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State Issues March 2021

State Issues March 2021

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

Alabama – HB 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 has passed in the House and in the Senate committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development. AKC GR and advocates are working to support this bill.

Alabama – HB 551 seeks to establish limitations and requirements for tethering a dog. A violation would be the crime of animal cruelty. HB 551 is assigned to the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. 

Alabama – SB 30 provides civil immunity for businesses, other entities, and individuals associated with these entities from claims relating to contraction of or exposure to coronavirus. SB 30, which was supported by AKC was enacted as Act No. 2021-4.

Arkansas HB 1152 would allow the emergency transport of an injured police dog if there is no person requiring immediate medical attention or transport at the time, limit liability of the transporter, and allow a court to require the person that caused the injury to be responsible for costs of emergency transport. AKC GR supports HB 1152, which has passed in the House and has been referred to the Senate Agriculture, Forestry & Economic Development Committee. 

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 when there is willful reckless, or intentional misconduct. SB 17 has been referred to the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. 

Arkansas SB 254 provides 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 254 has been enacted at Act 401.

CaliforniaAB 702 would require a breeder permit for anyone who breeds a dog in the state.  This would include complying with numerous regulations, obtaining a business license, and only breeding dogs between 2 and 7 years of age. AKC has issued alerts to encourage Californians to join us in opposing this bill and communicating with the author’s office and the Assembly.  The bill has been assigned to the Assembly Business and Professions Committee, but is not yet scheduled for a hearing.

ColoradoHB 21-1102 seeks to regulate pet stores in the state and not allow any new pet stores to open. As introduced, the bill contained legislative findings claiming that rescues were a better answer for public safety, as pet stores import dogs from out of state.  AKC and its state federation succeeded in educating House members about the many inaccuracies with this statement and the problems that have surfaced regarding importation by rescues. As amended, the bill has addressed some concerns and removed these legislative findings. However, the bill would require that contact information – including phone numbers – of the breeders be placed on all cages in pet stores, and would also allow localities to have referendums on this issue. AKC and its state federation continue to work on this issue, which was held in the Senate Agriculture Committee on March 24, but will likely be rescheduled. Read more.   

Connecticut – The Joint Human Services Committee received testimony regarding HB 6318 on February 16, 2021. The bill would update Connecticut’s statutes to align with federal service animal definitions and requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It also would educate the public regarding the differences between service, emotional support, and therapy animals and raise awareness about the rights and responsibilities of these animal owners. AKC GR submitted testimony in support.

Connecticut – The Department of Agriculture filed an animal welfare proposal that had a public hearing on March 3, 2021. AKC GR issued an alert and testified in support of HB 6504 together with the President of the Connecticut Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners (CFDRDO) at the Joint Environment Committee because it would require a veterinary examination of animals brought into the state by animal shelters, among other helpful provisions.

Connecticut – On Friday, March 5, 2021, the Joint Planning and Development Committee will considered HB 6542 authorizing municipalities to adopt and enforce obligations and restrictions on pet retail sales. AKC GR issued an alert and testified in opposition. State law provides licensure, uniform animal care and conditions standards, and consumer protections for those who acquire pets at retail. Adopting this measure would result in a patchwork of different rules across the state.

Connecticut –SB 123 would increase the penalties for injuring or killing a police K-9 or volunteer search and rescue K-9. AKC GR supports the bill, and it was voted favorably by the Joint Public Safety Committee on March 4, 2021.

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 proposes a companion animal breeders license.  AKC GR has researched existing oversight authority for anyone selling more than two litters a year and provided information to the bill sponsor.

Connecticut – On March 12, 2021, the Joint Judiciary Committee heard testimony on SB 923, which would require the Connecticut Sentencing Commission review the state’s animal cruelty laws and make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly. AKC and the Connecticut Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners (CFDRDO) are concerned that members of the commission do not have animal welfare experience. Testimony was submitted by AKC GR and CFDRDO, consistent with that of the Department of Agriculture, requesting collaboration with the department and subject matter experts. AKC GR has scheduled a meeting with the Executive Director of the commission to discuss the scope of such a review and available options to ensure input from animal welfare subject matter experts. 

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. 

FloridaHB 7 / SB 72 would provide certain protections to business entities from civil liability claims related to COVID-19. HB 7 has passed in the House and has been received in the Senate. SB 72 has passed in the Senate and has been received in the House.

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 assignment. 

