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Taking Command Newsletter

State Issues December 2020

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

Connecticut – A Police Transparency and Accountability Taskforce has been gathering public input before issuing recommendations for law enforcement reforms.  AKC GR testified that standards of accountability for law enforcement misconduct should include municipal animal control officers since they are identified as law enforcement personnel.  Submitted testimony requested the taskforce review and include animal control officers, including agents appointed as humane society employees, in their misconduct oversight and disciplinary recommendations to the legislature. The taskforce is looking to issue recommendations for short term objectives in December and for more comprehensive changes in 2021.

Florida – Several bills of interest to dog owners have been pre-filed for the 2021 session.  AKC GR is monitoring closely and will provide more information when available.  

Kentucky – AKC GR is working with advocates to introduce a bill in 2021 to limit enactment and enforcement of breed-specific laws.

Maryland – AKC GR is working with both House and Senate sponsors who have pre-filed legislation in Maryland entitled “Unattended Dogs in Extreme Weather”.  The legislation includes exemptions for hunting, livestock herding, sledding, sporting, or training that were added last session.  AKC GR is seeking to have acclimation added as an exemption for those who are humanely acclimating their dogs to weather in order to perform certain tasks.  Additionally, AKC GR is seeking an amendment to ensure that dogs that cannot meet absolute temperatures listed in the bill are protected by including the phrase: “or in accordance with the age, breed, general health, or condition of the dog and its ability to withstand the environment“.   AKC GR will continue to monitor the legislation and work with the sponsors to get the requested language added. 

Massachusetts The House and Senate introduced bills that would ban or severely limit the use of police K-9s and mischaracterize how working police K-9s are utilized.  AKC GR hosted a 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.  This resulted in acceptable K-9 text in the Senate’s final bill, SB 2820.  The House version differed greatly, but the conference committee released a 129-page bill that preserved the continued appropriate use of these working dogs.  After sending the bill to the Governor for approval, Governor Baker returned the bill to the Legislature with requested changes that are now under consideration.  In addition, the Massachusetts Attorney General finalized an investigation of a county correctional facility concluding that detainees’ civil rights were violated as a result of the illegal use of K9s among other breaches of policy.  A letter is now being drafted for legislators by AKC GR to highlight the procedures in place, if adhered to, would not have resulted in these harmful consequences. 

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.

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 and is pending a vote by the full Senate.

Michigan – Senate Bill 971 would prevent public entities from training a dog in a manner that causes pain or distress.  AKC and its state federation provided written testimony for the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee meeting on December 8 to ask questions and express concerns on how terms were defined and enforced.  The bill is still pending in committee.  

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 is pending in the Senate. AKC and its federation are strongly supporting it and ask all Michigan clubs and dog owners to call their Senator immediately in support of the bill. Read more.

Missouri – A number of bills impacting dog owners have been prefiled in Missouri ahead of the 2021 legislative session.  These include positive bills preventing breed-specific regulations, bills protecting working dogs, and a bill protecting persons and groups from liability for COVID.  Other bills filed include allowing private citizens to remove animals from vehicles in certain instances, a tax credit for those who purchase a rescue dog, the creation of the crime of animal hoarding, and the establishment of an animal abuse registry.  AKC and its state federation will be closely monitoring all bills impacting dog owners and provide more information as it is available.  

Montana – A bill prefiled for the 2021 legislative session is stated to “generally revise dog breeder laws.”  No text is yet available.  AKC GR is closely monitoring and will provide more information as it is available.

New Hampshire – Governor Sununu convened a Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency Commission in June to review oversight, training standards and make recommendations for change.  AKC GR testified regarding the need to hold animal control officers accountable to the same standard and discipline for law enforcement misconduct; such as making unsubstantiated charges and acting in bad faith.  The AKC GR recommendation was included in the Taskforce’s Final Report of Recommendations to the Governor and Legislature.

