UPDATE (June 1, 2015): Governor McCrory vetoed HB 405 on Friday, May 29. The legislature now has the option of overriding this veto with a 3/5 majority vote in both chambers. The AKC supports this measure and urges North Carolinians to contact their state senator and representative today and ask them support a veto override. Visit the Legislative Action Center and type in your address to find the name and contact information for your state legislators.
A bill to protect private property rights in North Carolina has been approved by the General Assembly, but not without a strong fight from animal rights groups.
House Bill 405, known as the “Property Protection Act”, would expand current law to hold a person liable for damages when they intentionally access a non-public area of someone else’s premises and “engage in an act that exceeds the person’s authority to enter those areas….” In other words, if someone accesses a private area of another person’s property without permission, they can be held liable for any damages.
This would include employees entering a private area of a business for any reason other than a true intent of holding employment or doing business with the employer and doing any of the following without permission or authorization:
- Capturing or removing data, paper, records, or any other documents
- Recording images or sound
- Knowingly/intentionally placing electronic surveillance or a secret camera on the employer’s premises and using the device to record data or images
- Conspiring in “organized retail theft” or
- Committing any act that substantially interferes with property ownership or possession.
None of these acts may be used to “breach the person’s duty of loyalty to the employer.”
So what does this mean in practical terms? Although animal rights activists continue to call the measure “ag gag” and vehemently oppose it, the bill does not single out agricultural businesses or dog breeders. Instead, it applies to all private properties and protects them from corporate espionage, theft, and other activities that would harm legitimate, legal business. The bill specifically states that this would not apply to legitimate whistle-blowers, who are protected when filing a legitimate complaint, threatening to testify or provide other information in good faith.
For North Carolina dog owners, someone could not come to a kennel appearing to wish to conduct business or be hired as kennel help and then access private areas without permission, cause damage, steal information or records, or plant recording devices. It also protects dog owners from those who may attempt to steal dogs or access areas such as whelping boxes that are off-limits to the public for health and safety reasons.
In short, House Bill 405 simply prevents persons from accessing areas and documents that they do not legally have access to, and also from planting surveillance equipment, illegally recording activities, and conducting other similar actions. This would protect businesses from those who may wish to then share information with competitors or those who wish to shut down legitimate, legal businesses.
The bill has been overwhelmingly approved by the North Carolina General Assembly and will be sent to Governor McCrory soon.