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Taking Command Newsletter

State Issues December 2021

News from the State Capitols

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

Connecticut – Deputy Speaker Mushinsky has met with two state agencies regarding legislation for therapy dog recognition. A bill is expected to be re-drafted and re-filed for next year.

Connecticut – In an October 28 Connecticut Post opinion, CT Votes for Animals urged action to address animal fighting in the state by calling upon the General Assembly to pass legislation on animal fighting paraphernalia as proposed by the Humane Society of the United States and supported by their organization in 2019 and 2021.  AKC GR will closely monitor any bill text in this regard.

 Connecticut – After attending the National Council of Insurance Lawmakers summer meeting in Boston and speaking with AKC GR, Representative Tammy Nuccio is contemplating filing legislation to ban homeowner and renter insurers from discriminating against owners of dogs based upon their breed, size or appearance.

FloridaSB 172/HB 227 are “lawyers for animals” bills that, among other provisions, would provide for appointment of an advocate for the interests of an animal in certain court proceeding. SB 172 seeks to provide that in certain civil or criminal court proceedings,  the court may appoint, upon its own initiative or upon request of a party, an advocate to represent the interests of the animal, whether living or dead. HB 227 was withdrawn by the sponsor.  SB 172 is assigned to the Senate Judiciary, Agriculture, and Rules committees.

FloridaSB 226/HB 25 seek to establish funding for the care of retired law enforcement dogs. AKC GR sent a letter of support to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, which unanimously favorably reported SB 226. The bill also passed in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, and is next in Senate Appropriations Committee.

Florida SB 772 among other provisions, provides definitions of “facility dog” and “therapy animal” pursuant to their use in depositions and courtrooms. SB 772 has been assigned to three Senate committees.

FloridaHB 253 addresses “retail sale of domestic dogs and cats” and seeks to criminalize the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.

Florida HB 307/SB 716 provide an exemption from public records requirements for records containing certain information pertaining to persons who have adopted an animal from an animal shelter or animal control agency operated by a local government.  Each bill has received three committee assignments. 

FloridaHB 435/SB 420 seek to increase penalties for sexual activities involving animals and fighting/baiting animals. However, HB 435 includes sections that would limit the definition of “animal husbandry” to apply to livestock located on agricultural land and would redefine sexual conduct with an animal. These problematic sections in HB 435 could serve to criminalize assisting in births, artificial insemination processes, or expressing anal glands of non-livestock animals and livestock animals not on agricultural property. HB 435 is assigned to the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee, Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, and Judiciary Committee. SB 420 is assigned to the Senate Judiciary, Criminal Justice, and Rules committees. AKC GR has reached out to the sponsor of HB 435 to request friendly amendments to address the problematic definitions and provisions in House version of the bill. 

FloridaHB 721/SB 614 both seek to allow certain housing authorities to adopt ordinances, rules or policies to address safety and welfare concerns caused by owners of dogs that have bitten or attacked persons or domestic animals, provided that no such regulation is specific to breed.  The bill would also remove the exemption for local breed specific ordinance enacted prior to October 1, 1999. SB 614 has been referred to the Senate Community Affairs, Agriculture, and Rules committees. AKC GR is monitoring this legislation.

FloridaHB 849/SB 994, among other provisions, seek to establish state licensure and regulation for pet stores; expand requirements and reporting for animal shelters and rescues, and preempt certain restrictions on pet stores and breeders. The Florida Association of Kennel Club and other advocates sought additional exemptions for breeders who do not sell at wholesale, which appear in SB 994. AKC GR is closely monitoring this legislation, and particularly SB 994 which provides greater protections for breeders and pet sellers than other pet store bills.

Florida HB 883/SB 416 seek to establish additional requirements for providers of animal cremation services and provide that certain acts and violations are unfair or deceptive acts. SB 416 has passed in the Senate Agriculture Committee and is next in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Georgia – SB 303, a problematic dog breeder bill, did not advance during year 1 of the 2021-2022 legislative session. AKC, the Georgia Canine Coalition and other advocacy groups are working to communicate concerns with the bill and to urge that it not be considered in 2022.

Maryland – SB 103, as signed by the governor, seeks to regulate retail sourcing of animals. The new law also established a task force to study sourcing standards, breeding practices, and “canine breeding facilities” and to provide legislative recommendations by the end of 2021. AKC GR is an active member of this task force which held its first meeting on August 12, 2021. AKC GR provided a presentation to the task force.  The task force met again on again on November 5, 2021 to discuss and draft its final report to the General Assembly.  Upon reviewing the final draft of the report, AKC GR recommended a few edits and additional changes – some of which were incorporated in the Final Report submitted to the General Assembly on December 3, 2021.