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 passed unanimously in the Senate Agriculture Committee and will next be heard by 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. HB 731 has been referred to the House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee and Judiciary Committee. SB 1122 has received multiple Senate committee referrals.  

Florida HB 1003 / SB 1316, among other provisions, would provide for appointment of an advocate for the interests of an animal in certain court proceedings, at the discretion of the court. Both bills have received multiple committee referrals.  

FloridaHB 1405 / SB 1810 would create a program to provide care for retired law enforcement dogs. AKC GR supports this legislation as introduced. HB 1405 has been referred to the House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee. SB 1810 has been referred to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.   

Florida – AKC GR requested friendly amendments to SB 96, a child welfare bill, that includes a provision that would change the definition of “animal husbandry” to exclude care of non-livestock animals. The bill passed in committee without the requested amendments and now is in Senate Rules.

Georgia – HB 112 seeks to extend the applicability for one year of a 2020 Act that provides certain immunities from liability claims regarding COVID-19. HB 112 has passed in the House and been referred to the Senate. 

Georgia – HB 530 would designate May 1 as Purebred Dog Day in Georgia each year. This bill is supported by AKC GR and the Georgia Canine Coalition.

GeorgiaHB 547 addresses disposition of fees related to licenses for pet dealers, kennels, stables, and animal shelters and creates a fund for reimbursement of certain expenses incurred by local governments. The current version of the bill does not include provisions to increase fees paid by licensees. HB 547 passed in the House and has been referred to the Senate.  

Georgia – HB 609 would prohibit the marketing and displaying for commercial purposes of dogs, cats and rabbits in certain locations. AKC GR expressed concerns that this would be problematic for responsible breeders and sellers who wished to meet a potential buyer in a pre-arranged safe location and that it is unclear if restrictions on the display of animals would affect AKC events. HB 609 has been assigned to the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.

Georgia – SB 303 seeks to enact problematic definitions and onerous requirements for “commercial” dog breeders. It would define as a commercial breeder every person who possesses two or more dogs (intact or sterilized) and offers a single puppy for sale. Among the many scientifically unsupported requirements in the bill, it would establish a 20 dog limit, require dogs to be housed in a structure with a certificate of occupancy that conforms to engineering standards that would prohibit keeping dogs or raising puppies in a home, require undefined annual “genetic testing” of dogs, and require all dogs to be sterilized at or before 5 year of age. Dogs deemed “inappropriate to breed” by a veterinarian would be required to be sterilized immediately, regardless if the condition was temporary. The bill also contains vague language that would grant a cause of action against the breeder for dogs acquired from an impounding agency. This bill does not yet have a committee assignment and will not be considered until the 2022 legislative session.    

Illinois – Numerous bills have been introduced to ban the retail sale of pets in pet stores in the state, and to prevent any rescue affiliated with a breeder to source to a pet store. AKC GR and its state federation are opposing this bill, which limits pet choice and implies that a rescue is the best place to get a dog. HB 1711 passed the House Consumer Protection Committee and SB 1709 is pending in the Senate Agriculture Committee. Two other bills have been introduced.  Read more.  

Illinois – Senate Bill 153 would provide a court-appointed advocate to represent the interests of animals in a case involving the injury, health, or safety of a dog or cat. AKC is opposing this bill, as there is the potential for legal confusion about who will be ultimately responsible for making decisions impacting animals if an advocate participates in a case. This bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be considered soon by the full Senate. Residents are encouraged to reach out to their Senator in opposition. Read more.

Indiana – House Bill 1002 and Senate Bill 1 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 on February 16 and is pending in the Senate Agriculture Committee. 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.

Iowa – Senate File 483 (formerly SSB 1195) would prevent local governments from passing any law that places significant restrictions – including financial hardships – on the use of working animals or “animal enterprises”, which includes animal shows and competitions. AKC and local clubs are joining fairgrounds, 4-H groups, and others in supporting this legislation that simply ensures that legal, humane animal events that provide so much benefit to animals, clubs, and local communities can continue – and would protect venues that rely on these events. The bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on March 1. 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. This bill has been introduced in the House and is in the Committee on Committees. 

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. These bills have been introduced and are in the Committee on Committees. 

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. This bill has been introduced in the House and is in the Committee on Committees. 

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. This bill has been introduced in the House and is in the Committee on Committees. 

Kentucky  HB 366 would designate police dogs as the official working dogs of Kentucky. This bill has been introduced in the House and is in the Committee on Committees. 

