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Taking Command Newsletter

State Issues October 2020

State Issues: News from the State Capitols

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

California – AB 2257 addresses California’s new law regarding independent contractors being given the same benefits as employees.  While it was unclear whether this would apply to judges for events, an amendment in the bill requested by AKC GR and others clearly exempts competition judges.  The bill with this amendment was signed by the governor.

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 was signed by the governor.

California – AB 2152 allows pet stores to only showcase animals for adoption from a public animal control agency or shelter, or a rescue.  It now includes an amendment requested by AKC GR that prevents rescues from breeding rescue dogs, but removes language not allowing breeders to be affiliated with rescues.  The amended bill was signed by the governor.

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 as 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 all comments submitted.

Massachusetts Bills were introduced in the House and Senate 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 – On September 28, the Senate Chair of the Joint Judiciary committee requested an extension until November 12, 2020 to act on SB 989.  The bill would create inappropriate shelter, outdoor, and tethering restrictions.  It also places civil fines for neglect of other domestic animals into provisions of law specific to dogs.  AKC GR and constituents of the committee chairman met virtually with legal counsel and have been advised that a re-draft of the bill, if released, will not include onerous dog provisions.  AKC GR will continue to monitor.

 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 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 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 – HB 6030 as passed by the House and Senate would exempt 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.  The bill is part of a package of liability bills, all of which must be signed for any to become law.  The bills will likely soon be transmitted to the governor.  Read more.

 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 committee assignment in the Senate. 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.

 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.

New Hampshire – Governor Sununu convened a Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency Commission in June to review oversight and training standards before making 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.

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 will be holding a hearing on October 20 to consider a range of issues surrounding animal welfare.  Bills likely to be discussed at the hearing include: SB 44 (“Victoria’s Law”), which seeks to limit pet sale sales to animals sourced from shelters and rescues; 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; and SB 1333, which seeks to establish the Pennsylvania Good Canine Care Program based on best practices for shelter and kennel management that the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine hopes to develop pending funding for the project.  AKC GR has submitted written testimony and worked with constituents who have been invited to speak at the hearing.

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 it 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.  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 but continues to monitor it.  Read more.

Pennsylvania – SB 663/HB 1504 seek to increase fees for dog licenses to help properly fund the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.  The bills would increase the license fees and lower the age required for licensing to 8 weeks, while eliminating the price differential between intact and spayed or neutered dogs.  The bills have been assigned to their respective Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committees and AKC GR and the state federation are monitoring. Read more.

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, has hired a lobbyist to assist “on the ground” in the state, and working with the Responsible Pet Owner’s Alliance in preparation for the 2021 legislative session.

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.

Virginia HB 5074 and SB 5067 would provide immunity to persons, as defined in the bills, from civil claims related to the transmission of or exposure to the COVID-19 virus.  SB 5067 was stricken from the Senate calendar and HB 5074 was assigned to the Court of Justice Committee and will likely see no action with the Special Session ending October 18.  AKC GR will continue to monitor the bills.