Massachusetts – HB 2547 would authorize the emergency transport and treatment of police K-9s injured in the line of duty. AKC GR urged Massachusetts residents to contact their lawmakers in support and request that they co-sponsor the bill. As a result, a significant number of new legislators signed on as co-sponsors. A companion bill, SB 1606, was refiled in the Senate. AKC GR issued an alert and testified in support before the Joint Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on July 14, 2021. On November 9, 2021, the Senate Ways and Means Committee responded positively by making a few changes to the text and releasing it favorably as SB 2573.  New text in the bill provides flexibility when utilizing the provision if ambulances are in limited supply or an emergency veterinary clinic is not nearby. SB 2573 passed the Senate on a unanimous vote taken November 10.

Massachusetts – Multiple re-filed bills with problematic provisions for dog owners were considered by the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee on September 28, 2021.  AKC GR issued an alert summarizing the bills and strongly encouraging residents to email the committee in addition to AKC’s written testimony.   AKC GR provided support for just one bill on the agenda, HB 2146, because it would create the same consumer protections irrespective of where a pet was acquired. 

Massachusetts – SB 230 and HB 384 seek to ban the retail sale of cats and dogs in pet shops unless they are sourced from animal shelters or rescue organizations. Similar to past versions, the proposed animal shelter and rescue definitions are problematic because they exclude rescue activities by breeders. The bills initially were assigned to the Joint Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee for review, which last session redrafted them to create consumer protections irrespective of the source of the pet. The bills have been reassigned to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources       and Agriculture. AKC GR anticipates public hearings soon.

Massachusetts HB 305 would establish state licensure for commercial boarding and training kennels and provide numerous regulations regarding care, group sizes, and housing, just to name a few. In addition, the state would approve required training programs regarding animal behavior, dog body language, and other subjects. Injuries to dogs or people would be reported to the state. Other types of kennels (including personal kennels) could be required in the future to obtain state licensure in addition to a  municipal kennel license. AKC GR issued an alert and testified at the public hearing in July. Following the hearing, AKC GR had the opportunity to submit recommended changes for the bill.

Massachusetts – HB 378 would require anyone who grooms a pet for money to pass approved testing standards and obtain a state grooming license. Grooming facilities would also undergo periodic inspections to ensure compliance with rules and regulations issued. Use of a cage or box dryer would be prohibited. Violations would result in penalties ranging from $100 to $1,000 per offense. AKC GR testified at the public hearing on July 12, 2021, regarding concerns detailed in AKC GR’s alert. Following the hearing, AKC GR met virtually with the bill sponsor’s office and outlined suggested amendments to the legislation, which are being considered. 

Maine – Although bill text is not yet available, two measures of pending interest to AKC in late 2021/early 2022 include LR 2247, “An Act to Improve the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Low-cost Spaying and Neutering Program” and LR 2453, “An Act to Increase Maine’s Veterinary Workforce”. 

Michigan – House Bills 4703 and 4704 address the issue of animals being seized, and the payment of their care during impoundment.  As introduced, the bills amend current law and clarify that the owner or possessor may request a hearing within 14 days to determine if the requirement to pay is justified and the cost is fair and reasonable.  AKC issued an alert and drafted a letter to the committee expressing concerns with the underlying law.  Numerous amendments were adopted by the House in November, including allowing the court to consider the ability of the defendant to pay and ensuring that if the owner is found not guilty, then the animals must be returned.  However, it is unclear if this provision applies if a payment is missed during the trial. The bills have passed the House and are pending in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

New Hampshire HB 366 would authorize a court to order psychological evaluation and treatment for animal cruelty caused by animal hoarding disorder. The House Environment and Agriculture Committee held a work session in September 14, where AKC GR reviewed recommended changes to the draft.  The committee voted to next secure review and input from the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who is a retired judge. AKC GR participated in that review process and the Chairs are now working on amendments.  The bill has been referred to an interim study. 

New Hampshire – House lawmakers have completed the filing of bills for consideration in 2022.  LSR 2022-2690 would have prohibited the use of canine units in law enforcement but, after speaking with AKC GR about the value, care and conditions of these working dogs, the sponsor withdrew the proposal.

