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State Issues February 2021

State Issues February 2021

News from the State Capitols

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

Alabama – House Bill 235 would authorize food service establishments to allow pet dogs in outdoor restaurant seating areas and sets out access, sanitation, and other requirements. It also specifies that emotional support animals are not service animals within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act and are prohibited from being inside a restaurant. HB 235 is on the agenda of the House Committee on County and Municipal Government for February 10. Read more about how to support this bill.

Alabama – SB 30 would provide civil immunity for businesses, other entities, and individuals associated with these entities from claims relating to contraction of or exposure to coronavirus.  SB 30 passed in the Senate and has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.

Arkansas – SB 17 would provide that a person or a person’s employee, agent, or officer is immune from civil liability for damages or injuries caused by or resulting from exposure of an individual to COVID-19 on business premises owned or operated by the person or during a business activity managed by the person.  Immunity would not apply to willful reckless, or intentional misconduct.  SB 17 has been referred to the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.

Arkansas SB 254 would provide that during the COVID-19 public health emergency, a firm, person or corporation is not penalized by the Department of Health for the behavior of patrons or customers. SB has passed in committee and is on the Senate agenda for February 9.  

California – Assembly Bill 702 would institute a statewide breeder permit, among other requirements.  AKC GR is scheduled to soon meet with the author’s office to discuss and is also developing talking points and information for clubs and breeders in the state.  According to legislative information, it can be heard no sooner than March 19.  AKC GR will be providing additional information very soon.

Connecticut – Several bills impacting dog owners have been pre-filed for this year and AKC GR is meeting virtually with the Connecticut Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners to discuss them.   For example, SB 458 a companion animal breeders license has been proposed.

Connecticut – On February 11, 2021, SB 123 increasing the penalties for injuring or killing a police K-9 or volunteer search and rescue K-9 has a public hearing scheduled.  AKC GR supports the bill.

Delaware – AKC GR was contacted by Senator Trey Paradee for assistance with legislation to establish a certification/licensing program for groomers operating in Delaware.  AKC GR provided Senator Paradee with information on the AKC S.A.F.E. Grooming Certification Program and draft legislation for the establishment of a certification/licensing program based on the Program or a similar type of certification program.  Senator Paradee is currently reviewing the draft legislation for possible introduction by March 1. 

FloridaHB 7 / SB 72 would provide certain protections to business entities from civil liability claims related to COVID-19.  Both bills have advanced in pre-session committee actions. 

Florida – HB 45 would prohibit pet stores from selling dogs and cats, and has been assigned to the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee. Similar bill SB 1138 has not received committee assignments.

Florida – HB 47 / SB 216 would make the failure to report suspected animal cruelty grounds for disciplinary action for veterinarians, vet techs, and other “animal treatment provider employees” (which would include shelter personnel) and provide certain immunities from liability for good faith reporting. HB 49 / SB 218 would exempt from public records requirements (and from public oversight) all records containing reports of animal cruelty made by veterinarians, vet techs, and “animal treatment provider employees.” HB 47 and HB 49 are assigned to the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee.  SB 216 and SB 218 have numerous committee referrals.

Florida – HB 177 / SB 650 would prohibit tethering a dog or cat unless the person is physically present with and attending the animal and it remains visible to the person at all times while tethered, with certain exceptions. HB 177 is assigned to the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee. SB 650 has been referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Community Affairs Committee.

Florida –  HB 731 and similar bill SB 1122 would problematically define “adequate shelter” and make failure to provide adequate shelter an animal cruelty offense.

Georgia HB 112 seeks to extend applicability for one year a 2020 Act that provides certain immunities from liability claims regarding COVID-19.  HB 112 was favorably reported in  House Special Committee.  

Indiana – Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1002 would protect persons from liability for COVID exposure unless there was gross or wanton misconduct.  HB 1002 passed the House and is waiting for a Senate committee assignment.  SB 1 has passed the Senate and House and will soon be transferred to the Governor.  Read more.

Indiana – House Bill 1268 would require procedures be developed for shelters regarding “quickly and reliably” returning lost pets to their owners.  AKC GR and its federation support this bill and reached out to the sponsors to offer our insights and assistance.  The bill passed the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on February 10.  Read more.