Kentucky – SB 57 would penalize misrepresentation of an assistance dog. This bill has been introduced in the Senate and is in the Committee on Committees. 

Kentucky – SB 59 would, among other provisions, prohibit retail pet shops from selling a dog, cat, or rabbit. This bill has been introduced in the Senate and is in the Committee on Committees. 

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 is assigned to the Senate Committee on Agriculture. 

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 and the Maine Federation of Dog Clubs spoke to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry on February 25, 2021 to express concerns with the rabies vaccination requirement at 3 months and to request an amendment requiring any assistant employed by the state to assist with animal emergencies such as hoarding cases, enter into a confidentiality agreement prohibiting the use of evidence collected for private fundraising purposes. An amendment providing an additional 30 days after a puppy turns 3 months to get the initial rabies vaccination was adopted.

Maine – LD 561 would require the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to adopt rules that set standards for animal rescue entities, specify staff-to-animal ratios and govern animals that are returned multiple times and resold or placed in multiple homes. AKC GR contacted the bill sponsor and learned that an animal rescue operation with more than 50 dogs had only one person caring for them and that a vicious dog had been re-homed several times.  At the public hearing on March 9, 2021, AKC GR testified regarding current standards of care and available enforcement provisions to address animal hoarding disorder situations. It was also suggested that animal rescue organizations and shelters be required to share known behavior histories with those looking to re-home a dog. On March 23, 2021 the committee voted to send a letter to the Governor requesting appointments to the Animal Welfare Advisory Council and that the council take up these issues instead of voting passage of the resolution. 

Maryland – Cross-filed legislation entitled “Unattended Dogs in Extreme Weather” has been working its way through the House and Senate. HB 81 and SB 122 include exemptions for hunting, livestock herding, sledding, sporting, or training as supported by AKC GR in 2020. AKC GR has attempted to work with bill sponsors to have acclimation added as an exemption for persons 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 exempted 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 Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. SB 122 has not yet had a vote because Senator Michael Hough asked that it be held pending amendments. AKC GR is working with Senator Hough to have SB 122 or HB 81, whichever one moves in the committee, favorably amended. AKC GR will continue to monitor the legislation.

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. The bill would have negatively impacted field trials and other American Kennel Club sanctioned events. AKC GR and the Sportsmen Alliance worked 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 where it is scheduled for a hearing on March 24. HB 293 has passed the House and has been assigned to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. Read More.

Maryland – HB 1080 / SB 760 are cross-filed bills that seek to authorize the filing of a petition against an owner or custodian for reasonable costs of caring for a seized animal, including the provision of food, water, shelter, and medical care. The bills limit costs to $15 a day per animal plus reasonable costs for necessary veterinary care, and provide for forfeiture of the animal for failure to make the required payment. AKC GR has met with both the House and Senate sponsors to express concerns that the bills allow for the forfeiture of animals with no mechanism to have them returned to an individual who is found not guilty or has charges dropped. GR provided written and oral testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in opposition of the bills as written at the House hearing on March 4 and at the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing on March 10. AKC GR will continue to work to ensure the bills protect the ownership rights of innocent owners. 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 social media “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 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 has passed the Senate and has been assigned to the House Economic Matters Committee where it is scheduled for a hearing on March 23.   

Massachusetts – HD 326 would authorize the emergency transport and treatment of police K-9s injured in the line of duty. AKC GR issued an alert asking Massachusetts residents to contact their lawmakers and request that they co-sponsor the bill. Representative Xiarhos’ office reports a resulting significant number of signatures. In addition, Senator Montigny has also re-filed the bill in the Senate, SD 1177.

Minnesota – AKC supports both House File 568 and Senate File 952 that would allow certified emergency medical personnel to provide emergency medical care to injured police dogs. HF 568 was considered by the House Health Finance and Police Committee on March 12, and remains pending in the committee. SF 952 is currently on second reading after passing both the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee and the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy Committee. Click here for more information.

Minnesota – House File 1137 seeks to modify the membership of the state’s Board of Animal Health. Currently, the Board is comprised of five members appointed by the governor, three of whom are livestock producers and two who are practicing veterinarians licensed in Minnesota.  HF 1137 would expand the number of members to nine. Seven members would be regional members (with no two regional members residing in the same congressional district) and two would be at-large. The bill also requires that appointments to the board must achieve gender balance, and that members must be knowledgeable in animal agriculture, animal health, or pets and companion animals. Click here to read more.  

