AKC Government Relations Reflects on Record 2019 Legislative Year
2019 was a record year for AKC Government Relations, with the team tracking over 2,300 bills on the federal, state and local levels across all 50 states.
This marks a significant increase, with over 300 more bills than 2018, and the most bills ever tracked by AKC GR in a year.
It was a year that once again demonstrated that the greatest success comes from direct communication and grassroots advocacy. AKC legislative liaisons, federations, club members and local dog owners who took the time to reach out to their elected officials, attend hearings, and make their voices heard made a direct, positive impact on legislation impacting dog owners introduced during the last year.
AKC GR was pleased to partner with you to stand up for purebred dogs, responsible owners and our sport.
2019 may have been a record year for legislation introduced, but it also resulted in dozens of legislative successes across the country – the majority being the direct result of working with those willing to be “boots on the ground” and together educating lawmakers using the expertise, science, and facts not presented by animal rights advocates.
This includes Maryland House Bill 501, which as introduced would have banned dogs from being tethered outside for more than 30 minutes in certain temperatures. AKC GR had conversations with the sponsor to explain the varying needs of dogs. Later at a Canines at the Capitol Day in Annapolis, GR staff and federation members introduced various breeds to the legislators. They illustrated how participating dogs are equipped to handle and thrive in a variety of conditions. Legislators learned how a Borzoi is built for the snow, and how a Chesapeake Bay Retriever is equipped to retrieve in cold water. Through one-on-one interactions, lawmakers learned how nuances and unintended consequences in canine legislation can harm responsible dog ownership. As a result, the bill was tabled the next day in committee.
In Oregon, a bill that would have essentially outlawed field trials and hunting activities in the state was significantly amended after AKC GR and local clubs and sportsmen worked together to lobby and educate the sponsor and committee. The same thing happened with a similar bill in New York, where the bill was amended to address all of AKC’s concerns after AKC GR reached out to the sponsor and constituents reached out to their legislators who served on the committee.
New Hampshire Senate Bill 77 was successfully amended thanks to AKC GR’s partnership with the state federation and now protects the rights of those whose animals are seized on suspicion of cruelty, and also protects the dogs that are seized.
In Florida, House Bill 1409, which would have created new standards and regulations for kennels not based on science or accepted animal husbandry, never received a hearing after AKC GR provided talking points to local advocates who in turn educated their lawmakers.
These are just a few examples of numerous successes across the country in 2019. Be sure to visit our Legislative Action Center for a full list.
A Federal Overview
AKC GR has worked to address a variety of issues in Congress and federal regulatory agencies in the past year, including:
Imports of Unhealthy Dogs – More than 1 million dogs are being imported into the US on an annual basis. We believe the vast majority of these dogs are intended for transfer or resale in retail rescue or other retail markets. A large number of these dogs are entering with minimal health checks, and in many cases invalid health certificates. Combined with the “adopt don’t shop” mantra, many of these animals not only undermine demand for well-bred purebred dogs, they pose an imminent and significant health threat to humans, pets and livestock. AKC is working together with NAIA on federal legislation to require that dogs entering the US for transfer (adoption, resale, etc.) have valid veterinary certificates from a competent veterinary authority that can be checked when they enter the US. Importers that attempt to import dogs that do not meet health standards would be required to return them to the country of origin.
Federal Breeder Licensing Regulations and Legislation – HR 3164, the House-passed FY 2020 Agricultural Appropriations bill, would require USDA APHIS to include personally identifiable information such as residential addresses and “animal inventories” in an online, publicly-searchable database of USDA licensed dog breeders. AKC agrees with USDA that adding personal information is not necessary for assuring animal welfare. Moreover, we believe that unnecessary publication of such information creates a virtual “shopping list” for animal rights activists and pet thieves who wish to target individual breeders. Such measures not only hurt responsible breeders but are likely to dampen efforts to improve licensing compliance and the welfare oversight of animals in licensed facilities.
Service Dogs – The issue of service dogs has become an important and timely topic that has increasingly been discussed on the federal and state levels. AKC GR has shared concerns with lawmakers and US Department of Transportation, and has provided on proposed rules changes impacting the federal air carrier access act, and other federal laws impacting assistance animals (View AKC’s position statement on service dogs here).
AKC GR is also working with colleagues at the American Service Dog Access Coalition and industry leaders including: airlines, the airline industry associations, service dog groups, and governments to continue to develop all aspects of a new authoritative, voluntary and verifiable credential to streamline access for service dog teams that meet specific behavioral, task-based and health standards.
