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State Issues November 2020

State Issues November 2020

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

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 if certain criteria are met.  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.  The legislature is in recess until December.

Connecticut – A Police Transparency and Accountability Taskforce has been gathering public input before issuing recommendations for law enforcement reforms.  AKC GR testified that standards of accountability for law enforcement misconduct should include municipal animal control officers given they are identified as law enforcement personnel.  Submitted testimony requested the taskforce review and include animal control officers, including agents appointed as humane society employees, in their misconduct oversight and disciplinary recommendations to the legislature. The taskforce is looking to issue recommendations for short term objectives by December and for more comprehensive changes in 2021. 

Connecticut – The state department of agriculture released draft regulations for animal importers and shelters.  AKC GR reviewed the proposal, issued an alert encouraging recommendations for strengthening the proposed rules, and issued a formal comment to the commissioner.  The Department of Agriculture is currently reviewing those comments submitted. 

Massachusetts The House and Senate introduced bills that would ban or severely limit the use of police K-9s and mischaracterize how working police K-9s are utilized.  AKC GR hosted a program for Massachusetts lawmakers with two expert K-9 police handlers on the value of purpose-bred working dogs, and police K-9 certifications, policies and procedures.  This resulted in acceptable K-9 text in the Senate’s final bill, SB 2820..  The House version differs greatly, and a conference committee will determine the final version.  AKC GR continues to work with legislators, police departments, and key contacts to ensure the final bill respects the appropriate use of K-9s. 

Massachusetts – SB 989 would have established a definition for “outdoor and unattended” resulting in a ban on outdoor kennels; and inserted a system of civil citations for all domestic animals in a section of law applicable to dogs.  Supporters of the bill testified this was necessary to address the hoarding of animals before a situation became a crisis resulting in criminal charges.  AKC GR submitted a re-drafted bill to the committee that would not result in unreasonable restrictions for dog owners and would specifically address people suffering from animal hoarding disorder.  Despite support for the re-draft from the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation, police K-9 handlers and AKC Breeders of Merit in Massachusetts, the proponents refused to accept any changes to the text.  On November 16, 2020, the bill was sent to a study order by the Joint Judiciary Committee and will not move forward this session.

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 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.    

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 released an alert on November 9, 2020 encouraging calls in support of Amendment #19 after Rep. Crocker filed the bill as an amendment to the state budget bill being voted before November 12.  If adopted, the bill could become law soon!

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 – HB 6030  exempts persons (including independent contractors and volunteers) from COVID liability claims so long as they are in compliance with all federal, state, local, and agency regulations and laws.  The bill also clarifies that a minimal, isolated deviation from strict compliance would not automatically negate liability protection.  AKC GR provided alerts throughout the process to help clubs communicate with legislators.  The bill was signed by the governor and became effective on October 28, 2020.  Read more. 

Michigan – HB 6318 and 6319 seek to change the state’s dangerous dog laws.  Changes include re-defining “dangerous dog” as one that presents a significant risk of serious injury of death or serious injury to a companion animal or person when off the owner’s property.  Dogs that are muzzled, leashed, or attended by the owner are exempt.  A dog can also be declared dangerous if it bites someone – even if it is a minor bite.  Dogs declared dangerous after a hearing must be microchipped and sterilized, among other requirements.  There are also requirements and new definitions for “vicious dog”.  The bills are pending in the House Judiciary Committee and AKC is closely monitoring. 

Michigan – SB 419 regulates animal rescues.  AKC GR and the federation communicated with the sponsor’s office on multiple occasions and worked to clarify several provisions.  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 and is pending a vote by the full Senate.  

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 passed the House and is pending in the Senate Local Government Committee. AKC and its federation are strongly supporting it. 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 with 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 closely monitoring these bills, which have yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

Michigan – House Bill 6009 would ban ear cropping, tail docking and “debarking” unless medically necessary to address an illness or injury.  The bill has been assigned to the House Agriculture Committee and is not currently scheduled for a hearing.  Read more. 