Iowa – Senate File 143 would allow cities and towns to enact laws regulating dogs, so long as they are not breed-specific.  AKC GR and local clubs have joined a coalition in support of this bill, which is facing significant opposition from local governments.  AKC GR is encouraging clubs to contact the Local Government Subcommittee in support.  Read more. 

Kentucky – HB 10 would establish certain defenses to civil liability for personal injury or death relating to actual or alleged exposure to COVID-19. HB 10 has passed in the House and been received in the Senate.

Kentucky –  HB 57 would expand animal cruelty definitions and penalties.

Kentucky –  HB 99 and similar bill SB 33 would establish conditions for immunity for civil liability for damage to a vehicle entered to release a dog or cat. Neither bill addresses liability of dog owner if it should bite the person or escape and cause damage.

Kentucky – HB 100 would require the owner of a seized animal to pay to a court in 30 day increments costs of caring for the animal from date of impoundment through the court proceeding or else forfeit ownership. Ability to pay would not be considered, and only unexpended funds would be returned to the owner, even if found not guilty or if charges were dropped.

Kentucky HB 215 would expand animal cruelty definitions and penalties, establish cost of care provisions similar to HB 100, and establish conditions for immunity for civil liability for damage to a vehicle entered to release a dog or cat.

KentuckyHB 366 would designate police dogs as the official working dogs of Kentucky.

Kentucky – SB 57 would penalize misrepresentation of an assistance dog.

Kentucky SB 59 would, among other provisions, prohibit retail pet shops from selling a dog, cat, or rabbit. 

Kentucky – SB 82, as introduced, seeks to prevent local governments from enacting or enforcing measures that regulate ownership of a dog on the basis of its breed or perceived breed.  AKC is working with legislators and stakeholders to positively amend the bill so that it cannot be interpreted to grant lawmaking powers regarding dog ownership to “agencies” of a local government. SB 82 will be heard by the Senate Committee on Agriculture.

Maryland – Cross-filed legislation entitled “Unattended Dogs in Extreme Weather” has been working its way through the House and Senate.  While  HB 81 and SB 122 includes exemptions for hunting, livestock herding, sledding, sporting, or training as supported by AKC GR in 2020, AKC GR has tried to work with the sponsors 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“.  HB 81 has passed the House as introduced and has been assigned to the Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Senate where SB 122 has yet to have a vote thanks to Senator Michael Hough who asked that it be held pending amendments.  AKC GR has been working with Senator Michael Hough on favorable amendments and has vowed to try and have SB 122 or HB 81, whichever one moves in the Committee, favorably amended.  AKC GR will continue to monitor the legislation and push for favorable amendments.

Maryland HB 293 and SB 200 are reintroductions of legislation from last session.  As introduced last session, the bill sought to prohibit a person from sponsoring, conducting, or participating in certain organized contests that have the objective of hunting or killing certain wildlife for prizes or monetary awards.  As such, the bill would have negatively impacted field trials and other American Kennel Club (AKC) sanctioned events.  AKC GR in concert with the Sportsmen Alliance was able to have the bill amended to exclude lawful dog training or dog competition events.  HB 293 and SB 200 were introduced this year with the amended language included.  SB 200 has passed the Senate and has been assigned to the House Environment and Transportation Committee while HB 293 has passed the House and has been assigned to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.  Read More.

Maryland SB 103 is a reintroduction of legislation from last session which originally sought to regulate the Internet sales of animals by pet stores. The original language concerned many who use Facebook or other internet “brag” pages to showcase their dogs and puppies for sale.  Working with the sponsor, AKC GR worked to have the bill amended and all references to Internet sales were removed.  It further clarified that a pet store does not include situations where the animals are sold at establishments where they were bred, and the buyer and seller are both present during the sale or transfer.  SB 103 was introduced this session with the same amended language from last session.  SB 103 is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.  AKC GR will continue to monitor the bill. 

