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June 28, 2019

A bill seeking to regulate dogs outdoors continues to move quickly through the Delaware General Assembly in the final days of session.

As introduced, Senate Bill 139 regulated when dogs could be outdoors, and prohibited dogs from being outside for 15 minutes in any weather advisory if they are not in sight of the owner – even in the owner’s yard.  At the request of the AKC, the House Health and Human Services Committee amended the bill yesterday to strike the arbitrary requirements, and instead state that if a weather advisory has been issued, “no dog shall be left in conditions where the health and safety of the dog is at risk.”

AKC greatly appreciates Representative Jeffrey Spiegelman and Representative Ruth Briggs King for sponsoring this amendment that ensures dogs are protected from dangerous conditions, but also allows for situations when a dog may humanely be outdoors (for example, if the dog happens into any part of the yard temporarily where the owner cannot physically see the dog, or if there is a winter advisory and an arctic breed that thrives in colder conditions is outside for more than 15 minutes).

Questions still remain over a section of the bill that states that dogs may not be off leash unless they are on private property with permission, on the owner’s property, or in a vehicle.  Exemptions are made for “working dogs”, which the bill defines as “dogs that are not merely pets but that learn and perform tasks to assist their human companions.”  This is including, but not limited to dogs trained to hunt, law enforcement and search and rescue dogs, or dogs assisting a person with disabilities (when they are actively engaged in performing assistance actions).

The AKC appreciates that exemptions are made, and that the bill acknowledges this list is not comprehensive.  We are supporting an amendment being proposed by sportsmen that clarifies exemptions should include field trials and similar activities when being held on public property.

What You Can Do:

The Delaware General Assembly is expected to adjourn in the next few days.  Those who wish to comment on this bill are encouraged to contact their State Representative.  Visit AKC’s Legislative Action Center and type your address in the “Find Your Elected Officials” box to get the contact information for your State Representative.

AKC Government Relations will continue to provide more information.  For questions, contact AKC GR at