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Taking Command October 2017

Federal Issues October 2017

Federal Issues: From Our Nation’s Capitol

The AKC Government Relations team continues to monitor Congress for issues of interest to dog owners. Visit our 2017 Legislation Tracking page and click on “US Fed” on the map to get the latest updates on federal bills currently being monitored by the AKC. Highlights of issues we are currently addressing on the federal level include:

U.S Congress – AKC GR is working with members of Congress to secure more information about the cause and possible solutions for the shortage of domestically-bred explosives detection and other working dogs for national security purposes. In conjunction with several members of Congress, AKC has provided recommendations and language in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810) to support using and developing additional sources for appropriate domestically-bred working dogs. It also requires the Department of Defense to provide reports on specific aspects of current military working dog procurement and breeding programs including comparative costs of foreign versus domestically-bred dogs, availability of domestically-bred dogs, and non-classified requirements for green (minimally trained) dogs. HR 2810 has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate. On October 3, Sheila Goffe was a witness on this topic at a joint hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs; and the Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on transportation and Protective Security.

USDA APHIS Request for Public Comment –USDA APHIS, which is charged with implementing and enforcing the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), has requested public comment on current federal licensing for pet breeder/dealers. The stated purpose is to seek comment on ways to “better promote sustained compliance…, reduce licensing fees and burdens, and strengthen existing safeguards that prevent [those] who are unfit to hold a license from obtaining a license or working with regulated animals.”  If you are not already subject to USDA licensing, the specific proposed areas of comment do not impact you.  However, if you breed pets, maintain more than 4 breeding females, and transfer a pet sight unseen, you are already subject to USDA licensing and may be impacted by the proposed changes. This provides an excellent opportunity to offer constructive, thoughtful and data-driven commentary and advice on current AWA licensing requirements, and how APHIS can implement, improve or clarify current rules. The AKC will provide comment and also encourages you to comment.  You may comment directly to APHIS.  Read AKC’s Legislative Alert for more information on how to comment.

U.S. Congress – The Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS – H.R. 909/S. 322)  would add federal protections for the pets of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence. It would include pets in protection orders for human victims and require that a person who commits an interstate violation of a protection order would be subject to fines and/or imprisonment and be required to pay restitution for veterinary care of a victim’s pet that was harmed as the result of an offense. It creates an Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance Grant Program to award grants to eligible entities to carry out programs to aid victims of crimes related to stalking and domestic violence. The AKC supports this measure and has been working with members of Congress to advance it.

U.S. Congress –The Help Extract Animals from Red Tape Act (H.R. 398) was first introduced in 2016. The measure would have allowed the federal government to charge individuals whose animals were seized under alleged violations of federal law for the cost of boarding and care of their animals pending adjudication of the case.  Owners would have been liable for costs and forfeiture of their animals, even if they were ultimately found not guilty of those violations.  AKC worked with the primary sponsor to change the measure into a reasonable measure to provide that only those ultimately found guilty of violations would be subject to forfeiture and reimbursing the costs of care for the animals. The measure has been referred to House Judiciary Committee.

U.S. Congress – The Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members (PAWS) Act of 2017 establishes a pilot program to provide grants to eligible organizations to provide specially-trained service dogs for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).  Companion bills H.R. 2327 and S. 1014 have been assigned to their respective Veteran’s Affairs Committees. AKC supports this measure, which also recognizes the value of AKC CGC programs in preliminary training for service dogs.  H.R. 2327 received a hearing on September 26 by the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health.

USDA/APHIS — The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) released an updated version of its Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Act Regulations booklet. The new version contains regulatory changes implemented since November 2013, including the “Retail Pet Store Rule” and “Importation of Live Dogs Rule.” Click here to read further.