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Taking Command Newsletter

State Issues August 2020

Here are some highlights of state-level issues AKC GR is currently tracking.

Arkansas –  An executive order signed by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson extends certain liability protections to businesses that open or remain open during the COVID-19 health emergency.  Among other provisions, persons and their employees, agents, and officers shall be immune from civil liability for damages or injuries resulting from exposure to COVID-19 on the premises or during any activity managed by those persons.  The immunity does not apply to willful, reckless, or intentional misconduct and presumes substantial compliance with health and safety directives or guidelines.

California – Senate Bill 573 would require all shelters to scan a dog for a microchip and would require all shelters and rescues to not release a dog – even back to its owner – without a microchip.  Exemptions are provided for medical concerns, or if the owner signs a form stating that getting a microchip would be a financial hardship.  The bill passed the Senate, passed Assembly committees, and is pending on the Assembly consent calendar.

California – AB 2152 as introduced only allowed pet stores to showcase animals for adoption if they come from animal control, a shelter, or rescue—and only so long as the group was not affiliated with breeders.  AKC GR expressed strong concern with the implication that breeders should not be involved in rescue work and provided extensive education about AKC breed rescues as distinct from retail rescue organizations.  The bill has been amended to prohibit commercial entities who are misrepresenting themselves as rescues from sourcing to pet stores, and to remove the pejorative implication impacting hobby breeders and AKC clubs involved in responsible breed rescue activities. This bill passed the Assembly and is pending consideration by the full Senate.

California – AB 1850 has been amended into AB 2257.  Both bills seek to amend a new law that would require employers to provide the same benefits to independent contractors as to full time employees in certain circumstances. This issue is of concern because it is open to interpretation whether this would include the hiring of judges by AKC clubs for their events.  AKC has worked with a number of other stakeholders on AB 1850, which provides a clear exemption for all competition judges. A Senate committee combined multiple bills on this issue into Assembly Bill 2257 and retained the requested exemption for competition judges.  AKC GR sent a letter in support of the amendment to Assembly Bill 2257, which is now pending consideration by the full Senate.  Read more.

California – AB 2059 is labeled “Protection from Unnecessary Testing Act” and will prohibit animal testing, except under certain conditions. Conducting testing outside the limitations of this bill would become a criminal act.  This bill is currently in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations with no hearing date set.

California – SB 1115 allows commercial blood banks to obtain blood from community-sourced animals (currently not allowed in California) and establishes procedures for phasing out current commercial blood banks (captive closed-colony blood banks) for animals if certain criteria are met.  This is in response to Governor Newsom’s 2019 veto message for SB 202 (previous version of bill to allow for community-sourced donors). It has passed the Senate and is pending in the Assembly Agriculture Committee.  Read more

Connecticut – A Task Force on Police Transparency and Accountability has proposed three subcommittees to provide recommendations on improving police interactions, assessing resource allocations and collecting data on police actions.  A final report and legislative recommendations are expected by December.  AKC GR is monitoring to evaluate whether the utilization of working police K-9s is addressed.

Connecticut – The state Department of Agriculture released draft regulations for animal importers and shelters.  AKC GR reviewed the proposal, issued an alert encouraging recommendations for strengthening the proposed rules, and issued a formal comment to the commissioner.  The Department of Agriculture is currently reviewing submitted comments.

GeorgiaSB 359 provides protections from certain liability claims related to COVID-19.  It further establishes assumption of risk presumptions and sets out provisions whereby entities can provide notification of waiver of risk through the posting of signage and other methods. It was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp and enacted as Act 588.

Massachusetts – In June, the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus filed HD 5128, which included a provision prohibiting the utilization of working police K-9s.  Senate Ways and Means released SB 2800, designating the release of a dog as a prohibited use of force unless de-escalation techniques are attempted and fail, and the use of force is necessary and proportionate to the threat of imminent harm.  Both bills mischaracterize how working police K-9s are utilized.  On July 13, AKC GR hosted an educational program for Massachusetts lawmakers with two expert K-9 police handlers on the value of purpose-bred working dogs, and police K-9 certifications, policies and procedures used to protect public safety.  This effort resulted in acceptable K-9 text in the Senate’s final bill, SB 2820.  The House-passed legislation differs significantly and a conference committee is working now to determine the final version.  AKC GR continues to work with legislators, police departments, and key grassroots contacts to ensure the conference committee’s final product respects the appropriate use of police K-9s.  The presentation can be viewed here with passcode 2L#Arer2.