Key State and Local Issues and Legislative Trends
As with previous years, animal cruelty was the top issue we saw in legislation on the state and local levels (combined), with over 120 more measures introduced on this topic than in 2018. Some, such as New York Senate Bill 3828, made reasonable clarifications to the care standards for animals kept in kennels and was supported by the AKC.
Others, however, were more problematic. This includes numerous bills that attempted to address the issue of tethering and when it is appropriate for dogs to be outdoors. While advocates and some lawmakers perceived that certain conditions and temperatures should summarily be considered as cruel, they failed to consider the needs and abilities of various breeds. AKC GR, clubs, federations, and local advocates worked in numerous state legislatures and localities to educate lawmakers about the dangers and pitfalls of these “one size fits all” legislative proposals. Click here to view AKC resources and an infographic on the topic.
Another common issue involved recognizing, protecting, and regulating service and working dogs (as mentioned above in the federal updates). Legislators are increasingly recognizing the value that dogs can provide those with disabilities and certain needs, and want to ensure reasonable accommodations are provided, while at the same time preventing fraudulent misrepresentation of pets as service animals. AKC supported bills such as House Bill 1259 in North Dakota, that create an infraction to knowingly make a false claim that an animal is a service animal in an attempt to gain admission to a public place or housing accommodations to which they would otherwise not be entitled.
The issue of importation and concerns over its impact on public and animal health is an increasingly common issue in state legislatures, as lawmakers seek to protect their states from disease and health risks. For example, a bill supported by AKC GR in Indiana prevents any dog from a foreign country from entering Indiana without a valid health certificate.
Health and safety issues have spurred an increase in legislation to regulate shelters and rescues. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Development rewrote a number of their regulations in order to better regulate rescues and dogs coming into the state. Michigan passed a comprehensive measure to regulate animals coming in from out of state (AKC ensured that current regulations providing exemptions for those temporarily entering for events, field trials, etc., remained in place), and AKC GR and its state federation, along with NAIA, are currently working with Michigan lawmakers on a comprehensive measure regulating rescues in the state.
The issue of importation and concern over disease is a key talking point when addressing proposed retail sales bans, which continue to be a significant issue, particularly on the local level. When only allowing the sale of dogs from shelters and rescues, lawmakers are not only limiting pet choice, they are removing the most regulated and vetted sources of pets from the market to favor the unregulated pet distributors and randomly-sourced pets that lack oversight, and actually exacerbate issues associated with irresponsible actors in the retail and retail rescue pet industry.
These are just highlights of the many issues addressed by AKC GR and local advocates in 2019. Visit our charts to see the full range of issues we monitored in the past year.
GR Out and About
GR staff also traveled throughout the country in 2019 to directly reach out to lawmakers on canine issues.
AKC GR staff conducted canines at the capitol events in Washington, DC, California, Maryland, Maine and North Carolina. The popular events provide legislators and staff educational information about AKC, information on key legislative policy positions, and the opportunity to meet dogs from each of the seven groups. The events are covered by local media and create new goodwill at the capitol and state legislatures, as well as new opportunities to discuss canine legislation issues with lawmakers.
GR staff also participated in and prepared policy exhibits for numerous professional conferences for legislators, including the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the National Association of Counties (NACo), the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, The National Assembly of (state) Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), the National League of Cities, and individual state associations of municipalities conferences. Extensive contacts with lawmakers and decisionmakers were made at these events. In a number of cases, invitations to advise legislators on future and existing legislation and positive changes to pending legislation were a direct result of outreach made at the conferences.
2020 is looking to be another very busy year, with 47 states in session and hundreds of pieces of legislation already being filed that will impact dog owners, breeders, exhibitors, and sportsmen.
It is also an election year for the majority of state legislatures and many counties and municipalities, meaning it is an excellent time for you and your club to introduce yourselves to lawmakers. Let them know what you do for dogs and the community, and be a resource on canine legislative issues.
AKC GR is here to work alongside you! Be sure to visit our Legislative Action Center often (www.akcgr.org) and share it with your fellow club members, breeders, and exhibitors. On this site, you can view all the bills AKC GR is tracking in your state, read legislative alerts on hot issues in your area and learn how you can get involved, and view handouts and talking points on key issues. Our toolbox even includes sample introduction letters that you as an individual or as a club can use to start developing that relationship with your lawmakers.
As always, reach out to AKC Government Relations at (919) 816-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you hear of an issue in your state or community. We look forward to continuing to work with you to protect our beloved dogs and our sport.