State Issues: News from the State Capitols
Here are some highlights of state-level issues AKC GR is currently tracking.
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 and is pending in the Assembly Business and Professions Committee.
California – AB 2152 only allows pet stores to showcase animals for adoption from animal control, a shelter, or rescue so long as it is not affiliated with breeders. AKC GR expressed concern with the implication that breeders should not be involved in rescue work and requested an amendment that would ensure those who are falsely operating as a rescue cannot source to pet stores, but remove the implication against reputable breeders and AKC clubs involved in legitimate rescue activities. An amendment has been filed by the sponsor that removes the ban on rescues affiliated with breeders, and now states that the rescue group cannot breed dogs. The amended bill is pending in the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee.
California – AB 1850 is one of many bills that seeks to amend AB 5 which codifies the decision of the California Supreme Court in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles (2018) that presumes a worker is an employee unless a hiring entity satisfies a three-factor test known as the ABC test, and exempts from the test certain professions and business to business relationships. While it remains open to interpretation if judges for a variety of events, competitions and trials, including AKC events, are exempt under AB 5, AB 1850 includes a clear exemption for A competition judge with a specialized skillset or expertise providing services that require the exercise of discretion and independent judgment to an organization for the purposes of determining the outcome of a competition. AKC GR sent a letter in support of the amendment and also issued an informational alert. It passed the Assembly on June 10 and is pending in the Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee.
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 upon determination by the California Department of Food and Agriculture that a supply of blood equivalent to that sold in California from captive closed-colony blood banks for animals during the years 2019-2020 is being produced over an equivalent period of time from community-sourced blood banks for animals. 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 about this bill.
Colorado – Senate Bill 20-104 would expand the powers of the state’s Bureau of Animal Protection agents. This includes granting agents who have completed training the power to conduct investigations. Concerns among others that have been raised include who may be appointed as agents and therefore be given these expanded powers. An amendment supported by AKC’s federation was added by the Senate to clarify that agents may only be employees of the state or a municipality/county in Colorado, or a Colorado-based non-profit or municipal corporation. This compromise amendment will ensure that no out-of-state group may be employed as an animal protection agent in Colorado. The bill as amended was signed by the governor.
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.
Florida – SB 1084 prohibits discrimination in housing provided to a person with a disability or a disability-related need for an emotional support animal, prohibits a health care practitioner from providing information regarding a person’s need for an emotional support animal without having personal knowledge of that person’s need for the animal, and prohibits the falsification of information or other fraudulent misrepresentation regarding the use of an emotional support animal. SB 1084 was enacted as Chapter No. 2020-76.
Florida – SB 1082 authorizes a court in a domestic violence situation to award to the petitioner both temporary and exclusive care, possession, or control of an animal, except an animal owned primarily for a bona fide agricultural purpose or a service animal handled by the respondent. It also provides that court may order the respondent to have no contact with the animal and enjoin the respondent from taking, transferring, harming, or disposing of the animal. AKC GR supported this bill as enrolled and enacted.
Georgia – SB 359 provides certain immunities from 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. SB 359 has passed in the General Assembly and is pending action by the Governor.
Georgia – SB 338, among other provisions, would have increased the maximum pet dealer (breeder) license fee to $800 per year, required an applicant to provide a current criminal background check, and required licensed pet dealers and shelters to post surety with the state. As introduced, the bill would have lowered the threshold for breeder licensure; however, the Georgia Canine Coalition worked on amendment that include maintaining current licensing thresholds, which was adopted by the Senate. Read the alert, which was issued prior to the amendment. SB 338 passed in the Senate, but did not receive a hearing in House committee.
Hawaii – HB 2163 seeks to limit the practices of surgical births, debarking, tail docking, and ear cropping by prohibiting an animal’s owner, and the owner’s employees, from performing these procedures. This bill was removed from the February 5 meeting agenda of the House Agriculture Committee and was not further considered before the legislature’s final adjournment on July 10.
Hawaii – SB 677 seeks to further restrict tethering practices. The bill was scheduled for decision making on Wednesday, March 18, but was deleted from the meeting schedule and was not scheduled for further consideration before final adjournment on July 10.
Iowa – House File 737 as introduced as HSB 114 in 2019 made several changes to the state’s cruelty laws, including unclear requirements for tail docking and dewclaw removal, and unclear veterinary care requirements. These provisions were removed from the bill at the request of AKC, local clubs, and breeders. As passed by the legislature in June 2020, the bill seeks to provide guidance for prosecution of cruelty cases. This includes defining animal abuse as when a person “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” inflicts injury. Questions have been raised about accidents and incidents where a dog gets injured, even if the owner was acting in a responsible manner. The bill as amended was signed by the governor.
Louisiana – SB 425 would have allowed the confiscation of any animal on the premises where an arrest is made for dogfighting. AKC GR opposed this bill because it would have enabled confiscation of animals not involved in an offense and not owned by the accused. SB 425 did not advance in committee.
Louisiana –Acts 336 and 362 grant certain liability protections for persons, businesses, and other entities from claims related to COVID-19 exposure. These protections are retroactive to March 11, 2020.
Massachusetts – In June, the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus filed HD 5128, Relative to Saving Black Lives and Reforming Public Safety, which includes a provision prohibiting the utilization of working police K-9s. Next, Senate Ways and Means released SB 2800, a law enforcement reform proposal 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. AKC GR’s concern is the text in both bills is a mischaracterization of how working police K-9s are utilized. On July 13, AKC GR co-hosted with two expert K-9 police handlers an educational program for lawmakers on the value of purpose-bred working dogs, police K-9 certifications, policies and procedures used to protect public safety, which resulted in acceptable K-9 text in the Senate’s final bill, SB 2820. The presentation can be viewed here. The House is working on its proposal.