New Hampshire – Governor Sununu convened a Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency Commission in June to review oversight, training standards and make recommendations for change.  AKC GR testified regarding the need to hold animal control officers accountable to the same standard and discipline for law enforcement misconduct; such as making unsubstantiated charges and acting in bad faith.  The AKC GR recommendation was included in the Taskforce’s Final Report of Recommendations to the Governor and Legislature.  

New Hampshire – In mid-August the NH Fish and Game commission met and discussed a Voices of Wildlife petition requesting the repeal of regulations allowing beagle clubs to maintain hares.  AKC GR submitted a letter of opposition to the petition and spoke with Commissioner Green who had visited the Claremont Beagle club and found no wrongdoing on the part of the club.  The Commissioner motioned to reject the petition and move forward with one change to the current rule that would allow the taking of one hare to be inspected by a non-partial veterinarian every year.  This motion carried unanimously.  AKC GR is working with beagle clubs in the state to ensure changes to the rule are reasonable and do not create unnecessary burdens.

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 on Monday, October 19, and has been further referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. 

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 protectionAKC 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 and is pending in the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

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 discussed in the Senate Insurance Committee on July 20 and remains pending. 

Pennsylvania – The Senate Judiciary Committee held an informational hearing on October 20 to consider a range of issues surrounding animal welfare.  Bills discussed at the hearing included: SB 44 (“Victoria’s Law”), which seeks to prohibit limit pet sale sales to animals sourced from shelters and rescues; and SB 1267 which 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.  Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement funding was also discussed as dog licensing fees have not been raised since 1996 and the BDLE continues to operate at a shortfall.  AKC GR supplied talking points to a breeder who testified at the hearing and sent letters and information to members of the Committee ahead of the hearing.  AKC GR has been informed that there are no plans to move any bills because of the lack of available session days.  AKC GR is also working on scheduling a meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair and staff in December to talk about the above legislation and other dog-related issues prior to the new legislative session. 

Rhode Island – The Senate Commission on Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights continues to meet and review the system of disciplinary review and law enforcement reform measures being considered by other states.  A survey of law enforcement department disciplinary actions over the past five years has been distributed and tallied.  AKC GR is virtually attending the Commission’s meetings to monitor for any legislative recommendations impacting police K-9s.

Texas – The Sunset Advisory Commission has recommended that the Texas Licensed Breeders Program be eliminated. Commission findings cite unenforceable requirements and administrative costs that exceed program revenues. AKC GR anticipates major legislative advocacy efforts by animal rights and rescue groups to oppose eliminating the program and instead to tighten licensing requirements. Their preliminary proposals include lowering the ownership threshold from 11 intact females to 5 and eliminating an annual sales requirement.  If enacted, this would vastly expand the number of breeders subject to state regulation.  AKC GR has hosted a virtual meeting for Texas clubs and is working with the Responsible Pet Owner’s Alliance in preparation for the 2021 legislative session.

Texas – Last year, Texas Governor Abbott signed SB 1531 into law, which added pleas of “no contest” to animal cruelty charges as a ground for denying or refusing to renew a breeder license.  In response, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation proposed amendments to the state’s Dog or Cat Breeders Act regulations to implement SB 1531.  The proposal also combines two rule subsections that are virtually identical, and makes technical changes.

Vermont – The House Agriculture Committee introduced HB 940 establishing animal cruelty investigation, training and certification for animal control officers and it was placed on the House calendar for action in March.  In June, the bill was recommitted to the committee for additional changes. AKC GR has concerns that the draft eliminates the need for humane officers to be appointed by employing humane societies incorporated in Vermont and fails to specify the limits of officers’ authority.  AKC GR will continue to work closely with the Federation on recommending bill text to the committee before the bill is re-filed.

Vermont – Two bills, SB 124 and SB 119, which make changes to police training, use of force and other law enforcement statutory provisions became law on October 7, 2020.  AKC GR is pleased there were no concerns about the appropriate deployment of police K-9s raised. 

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.  At least one rescue has resumed transport by following state quarantine guidelines.  AKC GR will continue to monitor.