Massachusetts – On May 8, 2020, the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government released a committee re-draft of multiple animal bills that did not include the HB 1822 proposed ban on dogs outside and unattended opposed by AKC GR, dog owners, breeders, sportsmen and police officers that have dogs that would be negatively impacted. The committee re-draft, SB 2760, has been sent to Senate Ways and Means Committee where additional dog legislation is under consideration.  It would make significant harmful changes to current law if enacted.  AKC GR worked with Massachusetts advocates to create a bill summary outlining all the concerns.

Massachusetts – Two pet retail ban bills – HB 800 and SB 175 – were re-drafted by the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.  The re-draft, SB 2592 does not ban pet stores from selling dogs or cats.  Instead, it establishes health certificate requirements, consumer protections and standards for all animal transfers whether made by a pet store, animal shelter, rescue or breeder.  AKC GR is generally pleased with SB 2592 and will advocate for clarifying amendments.

 Massachusetts – SB 2158 would create a civil infraction for presenting a pet dog as a service dog and authorize the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development to prepare and make available to businesses upon request: (i) a decal suitable for posting in a front window or door stating that service dogs are welcome and that misrepresentation of a service dog is a violation of Massachusetts law; and (ii) a brochure detailing permissible questions a business owner may ask to determine whether a dog is a service dog, acceptable answers to those questions, and guidelines defining unacceptable behavior.  It was favorably reported from the Joint Federal Affairs Committee on April 21, 2020 and sent to Senate Ways and Means for consideration. AKC GR supports this bill.

Massachusetts – HB 4230 and SB 2423 (“Nero’s bill”) would allow EMTs to treat and transport law enforcement K9s injured in the line of duty.  Grassroots support from the Massachusetts dog clubs has been significant.  AKC GR continues to work with bill sponsors to pass the legislation this session.

Massachusetts – SB 595 would prohibit insurance companies from denying homeowners or renters insurance, or from requiring a higher premium based upon breed, size or weight of a dog owned.  On April 27, 2020, the bill was reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Financial Services Bill and was referred to the committee on Senate Ways and Means.  The Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and AKC GR support it. 

 Michigan – SB 419 regulates animal rescues.  AKC GR and the federation communicated with the sponsor’s office on multiple occasions and worked to clarify several provisions.  Among amendments are clarifications that breeders may be involved in rescue work, so long as they are not breeding dogs they rescue.  AKC GR supports the bill which passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on June 28 and is pending a vote by the full Senate.

 Michigan – House Bill 4035 would prohibit municipalities from enacting breed-specific laws.  Municipalities would still be permitted to enact other policies and regulations on dog owners, so long as these laws do not target specific breeds.  This bill was heard in the House Local Government and Municipal Finance Committee in February and has had significant support from the AKC and clubs. It now awaits review by the House Ways and Means Committee.  Read more

Michigan – House Bill 5577 would significantly restrict when dogs could be kept outside – even for a temporary period of time – and includes any time the dog is not in the visual range of the owner (even in their own yard).  The bill was been assigned to the House Agriculture Committee on March 5, and AKC understands that the chairwoman is very sympathetic to the many concerns and unintended consequences with the bill.  It has not been scheduled for a hearing.  Read more.

 Michigan – House Bills 5808 and 5809 would address the issue of animals seized on suspicion of cruelty.  While the AKC does not object to portions of the proposal relating to actions after a conviction, there are concerns about portions that would require payments during an ongoing trial, and the potential for permanently losing ownership of animals if a payment is missed.  The bills were introduced on May 20 and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.  AKC and its federation are closely monitoring these bills, which have yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

Michigan – House Bill 6009 would ban ear cropping, tail docking and “debarking” unless medically necessary to address an illness or injury.  The bill has been assigned to the House Agriculture Committee and is not currently scheduled for a hearing.  The legislature is in recess until September 1, and AKC is closely monitoring this bill.  Read more.

 Mississippi SB 2311 contains language to reenact provisions relevant to care of police dogs that were scheduled to end on July 1, 2020. These provisions allow certain emergency responders to transport a police dog injured in the line of duty for treatment if there are no persons requiring medical attention or transport at that time. The bill, including the provisions supported by AKC GR, was approved by the Governor.

New Hampshire – The Department of Agriculture is seeking tools to implement a health certificate requirement for animal transfers enacted in as part of a 2019 law. That law called for a statewide electronic animal records database where veterinarians, shelters, pet vendors and hobby breeders would be required to submit health certificates and rabies vaccination records. Some of these requirements came back into legislative play this year in HB 1234 as part of a tactic to consolidate bills and bypass procedural requirements. AKC GR and NH DOGS used this opportunity to request that the definition of licensed “pet vendor” be based upon transfer of 35 dogs per year, not 25 dogs as previously enacted. The Senate committee declined.  HB 1234 was vetoed in late July.