New Jersey SB 975, which seeks to establish animal trunk fighting as an animal cruelty offense, was approved by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee in October, and has been further referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

New Jersey – On December 14, the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 2868, which seeks to create court-appointed legal advocates for animals, but features language that explicitly undermines the traditional legal classification of animals as property and limits the rights of animal owners. Prior to the committee’s hearing, AKC requested that S.2868 not be passed by the committee, or in the alternative to remove the bill’s animal rights-based findings and clearly state that the provisions of the bill not impact the legal classification of animals as property.  The AKC appreciates the many dog clubs and individuals who joined AKC in opposing S.2868, which outnumbered those who expressed direct support of the bill by over 6-to-1.  Nevertheless, the committee disregarded those concerns and approved the bill without amendments.  A companion measure, A 4533 has been introduced and assigned to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. No hearings have been scheduled.

North Carolina – The North Carolina Veterinary Medical Board (NCVMB) has indicated the intention to have legislation filed in 2021 to require that third-party breeder services enterprises (e.g. artificial insemination) be operated only by licensed veterinarians. Available proposal language is vague and could restrict responsible breeders from performing or obtaining AIs on their dogs. It would also potentially impact breeders by closing down the three canine reproductive centers in the state that are not veterinarian-owned. AKC GR is working with policymakers and impacted stakeholders in response to the NCVMB’s proposal. 

Ohio – House Bill 24 makes numerous updates to the state’s animal control laws, including clarifying appropriate training for animal control officers and recourse if it is found that claims of training were falsified.  In addition, the bill makes positive updates to the state’s animal seizure laws (including mandating that the owners be notified within 24 hours and clarifying that the costs of care be reasonable and necessary).  The bill has passed the legislature and is pending with the governor.

Pennsylvania – As preparations for the upcoming session take place, AKC GR had a conversation with the sponsor of the bill from last session (SB 1267) that seeks to create a Task Force to develop a comprehensive, evidence-based plan for animal welfare laws through a collaboration between veterinarians, doctors, state agencies and concerned legislators.  The bill will be reintroduced and AKC GR is working with the sponsor to ensure that AKC, the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs, and a breeder based in Pennsylvania are included on the Task Force.   AKC GR is also working on scheduling a meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair and staff to talk about legislation and dog-related issues prior to the new legislative session. 

Rhode Island – The Senate Commission on Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights continues to meet and review the system of disciplinary review and law enforcement reform measures being considered by other states.  A survey of law enforcement department disciplinary actions over the past five years has been distributed and tallied.  AKC GR is virtually attending the Commission’s meetings to monitor for any legislative recommendations impacting police K-9s.

Texas –Sunset Advisory Commission staff has recommended that the Texas Licensed Breeders Program be eliminated. Staff findings cite unenforceable requirements and administrative costs that exceed program revenues. The Commission was formally presented the recommendation on December 8, with a decision likely following on January 13.  AKC GR anticipates major legislative advocacy efforts by animal rights and rescue groups in the 2021 session to oppose eliminating the program and to instead tighten licensing requirements. Their preliminary proposals include lowering the ownership threshold from 11 intact females to 5 and eliminating an annual sales requirement.  If enacted, this would vastly expand the number of breeders subject to state regulation.  AKC GR has hosted a virtual meeting for Texas clubs and is working with the Responsible Pet Owner’s Alliance in preparation for the 2021 legislative session.

Texas – Last year, Texas Governor Abbott signed SB 1531 into law, which added pleas of “no contest” to animal cruelty charges as a ground for denying or refusing to renew a breeder license.  In response, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation proposed amendments to the state’s Dog or Cat Breeders Act regulations to implement SB 1531.  The proposal also combines two rule subsections that are virtually identical and makes technical changes.

Vermont – The House Agriculture Committee introduced HB 940 establishing animal cruelty investigation, training and certification for animal control officers and it was placed on the House calendar for action in March.  In June, the bill was recommitted to the committee for additional changes. AKC GR has concerns that the draft eliminates the need for humane officers to be appointed by employing humane societies incorporated in Vermont and fails to specify the limits of officers’ authority.  AKC GR will continue to work closely with the Federation on recommending bill text to the committee before the bill is re-filed.