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State Issues September 2020

State Issues September 2020

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 on Friday, September 4, 2020.

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. This bill has been 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. This bill has been 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 –
In September, the Police Transparency and Accountability Taskforce is hosting multiple listening sessions allowing the public to share recommendations for law enforcement reforms.  More information is available at  AKC GR is monitoring developments for any legislative recommendations relative to police K-9s.

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 submitted comments.

Massachusetts – In June, the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus filed HD 5128, which included a provision prohibiting the utilization of working police K-9s.  Senate Ways and Means released SB 2800, designating the release of a dog as a prohibited use of force unless de-escalation techniques are attempted and fail, and the use of force is necessary and proportionate to the threat of imminent harm.  Both bills mischaracterize how working police K-9s are utilized.  On July 13, AKC GR hosted an educational 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 used to protect public safety.  This effort resulted in acceptable K-9 text in the Senate’s final bill, SB 2820.  The House-passed legislation significantly differs and a conference committee is working now to determine the final version.  AKC GR continues to work with legislators, police departments, and key grassroots contacts to ensure the conference committee’s final product respects the appropriate use of police K-9s.  The presentation can be viewed here with passcode 2L#Arer2.

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 on June 28 and is pending a vote by the full Senate.

Michigan – HB 6030  is one of a series of bills protecting various groups and industries from liability claims relating to COVID-19.  This bill would provide exemptions to persons unless there is clear evidence of reckless misconduct.  The bill was discussed in the House Judiciary Committee on September 9 and September 15.  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 was heard in the House Local Government and Municipal Finance Committee in February and has had significant support from the AKC and clubs. It had a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on September 15.  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 – 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 Hampshire – A Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency has finalized its report making recommendations to the Governor and state legislature, including establishing a statewide system for reporting police misconduct.  AKC GR testified virtually on August 20th requesting that third parties contracted to support animal control enforcement be held accountable for determining proper cause before bringing charges and not acting in bad faith.  This is included in the Commission’s final document.

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.

 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 its state federation are monitoring.  Read more

Rhode Island – The Senate Commission on Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights has met twice to review 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 virtually attended the Commission’s meeting on September 16 to monitor for any legislative recommendations impacting police K-9s.

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 will continue to work closely with the Federation on recommending bill text.

Vermont – HB 636 requires a dog trainer to inform his or her client of the methods and equipment that will be used to train the client’s dog and of the risks and benefits of those methods and equipment.  It also requires the dog trainer to obtain the client’s consent to that training.  AKC GR plans to contact the bill sponsor to understand the rationale for the measure once the pandemic emergency subsides.

Vermont – The House and Senate Judiciary committees are hosting September virtual meetings to discuss making changes to police use of force and justifiable homicide statutory provisions.  AKC GR is monitoring these discussions and will provide information regarding appropriate police K-9 deployment, as appropriate.

 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 maintain communication with the Governor’s office to address this issue.

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.. Both continue to advance and AKC has alerted local clubs on how to contact their lawmakers on this issue.  AKC GR will continue to monitor the bills.