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, Reforming the Sale of Cats, Dogs and Rabbits in the Commonwealth 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 when the General Court resumes normal session procedures.
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, which includes several amendments requested by AKC GR and its state federation, regulates animal rescues. 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. Read more about how to encourage support for this bill.
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 ith 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 monitoring this closely.
Michigan – House Bill 6009 would prohibit ear cropping, tail docking, and debarking. A veterinarian may only perform these procedures to address an infection, injury, etc., but not “cosmetic or aesthetic alterations to the physical condition or appearance of the dog.” The bill has been assigned to the House Agriculture Committee and is not currently scheduled for a hearing. AKC GR and its state federation are closely monitoring this bill.
Mississippi – SB 3049, as amended, provides certain protections from civil damages for injury or death related to COVID-19 to entities that attempt in good faith to follow applicable public health guidance. SB 3049 was signed by the Governor on July 8.
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.
Mississippi – SB 2658 increases penalties for animal cruelty, makes each act of cruelty a separate offense, makes aggravated cruelty a felony, and provides that a court may prohibit a person convicted of simple animal cruelty from owing or residing with a dog or cat for a period of time not to exceed 5 to 15 years. Further, it requires a court to prohibit a person convicted of aggravated animal cruelty from owning or residing with a dog or cat for not less than 5 years. SB 2658 was signed by the Governor.
Mississippi – SB 2723 gives the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks the authority to extend certain open hunting seasons that end on a Friday to 30 minutes after sunset on the following Sunday. SB 2723 was signed by the Governor and took effect July 1, 2020.
New Hampshire – The Department of Agriculture strongly advocated for the tools to implement the health certificate requirement for animal transfers re-enacted last year. HB 1627 would establish 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. AKC GR and NH DOGS testified in February supporting the requirement for health certificates, but expressing among other concerns, the lack of confidentiality for personally identifiable information included in the database. House Environment and Agriculture committee changes eliminated any reference to “hobby breeder”- a term not defined in NH law, and included extensive privacy protections before favorable release. On June 1, 2020 the House Ways and Means Committee approved the funding stream to establish the database and sent HB 1627 as amended to the consent calendar. With the legislative session near end, the Senate folded multiple bills already heard in that chamber into multiple omnibus amendments for passage. A 66-page amendment to HB 1234 includes the animal records database. Although the confidentiality provisions are strong, AKC GR and NH DOGS advocated that the definition of “pet vendor” be fixed before final passage. The Senate did not make that change before adopting the amendment and the House has now agreed to the HB 1234 amended text.
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 protection. AKC 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 on July 22 and is pending in the Assembly Agriculture Committee. The legislature is currently adjourned and no hearings are scheduled.
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 considered in the Senate Insurance Committee on July 20. Read more.
North Carolina – On July 2, Governor Cooper signed a new law which provides certain liability protections when there has been exposure to the COVID-19 virus. It protects any “person” (including individuals, corporations, and non-profit corporations, among others) “in any claim for relief arising from any act or omission alleged to have resulted in the contraction of COVID-19”. The new law further requires that when a person owns or has control of a premises, they must provide reasonable notice to individuals present of actions taken for the purpose of reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19. If reasonable notice is given and an individual fails to follow guidelines or procedures, then the person owning/controlling the premises is not considered liable. Read more.
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 t 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. It also removes current language which requires the need to prove that a dog has a vicious propensity or history of attacks in order to prove the offense of harboring a dangerous dog. 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, and the legislature is scheduled to soon go on recess for the summer. AKC will continue to monitor the bill. Read more
Tennessee – HB 281 / SB 436 sought 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 2019-2020 sessions.
Tennessee – HB 2543 / SB 2442 would have provided that if an animal control agency takes possession of an animal due to the death of the animal’s owner and the owner’s relative fails to retrieve the animal within seven days, it shall be treated as an abandoned animal. AKC GR requested, but did not receive, a friendly amendment to HB 2543 to provide that a relative, co-owner, or other authorized person who contacts the animal control agency within seven days and states intent to retrieve the animal shall be granted additional time. Additional time could be conditioned upon payment of a reasonable and customary boarding fee to the impounding agency. Both bills failed sine die.
Tennessee – HB 852 / SB 1277 sought to enhance aggravated animal cruelty penalties. In 2019, the sponsor of HB 852 requested an amendment to 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. An amendment proposed by the sponsor of HB 852 in 2020 sought to authorize non-governmental “societies” to seize animals; require the seizure of animals when a person is taken into custody on an accusation of a violation of certain offenses involving animals; provide that animals not subjected to alleged cruelty shall also be seized if it believed that they could be at risk of being the subject of some future offense; require that seized animals be placed in the custody of a specified list of entities that excludes veterinarians, co-owners, and boarding facilities; and require that any second or subsequent conviction for simple animal cruelty is a felony. AKC GR submitted letters of concern in 2019 and 2020 regarding the proposed amendments. HB 852 was taken off notice in subcommittee on 5/27/20. Read AKC’s most recent alert.
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 has been posted to the notice calendar for House consideration. 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, and to require 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. No action has been taken by the Governor.
Utah – A new law in Utah provides certain liability protections when there has been exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Among other provisions, it protects any “person” from civil liability for damages or injury “resulting from exposure of an individual to COVID-19 on the premises owned or operated by the person, or during an activity managed by the person.”