New Hampshire HB 1308 would prohibit the capture, possession, and propagation of hares and rabbits for hunting, training and field trials.  AKC GR has reached out to the bill sponsor and notified impacted dog owners. 

New Jersey – As introduced, AB 1365 would have prohibited the “harassing or taking” of wildlife at competitive events. The intent of similar legislation introduced in other states is to prohibit contests during which the goal is the killing of the most wildlife. However, the original wording of AB 1365 could have impacted clubs offering performance events in New Jersey. Prior to the legislature’s pre-election recess, the bill was amended in a committee hearing to address AKC’s concerns. Read more. 

New Jersey – As introduced, A.2401/S.3607 sought to establish new dog-related rules, including overreaching requirements for “large dogs.” AKC opposes the targeting of a specific phenotypic group of dogs for additional regulation.  Read a bill summary and concerns about its impact.  A significantly amended version of A.2401 was adopted by the Assembly Agriculture Committee on June 21.  A floor vote on the bill was scheduled in June, but the bill was not considered before the legislature went into pre-election recess. Read the most recent information about this legislation. 

New Jersey S.2868 seeks to establish a courtroom advocates (“lawyers for dogs”) program in the state. The bill features broad language that will likely impact the legal classification of animals in the state. The bill passed the Senate and has been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Proponent groups are pushing for S.2868 and its companion, A.4533 to be considered during the lame duck legislative session, which concludes in early January.  AKC GR is working with a coalition of interest groups in opposition to these bills as currently written.    Read more. 

New Jersey S.4058 seeks to update the state’s tethering provisions and create new costs of care laws for dogs seized as part of a criminal or civil animal cruelty case.  AKC takes no issue with tethering provisions that deem it unlawful to tether a dog on an unoccupied or vacant property or any structure thereon, in a manner that exposes the dog to accumulated waste or other debris, precipitation, or flooding. However, AKC is deeply concerned with the cost of care provisions that are onerous and must be amended to better protect the constitutional, property, and contractual rights of dog owners.  Moreover, the bill must be amended to protect the interests of non-possessory co-owners and sure that only medically necessary surgical procedures are permitted to be performed on a seized animal.  An amended version of the bill was approved by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee on December 9.  AKC continues to advocate for amendments to this legislation.

Oregon – Animal rights activists are currently collecting signatures to put a measure (IP 13) on the November 2022 ballot that would essentially ban all hunting, prohibit certain breeding practices including artificial insemination, and restrict training practices.  Other provisions would dramatically impact farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and even pest control.  AKC is working with two broad coalitions to oppose the measure.  Read more.

Pennsylvania – House Bill 2047 will enhance the punishments for breeders who abuse animals and make it more difficult for them to game the system when they lose their licenses.  The bill would change the first violation for the mistreatment of dogs under their care from a summary offense to a misdemeanor. The maximum fine would also double. Additionally, the legislation would prevent any immediate family member of the offender from obtaining a license as well as anyone who resides at the same residence.  The bill has been referred to the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.  AKC GR will continue to monitor the bill, which is not scheduled for a hearing.

Pennsylvania – HB 142 would exempt certain Dog Law revenues from being transferred into a separate account. Since 1988, all fines, fees and costs collected by the Pennsylvania judicial system in excess of the amount collected from same sources during Fiscal Year 1986-87 are deposited into the Judicial Computer System Augmentation Account. This includes certain monies that would otherwise be used to fund operations of the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement has been operating at a deficit because the licensing fees it receives do not generate enough revenue to fund operations. HB 142 would exempt from transfer approximately $200,000/year in fines, court fees and costs received under the Dog Law. HB 142 passed the House and is now in the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.  

Pennsylvania – HB 526 / SB 232 are reintroductions of legislation from last session that seek to increase dog license fees to  provide additional funding for the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. As proposed, the legislation changes the dog licensing requirement from 12 age weeks to 8 weeks but eliminates differentiation between intact and spayed/neutered dogs. AKC GR and the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs met with the Bureau director regarding the proposed legislation. AKC GR was recently contacted regarding alternate language for the licensing requirement and recommended that it be kept at the current three months of age or older or upon transfer to a new owner, whichever comes first.  Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and the bill sponsors have indicated that they agree to the change.  Both bills are in their respective chamber’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.  AKC GR will continue the monitor these bills.

