News from the State Capitols
Here are some highlights of state-level issues AKC GR is currently tracking. Visit the 2020 Legislation Tracking page and click on your state to get the latest updates on state bills monitored by the AKC.
Colorado – HB 20-1084 would place further restrictions on breeders, and restrict pet choice and consumer protection in the state. Among other provisions, the bill would limit ownership to 25 intact dogs over 6 months of age and prevent pet stores from selling dogs and cats. AKC GR and its Colorado federation are working to educate members about the ineffectiveness of limit laws, and the danger of limiting options where someone can purchase a well-bred pet, and instead only being able to obtain a dog from a shelter or rescue, often with an unknown health background. The bill has been assigned to the House Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee. Read more.
Connecticut – AKC GR has learned that the state department of agriculture has compiled draft regulations overseeing the animal importers and shelters. The proposal is awaiting the scheduling of a public hearing by the Secretary of state’s office. AKC GR will forward an alert when the proposal becomes public.
Connecticut – A workgroup discussing service animals, including AKC GR, met for the last time in December. Representative Abercrombie will be compiling input and submitting draft legislation to align state law with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Representative Mushinsky has expressed interest in working with AKC and other stakeholders on creating a state tag verification of certified therapy dogs.
Florida – SB 522, as currently amended, provides that a person who leaves a dog tethered and unattended outside during a natural disaster commits animal cruelty. “Natural disaster” means that a hurricane, tropical storm, or tornado warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for a municipality or county, or the municipality or county is under a mandatory or voluntary evacuation order. AKC GR has recommended an additional amendment. The bill will next be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Read the most recent alert.
Maine – LD 1311 prohibits pet stores from selling dogs and cats and defines “animal rescue organization” as an entity with no affiliation to “breeders”. AKC GR expressed multiple concerns and an initial committee vote resulted in an “ought not to pass”. To neutralize opposition, proponents amended the bill to eliminate the “anti-breeder” language. Later, the bill was amended again to grandfather current pet stores in allowing them to sell dogs and cats but, prohibit future pet stores from selling dogs or cats. The bill was quickly adopted and sent to the Governor who held the bill along with 37 others for a final decision on January 11, 2020. The bill was enacted into law on January 12, 2020, without the Governor’s signature.
Maine – LD 1442 would authorize courts to appoint a volunteer lawyer or law student as an advocate in the interests of justice for any animal subject to cruelty. AKC GR and the Maine Federation submitted testimony noting that the bill raises many constitutional and procedural issues as drafted. Due to a highly publicized animal cruelty case and despite the Judiciary committee issuing a Divided Report on the bill and the Federation and AKC GR meeting in the Sen. President’s office to express concerns, the bill has been sent to the Governor for approval. AKC GR has sent a letter to the Governor expressing concerns about this policy change. The bill is one of 38 bills held by the Governor for decision until January 11, 2020. The bill was enacted into law on January 12, 2020, without the Governor’s signature.
Maryland – Senate Bill 127 would allow citizens to remove dogs or cats from vehicles if they believe the health or safety of the animal is in imminent danger. The person must contact 9-1-1, the fire department, or law enforcement first, leave their contact information and remain with the animal until first responders arrive. AKC is reviewing the measure and may recommend amendments. The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Judiciary Proceedings Committee on January 21.
Massachusetts – 2018 passage of SB 2646, PAWS II, established a special commission to study and report on the feasibility and cost of mandating that employees and contractors of the Department of Children and Families, employees and contractors of the Department of Elder Affairs and investigators for the Disabled Persons Protection Commission report known or suspected animal cruelty, abuse, and neglect. As a result of significant input, the final report with possible legislative recommendations has been delayed until this spring.
Massachusetts – Multiple animal bills were heard by three joint committees in 2019. AKC GR has issued alerts and testified, as appropriate. 2020 is the second year of the formal legislative session and committees have authority through March to take action on bills under their review. AKC GR will continue to lobby the committees and issue alerts as necessary.
Massachusetts – The Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security made minor changes to Nero’s bill before favorably releasing HB 4230 and SB 2423 in December. The measure 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 is now working with bill sponsors, Rep. Crocker and Sen. Montigny to estimate the cost of EMT training with the Joint Health Care Finance and Senate Ways and Means Committees.
Michigan – Senate Bill 419 seeks to license and regulate rescues in Michigan. New provisions include requiring certain vaccinations and veterinary certifications for any rescues bringing dogs into the state, and an allowance for the state to inspect foster homes if needed. AKC requested a clarifying amendment to ensure that those who breed dogs may also participate in rescue activities. A public hearing was conducted on October 31, during which time the AKC federation testified and AKC’s written testimony was publicly acknowledged and addressed by the sponsor. A substitute draft is being circulated and AKC GR is closely monitoring this issue.
New Jersey – Assembly Bill 781 would establish a process for recovering the cost of caring for domestic companion animals involved in animal cruelty investigations. Per AKC’s request, the bill has been amended to ensure that courts consider the ability of the defendant to pay ongoing boarding fees before ownership rights are forfeit. The bill is pending in the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. The New Jersey legislative session adjourned on January 14, 2020, and no further action was taken.