Maine – The Maine Department of Agriculture has filed an omnibus bill, LD 103, that would allow it to employ any person considered necessary to assist in any response to a natural or man-made disaster affecting animals; appoint to the Animal Welfare Advisory Council a person who is a pet food supplier and an attorney with experience in the state court system; and change the rabies vaccination requirement for a dog over 3 months of age instead of 6 months.  Last, the bill provides for the revocation of animal control officer certification if the officer refuses or intentionally fails to perform the officer’s statutory duties.  AKC GR is reviewing the bill with leadership from the Maine Federation of Dog Clubs. 

Massachusetts – The bill filing deadline for the 2021-2022 legislative session is February 19, 2021.

Massachusetts – Representative Xiarhos has reached out to AKC GR to ask for assistance securing co-sponsors for Nero’s bill, HD 326.  It would authorize the emergency transport and treatment of police K-9s injured in the line of duty.  AKC GR will issue an alert asking Massachusetts residents to contact their lawmakers before the February 26, 2021 deadline. 

MississippiHB 80, a bill with problematic provisions regarding dog owner liability, would increase penalties for owners of dogs that bite and would authorize recovery of treble damages and payment for pain and suffering to a person injured by a dog. HB 80 has passed in the House Senate Judiciary B Committee. 

MississippiHB 80, a bill with problematic provisions regarding dog owner liability, would increase penalties for owners of dogs that bite and would authorize recovery of treble damages and payment for pain and suffering for a person injured by a dog under certain circumstances. HB 80 has passed in the House Senate Judiciary B Committee.  

Missouri – House Bill 589 would protect the rights of animal owners when their animals are seized on suspicion of cruelty.  AKC GR and its state federation are both supporting this bill, which had a public hearing in the House Agriculture Policy Committee on February 2.  Read more.

Missouri – House Bill 365 would prohibit cities and counties – even those with home rule – from enacting any breed-specific laws.  It would also make any current local breed-specific laws null and void.  Local governments may still enact policies regarding dogs, so long as they are not breed-specific.  AKC and its state federation are supporting this bill, which is expected to be considered soon.

Missouri – Senate Bill 159 would ensure that no local government enacts any regulation “that terminates, bans, or effectively bans by creating undue financial hardship, the job or use of working animals or an enterprise employing working animals.”  As introduced, “working animal” is defined as “any animal used for the purpose of performing a specific duty or function including entertainment, transportation, education, or exhibition by for-profit and not-for-profit entities.”  AKC and its state federation are supporting this bill, which had a public hearing in the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee on February 8.

Nebraska – LB 52 would exempt persons from liability for exposure to COVID anytime after the bill’s effective date.  AKC GR is monitoring this bill for potential impact on AKC events.  The bill will be considered by the Judiciary Committee on February 18.  Read more.

Nebraska – LB 139 would exempt persons from liability for COVID exposure unless there is evidence of gross negligence.  As with LB 52, AKC GR is monitoring this bill for potential impact on AKC events.  The bill will be considered by the Judiciary Committee on February 18.  Read More.

New Hampshire – On January 27, 2021 the House Environment and Agriculture Committee heard concerns from AKC GR and NH DOGS regarding HB 532, establishing an animal records database and has been drafting changes to the bill to address those concerns.  Read more. The Senate Finance Committee is hosting a hearing on the Senate version of the original bill, SB 127, on February 9, 2021.  AKC GR will testify to request that they adopt the changes now being made by the House committee.

New Hampshire – SB 122 would increase the penalties for a person to injure or kill; or allow their animal to injure or kill a working service dog.  AKC GR has written testimony in support for the February 9, 2021 hearing. 

New Hampshire – To deter dog theft and tampering with tracking dog collars, HB 338 would increase the penalty from a misdemeanor offense to a class B felony.  AKC GR supports this bill and is testifying February 10, 2021.

New Hampshire – AKC GR worked closely with NH beagle clubs to express concerns about HB 118, which would change the qualifications for commissioners appointed to the NH Fish and Game Commission.  Instead of sporting clubs providing nominees for appointment, the bill would authorize “participating organizations” to nominate individuals and defined them as organizations with wildlife or conservation experience.  The House Fish and Game Committee decided at public hearing on February 1, 2021 that the bill was not ready and has retained it. No further action on HB 118 will take place this year.