Minnesota – House File 2086 seeks to modify the use of certain traps used in hunting, and would require the reporting of pets or companion animals found caught in the traps. The bill has been referred to the Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee, but has not been scheduled for consideration. Concerned owners and enthusiasts are encouraged to contact their state representative and express their thoughts on the legislation. Click here for more information.   

Mississippi  HB 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, but did not additionally advance.  

Missouri – House Bill 365 and Senate Bill 107 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 these bills.  House Bill 365 passed the House Local Government Committee on February 25 and is pending in the Senate Administrative Rules Committee. Senate Bill 107 passed the Senate Local Government Committee on March 3.

Missouri – House Bill 589 would make several changes to protect dogs and the rights of dog owners when animals are seized on suspicion of neglect or abuse. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that the accused are innocent until proven guilty, and to protect dogs that are seized and held during a trial. AKC and its state federation support this bill, which passed the House Agriculture Policy Committee on February 25. Read more.

Missouri –House Bill 647 and  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 these bills. SB 159 passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on February 22. HB 647 is being considered by the House Rural Community Development on March 23.

Nebraska – LB 52 would exempt persons from liability for exposure to COVID any time after the bill’s effective date. AKC GR is monitoring this bill for potential impact on AKC events. The bill had a public hearing in 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 had a public hearing in the Judiciary Committee on February 18. Read more.

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,” defined as organizations with wildlife or conservation experience, to nominate individuals. 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 Hampshire – On February 3, 2021, AKC GR testified with NH DOGS in support of HB 249, which would authorize animal shelters to own or lease a facility rather than be required to own it. It also clarifies which exemptions apply to animal shelters for obtaining health certificates and requires that shelters contact the microchip owner of record before any transfer of the animal. The House Environment and Agriculture Committee amended and unanimously voted to favorably release the bill on February 18, 2021. Read AKC GR’s alert.

New Hampshire –  Prior to enactment of a 2019 law, a commercial breeder in the state who transferred fewer than 50 dogs in a year was not required to get municipal zoning authorization as a prerequisite for state licensure. However, in 2019, legislation was enacted that removed the state’s definition of commercial breeder and classified a person as a pet vendor if they transfer 25 dogs in a 12-month period. Additionally, prior to 2019, breeders that were classified as commercial breeders but who transferred fewer than 50 dogs in a year were not required to receive municipal zoning authorization before applying for their state license. The 2019 change required all applicants for a pet vendor license to obtain municipal zoning authorization. As a result of this legislative change and not due to change in their operations, several dog breeders that were previously licensed have been unable to obtain the state’s new pet vendor license due to not being granted municipal zoning authorization. This has resulted in the violation of due process for those dog breeders. HB 250 seeks to address these issues by (1) raising the minimum transfer threshold to 35 dogs, and (2) “grandfathering” those breeders who were not previously required to petition local authorities for authorization before obtaining a state license so they may continue to own and personally enjoy their dogs without needing local authorization before applying to operate as a pet vendor. In early February, AKC GR and the New Hampshire Dog Owners of the Granite State testified in support of HB 250 when it was considered by the House Environment and Agriculture Committee. The committee favorably released the bill on February 18, 2021. 

New Hampshire – Two bills that would provide COVID-19 liability protections to small businesses and non-profit organizations, HB 255 and SB 63, were considered in February. AKC GR submitted testimony in support of both bills to ensure New Hampshire dog clubs would receive these protections. 

New Hampshire – Two bills regarding rabies vaccinations were considered by the House Environment and Agriculture Committee on February 17, 2021. AKC GR issued an alert that HB 322 would require a color photo of a dog, cat, or ferret to be attached to its rabies vaccination certificate and HB 367 would require rabies antibody tests after vaccination and allow rabies titers in lieu of rabies vaccination for dogs with a reaction to initial vaccination. After hearing concerns about cost and adequate protection, including testimony from AKC GR and NH DOGS, the committee voted unanimously to reject both bills.  

New Hampshire – To deter dog theft and illegal tampering with tracking dog collars, HB 338 would increase the penalty from a misdemeanor offense to a class B felony. AKC GR testified in support of this bill on February 10, 2021. Committee members expressed concerns that the bill only applied to dogs, regarding how the value of a dog would be determined, and what level of offense would be an appropriate criminal charge. On March 3, 2021 the committee released an amended bill that would increase the penalty each time an individual stole a dog from a criminal misdemeanor through a class A felony for a third offense.

