letters and issued Legislative Alerts in support of this measure. The bill was signed by Governor Daugaard on March 13, 2014.

Tennessee – House Bill 621 / Senate Bill 865, which carried over from the 2013 session, would have enacted vague and unreasonable definitions of "dangerous" and "vicious" dogs and required owners of dogs so designated to carry special insurance. AKC GR issued legislative alerts and letters of opposition. HB 621 was taken off notice in committee in 2013 and withdrawn in 2014.

TennesseeHouse Bill 2385 / Senate Bill 2468 sought to delete a provision that terminates the Commercial Breeder Act on June 30, 2014. SB 2468 failed in the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and therefore the Tennessee Commercial Breeder Act will end on June 30. The Act, which went into effect January 1, 2010, cost taxpayers more than $1 million to regulate approximately 20 commercial breeders. Dog breeders and owners will continue to be subject to Tennessee’s animal cruelty laws which make it a crime to fail to provide food, water, care or shelter for an animal or to transport or confine an animal in a cruel manner. AKC GR issued several legislative and informational alerts on the bills.

UtahHouse Bill 97 prohibits municipalities from adopting or enforcing any breed-specific rule, regulation, policy or ordinance. It further states that any current breed-specific rule or policy in the state is void. AKC GR sent letters and Legislative Alerts in support of the measure. The bill was signed by the Governor and goes into effect on January 1, 2015.

Vermont – Under original Vermont law, when someone was charged with animal cruelty, a prosecutor was permitted to bring an additional civil proceeding to determine whether the defendant should continue to own animals; and was required to prove by "clear and convincing evidence" that the defendant should not. However, as introduced, Senate Bill 237 would have mandated a civil proceeding and would have lowered the burden of proof to a "preponderance of the evidence." The bill did not provide for a right to appeal before property rights were extinguished, and did not protect the rights of non-possessory co-owners to be permitted to take possession of the dogs should the defendant be ordered to forfeit ownership. In light of several high-profile cases where animals were seized after defendants were charged with, but ultimately not found guilty of, animal cruelty and in which animals were permanently altered or sold, the AKC, joined by the Vermont Federation of Dog Clubs, expressed concern that SB 237 was a dangerous proposition for Vermont residents. The bill was subsequently amended to address concerns, has passed the Vermont House and Senate, and awaits Governor Shumlin’s signature.