Pennsylvania – SB 234 seeks to establish a retail pet store ban in favor of showcasing shelter and rescue dogs for adoption. AKC GR met with the Senate staff to discuss the legislation and offer better alternatives than an outright ban. In both the meeting and follow up, AKC GR encouraged the sponsors to introduce enhanced consumer protection legislation that provides consumers with better information and protection irrespective of the source of dogs, including rescues and shelters which are currently exempt. AKC GR will continue to monitor the bill, which is pending in committee and likely will not be scheduled for a hearing or any committee action in the foreseeable future.

Pennsylvania – AKC GR has been working with State Senator Gene Yaw, on legislation to establish the Animal Welfare Board to review existing state laws and regulations related to the keeping and handling of animals. The Board is to be comprised of individuals representing various stakeholder organizations and representatives from the PA Department of Agriculture and the Attorney General’s office.  Prior to the introduction of the bill, AKC GR met with the Senator’s staff to provide further suggestions to ensure appropriate stakeholders and experts are included on the board.  As such, we suggested that the board include two members representing the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs, ensuring that a kennel license holder was represented, and that an American Kennel Club representative was included.  Further, to ensure the impact that we believe this Board could have, we suggested that it meet more frequently than the timeframe mentioned in the original draft.  All of AKC GR’s suggestions have been included in the final draft which is now SB 907 and has been assigned to the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.  AKC GR will continue to work with Senator Yaw’s office to encourage fast track passage of this legislation.

South Carolina – H 3066 seeks to increase penalties for teasing, injuring or killing a police dog or horse. It has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary. This bill could be considered in 2022, the second year of South Carolina’s two-year session.

South Carolina – H 3067 seeks to require that any second violation of the Chapter on Cruelty to Animals, which includes violations under which no animal is harmed, would require forfeiture of ownership of all animals and a prohibition from owning an animal for five years. H 3067 has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. This bill could be considered in 2022, the second year of South Carolina’s two-year session.

South Carolina – H 4094 contains problematic findings and seeks to restrict ownership of and require registration of fertile pit bull dogs with a governmental animal control agency. These requirements would apply to “American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers,” dogs displaying the physical traits of one or more of the listed breeds, or a dog exhibiting the distinguishing characteristics that conform to the standards established by the AKC for any of the breeds. AKC GR issued an alert and sent a letter of concern to subcommittee members. H 4094 appeared on the agenda of the House Special Laws Subcommittee, but was not considered during the 2021 session. It could be considered in 2022, the second year of South Carolina’s two-year session.

South Carolina – S 186 would remove certain exemptions for hunting dogs under state cruelty laws while protecting the use of recognized and responsible training techniques and devices. S 186 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

 South Carolina – S 378 would increase penalties for teasing or injuring police dogs and horses, and provide that a person convicted must pay restitution for costs of restoring or replacing a police animal and complete 500 hours of community service. S 378 passed in the Senate and has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.

South Carolina – S 556 seeks to make changes to certain laws that govern trapping in the state. As introduced, this bill could have increased hazards for dogs whose owners participate in field trials, Coonhound events, hunting, and training for these sports, as well as hiking, wilderness camping, and other outdoor activities with dogs. The bill was favorably amended in committee to address certain concerns. It passed in the Senate and was referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs. Read AKC GR’s alert on S 556 as it was originally introduced.

Tennessee – HB 547 would require any person who, during a twelve-month period, possesses or maintains ten or more intact female adult dogs for the primary purpose of selling their offspring as household pets, to register with the Department of Commerce and Insurance. Registrants would be subject to inspections biennially and at the discretion of the commissioner, and rules and fees would be set by the commission. Registrants could not participate in organized or home-based dog rescue activities. AKC GR worked with sportsmen’s groups to oppose the bill, distributed information and talking points at Nashville-area dog shows, and met with key Senators prior to committee consideration. The bill was sent to “General Sub” in the Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee, which means it has been put “on hold.” The Tennessee legislative session lasts two years, and therefore the bills remain active until end of the 2022 session.

 Tennessee – HB 1322 / SB 948 would require law enforcement agencies to annually report statistics and policies regarding police canine units to the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) commission and require the POST commission to develop and implement state guidelines for the training, care, and use of police canine units for law enforcement purposes. Action was deferred on these bills until 2022. AKC GR will continue to monitor this legislation.

TexasSB 5  will regulate tethering in the state by providing guidelines for how a dog may be tethered. SB 5 was passed and signed by Governor Abbott after he vetoed a similar bill in the 2021 Texas Regular Session. Dog Owners in Texas should familiarize themselves with the new law to ensure they remain in compliance. The law goes into effect beginning January 18, 2022.  Click here for more information.