New Hampshire – HB 366 would amend state animal cruelty law to acknowledge that animal neglect and cruelty may be the result of a defendant’s mental illness known as animal hoarding disorder. AKC supports the bill because it would require a judge to order psychiatric evaluation and mental health treatment, if necessary. Without treatment, and despite conviction, these individuals often continue to collect animals to the detriment of the health and safety of themselves and the animals. AKC testified in support on February 3, 2021, and the House Environment and Agriculture Committee has retained the bill to work on it further.  

New Hampshire – AKC GR issued an alert and testified on March 1, 2021 in support of HB 431, which seeks to allow town select boards to supervise, sanction, and also suspend an animal control officer for bad faith conduct. The House Municipal and County Government Committee noted there is only one elected animal control officer, as state law allows local authorities to provide these services by electing, appointing, hiring, or subcontracting. AKC GR encouraged the committee to amend the bill and provide oversight provisions uniformly for every model of service delivery. This bill was filed as a result of an individual personnel issue with an animal control officer and the committee decided to retain it for further review. 

New Hampshire – On March 1, 2021, the House Municipal and County Government considered HB 467, which would amend the “Use Taxation” law so that “open space land” would not apply to “any farm land or forest land used to harbor non-native, non-domesticated animal species”. AKC GR and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation testified that some facilities where dog owners train with non-native birds (i.e., pheasants) would be negatively impacted. The committee voted the bill inexpedient to legislate. Read AKC GR’s alert on this issue.  

New Hampshire – Two amended bills regarding the creation of a state-wide animal records database continue to move. AKC GR and NH DOGS expressed concerns about HB 532 to the House Environment and Agriculture Committee when it considered the bill in late January. The committee favorably released an amended version of the bill that addressed AKC’s and NH DOGS’ concerns. HB 532 was later considered by the House Ways and Means Committee, during which AKC GR explained the rationale for the changes. The bill remains pending in House Ways and Means. Read more about HB 532 here. Meanwhile, in early February, the Senate Finance Committee hosted a hearing on SB 127, an appropriations bill that also featured the unamended animal records database text of HB 532. During the hearing, AKC GR requested that the committee adopt the same changes as were made to the House bill. The Senate Finance Committee responded favorably to the requests from AKC GR, NH DOGS, and New Hampshire dog owners by adopting an amended version of SB 127 that largely reflects the acceptable animal records database text adopted by the House. SB 127 remains pending.  

New Hampshire – SB 17 would, among provisions for brew pubs in the state, authorize municipalities to adopt ordinances permitting dogs outside at brew pubs. AKC supports this provision and submitted testimony on March 23, 2021, to the House Commerce and Consumer Protection committee. 

New Hampshire – SB 122 would, among other provisions, increase the penalties from a misdemeanor to a felony for a person who injures or kills; or allow their animal to injure or kill, a working service dog.  AKC GR submitted testimony in support at the February 9, 2021 hearing. On March 18, 2021, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary voted favorably to release an amended bill that preserves this section.

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 Jersey – SB 2868 seeks to establish a courtroom advocates (aka, “Lawyers for Dogs”) program in the state. The bill features board language that will likely impact the legal classification of animals in the state. The bill has passed the Senate and has been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. AKC is actively opposing SB 2868, and is working with a coalition of interest groups in opposition. 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. 

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 1580 would restrict tethering in the state. While some provisions are reasonable, some are very unclear and could have unintended consequences that will impact responsible dog owners and outdoor dog events, including provisions that seem to require a 10-foot tether, fencing, or shelter to be provided when a dog is outside for more than 15 minutes.  The bill passed committee on February 25 and AKC continues to work with local clubs and sportsmen to educate lawmakers on concerns. Read more.

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 was closely monitoring this bill, which failed in committee on February 25.

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.” The bill passed the House on March 15 and is pending in the Senate Agriculture and Wildlife Committee.

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 on March 1.

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 on March 2 and is pending committee assignment in the House. Read more.

Pennsylvania HB 526 / SB 232 are reintroductions of legislation from last session that seeks to increase dog license fees to increase funding for the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. As proposed, the legislation changes the licensing requirement from 12 weeks to 8 weeks, but eliminates differentiation between intact and spayed/neutered. AKC GR and the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs met with Kristen Donmoyer, Director PA BDLE, regarding the proposed dog license fee increase legislation. She explained both the funding and licensing issues currently being experienced. AKC GR will continue the monitor these bills.  