New Hampshire – Governor Sununu has established a Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency, which is considering a statewide uniform system for reporting police misconduct.  AKC GR testified virtually on August 20th requesting that third parties contracted to support enforcement of animal control measures be held accountable for determining proper cause before bringing charges and not acting in bad faith.

New York – As written, S.4577 would restrict dogs being outdoors in certain temperatures.  The Department of Agriculture would be required to issue a Blue Alert or Red Alert when the temperate meets a certain limit.  When an alert is issued, no animal may be left outside or in a vehicle without proper shelter or protectionAKC continues to communicate with the sponsor to address concerns.  The bill passed the Senate Domestic Animal Welfare Committee in February. It remains pending in the Senate Finance Committee.

New York – S. 4234A would prohibit pet stores from selling dogs or cats.  Instead, they would only be allowed to “showcase” animals available for adoption from a shelter, rescue, or adoption agency.  The measure also specifically removes retail pet stores from the definition of “pet dealer”, thereby removing them from the state’s consumer protection laws.  AKC continues to express concerns with this bill, which passed the Senate and is pending in the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

New York – S. 7924 would prohibit homeowners insurance companies from canceling, denying, or increasing policies based solely on the breed or type of dog owned or harbored by the policy holder.  AKC GR supports this bill, which was discussed in the Senate Insurance Committee on July 20. 

Pennsylvania – SB 798 seeks to make changes to the Dangerous Dog Law by changing definitions, increasing a fee, and eliminating the need to prove vicious propensity or history of attacks in determining that a dog is a dangerous dog under the law. The bill removes the term “without provocation” and replaces it with the term “unprovoked.” It then defines unprovoked as any action by a dog that involves biting, attacking or forcibly coming into unwanted physical contact with a person who or domestic animal that is acting peaceably and lawfully.  As a result of this bill, an owner could be cited for “harboring a dangerous dog” after that first attack.  Additionally, it increases the registration fee for a dangerous dog certificate from $500 to $1,000 per calendar year.  The bill passed the Senate on June 8 and was assigned to the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.  AKC GR understands that the bill will not likely be scheduled for a hearing, but continues to monitor it.  Read more

Pennsylvania SB 663/HB 1504 seek to increase fees for dog licenses in an effort to help properly fund the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.  As currently written the bills would increase the license fees and lower the age required for licensing, while eliminating the price differential between intact and spayed or neutered dogs.  The bills have been assigned to their respective Chamber’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.  AKC GR will continue to monitor.  Read more

Tennessee – SB 8002/HB 8001, titled the Tennessee COVID-19 Recovery Act, provides protection from civil liability for loss, damages, injury, or death arising from COVID-19, unless a claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence that there was gross negligence or willful misconduct.  Among covered entities are individuals, corporations, and any legal entity whether for-profit or not-for-profit. The Act is will be automatically repealed on July 1, 2022.  Certain claims filed, notified, or satisfied on or before August 3, 2020, are excluded.

Vermont –The Vermont Legislature committed to review formal recommendations by the Vermont Animal Cruelty Investigation Advisory Board.  After informal discussions, including with the Vermont Federation of Dog Clubs with input by AKC GR, the House Agriculture Committee introduced HB 940 establishing animal cruelty investigation, training and certification for animal control officers.  The bill was removed from the House calendar and recommitted to the Agriculture Committee.  AKC GR will continue to work closely with the Federation on bill text.

Vermont – HB 636 requires a dog trainer to inform his or her client of the methods and equipment that will be used to train the client’s dog and of the risks and benefits of those methods and equipment.  It also requires the dog trainer to obtain the client’s consent to that training.  AKC GR plans to contact the bill sponsor to understand the rationale for the measure once the pandemic emergency subsides.

Vermont – Animal rescues and shelters are asking Governor Scott for authority via emergency orders to resume importing animals into the state and considering breeding animals to meet the demand for pets.  In 2016, registration and oversight requirements for animal importers and shelters were eliminated.  The Vermont Federation of Dog Clubs sent a letter to the Governor on May 21st stating that public health and safety requires registration, vaccination and quarantine by these organizations. AKC GR issued an alert encouraging emails be sent to the Governor in support of the federation’s letter and forwarded a similar request to him on June 3, 2020.  At least one rescue has resumed transport by following state quarantine guidelines.  AKC GR will maintain communication with the Governor’s office to address this issue.

Virginia – The Virginia General Assembly is in Special Session until September 18, 2020 and is considering several pieces of legislation to provide immunity to persons, as defined in the bills, from civil causes of action arising from any act or omission alleged to have resulted in the contraction of or exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

The following bills HB 5019, HB 5037, HB 5040, and SB 5067 have been assigned to the appropriate committees with no current hearings scheduled.  AKC GR will continue to monitor the bills.