New Jersey – Senate Bill 3322 seeks to appoint animal advocates in court proceedings. The AKC is concerned that the creation of court-appointed animal advocates as provided in S.3322 will result in legal and pragmatic issues regarding who is responsible for an animal and may ultimately impact the ability and rights of pet owners to freely choose the most appropriate course of care and treatment for their pets. The bill was amended on the floor of the Senate on December 16 to include more anti-ownership provisions. The bill was passed by the Senate on January 9, 2020, and was assigned to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The New Jersey legislative session adjourned on January 14, 2020, and no further action was taken. Read the alert.
New Hampshire – HB 513 authorizes certified therapy dogs during court proceedings involving children or intellectually disabled persons. AKC GR supports this bill, and at a committee work session a Concord Police Department Officer was there to talk about the department’s use of an AKC Certification Program for their “Court Dogs”. The bill was voted 9-7 out of the Judiciary committee with concerns that only witnesses of specific crimes would be authorized to request a therapy dog. AKC GR has contacted the drafter of the minority report to draft an amendment addressing the concern.
New Hampshire – Members of the House have filed 24 animal bills of interest to AKC GR for 2020; 14 are high priority. Senate bills are not yet available. Working closely with NH DOGS, AKC GR will monitor, analyze and lobby the legislature to protect the right to own and enjoy one’s dogs. Grassroots action alerts will be issued in a timely manner.
Pennsylvania – SB 44 would only allow pet stores to sell dogs from shelters or rescues, in an effort to combat a perceived problem with disreputable breeders. AKC is working with the state federation and Senate Judiciary Committee on alternatives, including promoting a positive consumer protection bill already introduced. The bill is pending in committee and AKC continues to communicate with the sponsor and the committee, and work with the federation and breeders to express concerns.
Rhode Island – H. 5113 establishes and maintains an animal cruelty conviction registry and requires all pet sellers to check the registry prior to transferring ownership of animals. AKC GR submitted testimony outlining concerns with accurate identification of animal purchasers and the broad proposed “pet seller” definition. The bill was defeated on the Senate floor but is likely to resurface. AKC GR has contacted the bill sponsor and requested amendments prior to re-filing it.
Rhode Island – The Senate President has established a commission relative to dangerous dogs with a goal of filing legislation to update state law. AKC GR presented a summary of effective state laws and AKC’s model dangerous dog act on December 12, 2019.
Rhode Island – Understanding the bill is a priority of the state veterinarian, AKC GR has contacted legal counsel for the committee that reviewed H. 5297, which upon written complaint triggers investigations and possible fines on unlicensed animal service providers. Unlicensed animal service providers likely include professional handlers, groomers, and hobby breeders. AKC GR is currently drafting amendments that would require authentication of written complaints prior to state action, notice and education on requested changes prior to imposing penalties; and provisions preventing harassment.
Tennessee – HB 281 / SB 436 seek to regulate pet stores at the state level. AKC GR requested that these bills be clarified so that individuals and breeders who sell a dog directly to a buyer shall specifically be excluded from the definition of “retail pet store”. These bills did not advance in the 2019 session and will carry over to 2020.
Tennessee – HB 852 / SB 1277 seek to enhance animal cruelty penalties. The sponsor of HB 852 requested an amendment to the bill that would direct the court to impose vastly increased penalties for any offense; expand confiscation to include animals, equipment, and property; limit a citizen’s right to appeal a bond for care award; and further enable the awarding of seized property, fines and fees to non-governmental organizations. These increased penalties do not distinguish between a correctable issue such as a spilled water container that does not result in harm to an animal and heinous acts of animal torture. AKC GR submitted letters of concern. The sponsor withdrew the bill but may refile in the 2020 session.
Vermont –During 2020 the Vermont legislature will review formal recommendations by the VT Animal Cruelty Investigation Advisory Board on how to best regulate animal shelters and rescues in the state, which currently have no oversight. In preparation for the legislative session, the VT Federation of Dog Clubs’ Board of Directors is meeting January 12, 2020.
Washington – HB 2317 makes many positive changes to the state’s animal welfare laws, including not allowing breed-specific laws, and requiring actual harm to an animal from heat or cold to occur before cruelty charges can be filed. AKC has asked for an amendment to a section that would only allow ear cropping, tail docking, and debarking to be done under anesthesia. While some procedures absolutely should require anesthesia, some, such as tail docking, would result in danger to the puppy. The bill is under consideration in the House Committee on Public Safety. Read more.
Washington – SB 6151 would allow anyone to enter a vehicle if they believe a dog is in imminent danger. While the AKC appreciates provisions such as requiring the person to stay with the animal, there are still concerns over liability if the dog harms someone, runs away, or the person gets harmed when entering the vehicle. AKC is asking for amendments to address these concerns. The bill had a hearing in the Senate Committee on Law and Justice on January 16. Read more.