New Jersey AB 1365 would prohibit 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 wording of AB 1365 could impact clubs offering AKC-sanctioned performance events in New Jersey, including those that offer sporting, hound, earthdog, and herding events.  Due to AKC requesting clarifying amendments to AB 1365, the bill was pulled from the Assembly Agriculture Committee’s January 27 hearing.  Click here to read more.   

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.  Read more.

New York – As with previous sessions, dozens of bills impacting dog owners have been introduced in New York.  AKC GR is reviewing these bills and has had meetings with the offices of both the Assembly and Senate Agriculture Chairs, where the majority of these bills have been assigned.  None of these bills are scheduled yet for hearings and AKC GR continues to monitor closely.  Visit for the latest alerts and information.

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.

Oklahoma – House Bill 1581 would limit pet stores to sourcing animals from shelters, rescues, or breeders that meet certain requirements.  As requested by the AKC in 2020, the bill clarifies that “pet store” does not include those who sell dogs that are sold from the premises where they were bred and raised.  AKC is closely monitoring this bill, which had a committee hearing on February 10.

Oklahoma – House Bill 1620 as introduced would protect the right to use working animals by prohibiting local governments from passing any law that would create any undue hardship – including financial hardship – on those that own and use working animals.  As used in the bill, “working animal” is defined as one “used for the purpose of performing a specific duty or function in commerce or service including but not limited to animals in entertainment, transportation, education, exhibition, ranching or service.”  AKC GR expressed support for this bill.  As amended by the House Wildlife Committee on February 11, the bill protects “agritourism activities”, which in part is defined as “animal shows and…activities that historically involved the utilization of working animals.”

Oklahoma – House Bill 1816 would declare the rescue dog as the state dog of Oklahoma.  AKC GR is monitoring this bill, which passed the House Wildlife Committee on February 11.

Oklahoma – Senate Bill 547 would remove the current requirement that commercial breeders (those who keep 11 or more intact females) provide an annual report to the state’s department of agriculture.  AKC GR is monitoring this bill, which passed the Senate Agriculture and Wildlife Committee on February 8.  Read more.

Pennsylvania – AKC GR is working with the sponsor of a bill introduced late last session (SB 1267) that seeks to a 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 to ensure that AKC, the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs, and a breeder based in Pennsylvania are included on the Task Force.  In a recent conversation with the sponsor, AKC GR was informed that the sponsor and others are working to ensure that the Task Force does not become too large but is inclusive of all those who should be a part, including representation as requested by AKC GR. 

Rhode Island – Re-filed from 2019, HB 5040 would establish an animal cruelty registry prohibiting offenders from owning animals in the future by requiring pet sellers and shelters to review the registry before transferring an animal.  Violations would result in significant fines.  AKC GR will join the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union in testifying at the February 9, 2021 hearing to express concerns that registries have not been found to be effective at preventing animal cruelty and to encourage the committee to consider using more effective proven tools.

South CarolinaH 3066 would increase penalties for teasing, injuring or killing a police dog or horse. It has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

South CarolinaH 3067 would require that any second violation of the Chapter on Cruelty to Animals, which include violations in which no animal is harmed, would forfeit ownership of all animals and be prohibited from owning an animal for five years. It has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.

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 CarolinaS 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 186 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Tennessee – SB 166 / HB 733 would amend the definition of aggravated animal cruelty. AKC GR does not oppose this legislation as filed, and will continue to monitor these bills.  SB 166 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  

Tennessee – HB 361 / SB 310 – would allow governmental animal control agencies to enter abandoned property and dwellings to rescue non-livestock animals. SB 310 is assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. HB 361 is on the calendar of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on 2/24/21.    animal control agencies to enter abandoned property and dwellings to rescue any non-livestock animal

TennesseeHB 547 / SB 511 – 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 rescue activities. HB 547 is assigned to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee.  SB 511 is assigned to the Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee.      