Pennsylvania – AKC GR is working with the sponsor of a bill introduced late 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 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 joined the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union to testify at the February 9, 2021 hearing and expressed concerns that registries have not been found to be effective at preventing animal cruelty and encouraged the committee to consider using more effective tools.

Rhode Island – On March 10, 2021, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HB 5569, which would allow the district court to include pets in a temporary protective order for domestic violence victims. The family court has this authority already. AKC GR submitted testimony in support of this measure to protect pets from violence in domestic situations. 

Rhode Island – AKC GR issued an alert that on March 2, 2021, the House Judiciary Committee was taking public testimony on HB 5577. AKC GR testified in opposition of the bill, which would authorize court-appointed legal advocates for animals. Appointing lawyers for animals “in the interests of justice” implies animals have legal non-human rights. As an animal welfare organization, AKC is concerned that changing the legal status of animals from property would negatively affect the ability of owners, veterinarians, and government agencies to protect and care for animals. The House committee has retained the bill to review it further. On March 4, 2021 the Senate President introduced an identical bill as SB 534, and the Senate Minority Leader introduced another companion bill, SB 601. AKC GR developed a fact sheet, and  Rhode Island dog clubs and members are contacting their lawmakers to express opposition to these bills.

Rhode Island – The House Judiciary Committee took testimony on March 10, 2021 regarding HB 5580, that would authorize courts to use criteria for child custody disputes in awarding custody of a pet upon the dissolution of marriage, and HB 5618 regarding contested pet ownership upon termination of cohabitation. These bills were re-filed from last session. AKC GR submitted written testimony in opposition to courts using criteria governing child custody disputes for animals.

Rhode Island – HB 5617 would place a lifetime ban on the possession of animals for anyone convicted of serious animal cruelty. Testimony was submitted for the March 3, 2021 hearing by the House Judiciary Committee noting the bill fails to address how the convicted would be monitored for the duration of their lifetime. The bill may also unintentionally remove a tool judges have to obtain agreement to engage in mental health counseling by a defendant whose conduct was the result of mental illness.

Rhode Island – HB 5736 would ban tethering a dog outside for more than 30 minutes when the temperature is below 32 degrees or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. AKC GR testified in opposition before the House Judiciary Committee on March 9, 2021, because current law provides that animal control officers may address any weather situation where a dog might be at risk of harm. Adding specific temperatures to the law could diminish protections for any breed that tolerates only moderate climates and punish owners of breeds that thrive in lower temperatures.

South Carolina  H 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 Carolina  H 3067 would require that any second violation of the Chapter on Cruelty to Animals, which include violations under 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 – 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 American Kennel Club for any of the breeds. Distinguishing characteristics would include “a broad or flat head with high set attentive ears and wide jaw, whip like tail that is thick at the base and tapered at the tip, strong and muscular shoulders with blades wide and sloping, well-muscled hindquarters, and almond shaped eyes.” H 4094 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 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 CarolinaS 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. Read AKC GR’s alert on S 556 as it was originally introduced.

Tennessee – HB 361 / SB 310 would allow governmental animal control agencies to enter abandoned property and dwellings to rescue non-livestock animals. HB 361 is on the calendar of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee for 3/31/21. SB 310 is on the Senate Judiciary Committee calendar for 3/30/21. Read AKC GR’s alert on HB 361.

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 dog rescue activities. SB 511 was sent to “General Sub” in the Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee on March 17, 2021, which means the bill has been put “on hold” and is very unlikely to be considered again in 2021. The Tennessee legislative session lasts two years, and therefore the bills remain active until end of session in 2022. Read AKC GR’s legislative alert on SB 511 and update on the 3/17/21 action in committee. AKC GR will continue to monitor these bills. 

Tennessee – HB 726 sought to require the relative of a pet’s deceased owner to retrieve the animal from an animal control agency within seven days or else the animal would be considered abandoned. SB 726 failed in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Similar bill SB 1109 is assigned to the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee.  

Tennessee HB 733 / SB 166 would amend the definition of aggravated animal cruelty. SB 166 passed in the Senate and is ready for transmission to the House. HB 733 is on the calendar of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee for 3/31/21. 