Texas – SB 323 seeks to expand the scope of the state’s Licensed Breeder Program by reducing the threshold that qualifies a breeder to be regulated.  Currently, a breeder must possess 11 or more adult intact female dogs or cats (in addition to other qualifications) to be subject to state regulation.  SB 323 seeks to reduce that threshold to five or more adult intact females, which would make many more of AKC’s hobby breeders subject to state regulation.  Additionally, the bill would eliminate the annual sales requirement that qualifies a breeder to be regulated.  The Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation would be required to review the fee amounts it currently sets for licensees and increase the amounts to cover the costs of administering the Licensed Breeders Program.  While AKC’s lobbyist has indicated SB 323 will not advance, AKC GR is prepared to mobilize grassroots contacts to oppose SB 323 should it get any traction.

Texas –Texas’ biennial legislative session was convened on January 12, 2021. The State Preservation Board has established access requirements to the Capitol in Austin, which opened to the public on January 4, 2021.  Those requirements may be viewed at here to view the list of Texas legislation currently being tracked by AKC GR.

Utah – Senate Bill 38 requires the state Peace Officer Standards and Training Council to develop regulations regarding training standards and annual recertifcation for canine officers and police canines.  The government is also directed to develop standards on the appropriate use of police dogs.  This bill has passed the Senate and is pending a vote by the full House.

Utah – House Bill 213 would expand liability protections when a dog harms an animal to include exemptions for when the animal was on private property without consent.  AKC GR is monitoring this bill, which has passed the House and is pending a vote by the full Senate.

Virginia – As originally introduced, HB 2109 sought to expand the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services by adding an at-large member who is expert in companion animal welfare who is employed by a releasing agency in the Commonwealth.  As a result of much testimony in opposition, including from AKC GR, a substitute bill was issued to remove the at-large appointee and replace it with the requirement that one of the existing members appointed by the Governor be a licensed and currently practicing veterinarian in the Commonwealth.  After much debate, the substitute was defeated by a 4-4 vote in the Agriculture Sub-Committee on the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake, Natural Resources.  As such, the Board will remain as currently comprised.  Read More.

Washington – HB 1424 as introduced sought to further regulate pet stores and commercial breeders.  As introduced, it would only allow pet stores currently operating in the state to sell dogs and cats, and they must obtain the animals only from breeders that meet certain requirements.  The bill clarified that the definition of “pet store” does not include a person who sells dogs they have bred and raised.  In addition, current law allows all USDA licensees to be exempt from the state’s limit of 50 dogs on a premises.  This bill would only allow the exemption if a breeder has kept a license without interruption since January 2010.  AKC GR is expressing concerns with this bill.  During a February 11 hearing in the Consumer Protection and Business Committee, a substitute was passed that would allow current pet stores to operate, but not allow any new pet stores to sell cats and dogs in the state.   The bill is now pending in the Senate Rules Committee.

Washington – HB 1054 is a comprehensive bill regarding “Tactics and Equipment Used by Peace Officers”.  As part of this bill as introduced, police may not use a dog off leash to apprehend or arrest someone.  The bill was amended to state that dogs could not be used to apprehend a person.  AKC is monitoring this bill, which passed the House Public Safety Committee as amended and is pending in the Rules Committee.

Washington – SB 5114/HB 1321 would expedite the reopening of the state and move all counties into the next phase to allow more gatherings and business openings.  AKC is monitoring these bills, which could impact pet businesses and AKC events in the state.  SB 5114 had a hearing in the Senate State Government and Elections Committee on January 20.  HB 1321 is pending in the House Health and Wellness Committee.

Wyoming – Senate Files 24 and 25 both address the issue of caring for animals seized on suspicion of cruelty.  AKC expressed significant concerns with Senate Bill 24, which could have caused someone to permanently lose ownership of their animals if they fail to pay for care – even if they are found not guilty.  The Senate Agriculture, State, Public Lands, & Water Committee tabled this bill and it will not advance.  Senate File 25 is a better option, but AKC GR is asking for an amendment to ensure that when owners are found not guilty, their animals are returned to them.  This bill has been reassigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee and will likely be considered in March.  AKC is providing amendments to the committee to ensure the rights of innocent dog owners are protected.  Read more.