TennesseeHB 803 / SB 903, among other provisions, would increase penalties for offenses against more than nine non-livestock animals. This type of legislation is sometimes referred to as “multiple spilled water bowls equal a felony” bills. HB 803 is on the calendar of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee for 3/31/21. SB 903 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

TennesseeHB 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. HB 1322 is on the calendar of the House Public Service Subcommittee for 3/31/2021.

Texas – House Bill 543 seeks to restrict political subdivisions in the state, including counties and municipalities, from imposing requirements that ban the use of working animals. AKC supports HB 543, which was considered by the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee on March 18. The bill remains pending in the committee. Click here for more information.   

Texas – AKC supports House Bill 604, which seeks to require animal shelters and releasing agencies, including animal rescue organizations, to scan an animal for a microchip as soon as practicable after the animal is placed in their custody. The bill is scheduled for consideration by the House County Affairs Committee on March 25. Click here for more information.   

Texas – Amended House Bill 652 would require animal shelters to provide notice to each person who adopts an animal from the shelter if the animal was or may have been exposed to a bodily fluid of another animal in the shelter that was diagnosed with bordetella, distemper, kennel cough, leptospirosis, parvovirus, or rabies, and the shelter learns of the exposure within 15 days before or after the owner acquires the animal. Click here for more information on HB 652. 

Texas – House Bill 873 is one of several tethering bills that have been introduced in the Texas Legislature in 2021. The bill seeks to rewrite the state’s current tethering law. AKC GR does not oppose HB 873 as filed, and will continue monitoring developments with it. Click here to read more on HB 873.   

Texas – AKC supports House Bill 1677, which seeks to direct the State Preservation Board to establish a Texas Police Service Animals Memorial Monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol. A substituted version of the bill was approved by the House Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Committee on March 22.  

Texas – House Bill 1818 seeks to limit pet stores that are located in counties of more than 200,000 residents to sourcing dogs from only: (1) an animal control agency, (2) an animal shelter, (3) an animal rescue organization, or (4) a breeder licensed by the state of Texas. HB 1818 was left pending in the House Business and Industry Committee after its hearing on March 23. AKC continues to oppose this bill. Click here for more information.   

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.

Utah – House Bill 420 as introduced seeks to ban retail pet stores from selling any dog unless sourced from a shelter or rescue. The definition of “pet store” was so broad that it could have included others who sell dogs, including hobbyists. AKC GR was also concerned about the restrictions on pet choice and consumer protection, should this bill pass. The bill was held in committee on March 2, and a House floor amendment was filed to clarify the definition of “pet store”. The legislature adjourned without advancing the bill. Read more.

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 legislature and is pending action by the governor.

Utah – Senate Bill 38 requires the state Peace Officer Standards and Training Council to develop regulations regarding training standards and annual recertification for canine officers and police canines. The government is also directed to develop standards on the appropriate use of police dogs. This bill was signed by the governor on March 16.

Vermont – HB 316 would clarify that a hunter training dogs or using dogs to hunt black bear must retain visual and verbal control over the dogs while hunting. This is in response to two serious bear hunting dog attacks of people hiking. It has been forwarded to the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife for review.

Vermont – The Vermont Federation of Dog Clubs met virtually with AKC GR on March 8, 2021 to review HB 369, which would create standards for care of domestic pets, and other bills filed for consideration.

Vermont – The House Agriculture Committee released HB 421, which would provide training and oversight for animal control officers. The House of Representatives voted favorably and sent the bill to the Senate for consideration on March 12, 2021. AKC GR supports the bill and is working closely with the Vermont Federation of Dog Clubs to adopt one amendment defining “humane societies” and facilitate its passage this session.

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 and 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 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 a result, the Board will remain as currently comprised. Read more.

Washington – HB 1424 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 expressed 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 has passed the House and is pending in the Senate Business, Financial Services, and Trade Committee.

West Virginia HB 2561 seeks to change several areas of the current laws related to animal cruelty. It would add language that limits the amount of time a dog can be outdoors when temperatures are below 32 degrees and above 85 degrees with no exceptions. The bill allows for seizure for violations and increases criminal penalties. Finally, the bill provides that a person in violation of this statute for a second time shall be added to a state-wide, publicly available, do not adopt or sell registry. The bill has been assigned to the House Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee and is currently not scheduled for a hearing. AKC GR will continue to monitor the bill.

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. While there are some concerns, Senate File 25 is a better option. AKC GR requested an amendment to ensure that when owners are found not guilty, their animals are returned to them. The bill passed the Senate with the amendment and is pending consideration by the full House of Representatives.