The Illinois Legislature adjourned this weekend without taking action on several bills that would have had a detrimental impact on dogs and Illinois dog owners.
AKC thanks all those who took the time to contact the legislators during the 2021-2022 session. Your voice made a difference! We also want to recognize the tireless efforts and numerous resources expended by the Illinois Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners. Without their efforts, many of these bills would likely have become law. AKC was pleased to work alongside them throughout the session.
Bills on which AKC and IFDCO advocated this session included:
Senate Bill 153 – Lawyers for Dogs
Senate Bill 153 would have provided a court advocate to represent the interests of a dog or cat in cases involving the animal’s health, safety, or an injury.
AKC abhors animal cruelty and strongly believes that those who harm animals should be held accountable. However, bills such as SB 153 implicitly establish rights for animals, but do nothing to improve the wellbeing of animals or enforce laws to protect animals. Moreover, changing the legal status of animals as property would ultimately hamstring the ability of owners, veterinarians, and government agencies to protect and care for dogs.
This bill passed the Senate, but the House sponsor ultimately held it on the House floor, when he acknowledged that there were some concerns that still need to be addressed.
House Bill 4641 – Changes to animal forfeiture laws
Current law allows a court to consider ordering a person to forfeit animals to a shelter or animal control if there is a conviction of the state’s cruelty laws. In addition, the person convicted, as well as anyone residing in their household, may be prohibited from owning or possessing animals. Among other significant changes, this bill would have amended current law to instead allow for these orders on simply a violation. This includes offenses such as failing to provide proper food, water, shelter, and veterinary care.
The AKC strongly believes that all dog owners must properly care for their animals, and that all animals deserve lives in a safe, humane, and healthy environment. However, while in some cases the violations may be significant, others may be a minor infraction that can be corrected and do not rise to the level of a serious offense. In addition, this change from convictions to violations is a significant shift that could have resulted in dog owners permanently losing their animals for offenses even if they are not convicted of a crime.
This bill was held in the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee
House Bill 3917 – Changes to animal cruelty and care laws
This bill begins with the broad statement that animals are “sentient beings capable of feeling pain, sorrow and fear as well as pleasure, joy, and contentment”, and that the “protection of animals from mental and physical abuse…and neglect is at the core of the duties and fundamental responsibilities of the General Assembly.”
As such, House Bill 3917 would have made a number of changes to the state laws regarding the care of animals that would have applied to every dog owner in the state, including specific requirements for outdoor shelters, when dogs may be outdoors, exercise requirements, and many other new regulations.
AKC and IFDCO joined the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association and others in meeting with the sponsor, who agreed to table the bill and work on a more effective and reasonable proposal.
The session is now over and the legislature will likely not meet again until January 2023, at which time we expect numerous bills impacting dog owners and breeders to be introduced.
We strongly encourage clubs in the state to join the Illinois Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners (IFDCO) to ensure a united, loud, and effective voice for purebred dog owners in the upcoming session. Contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org or IFDCO at email@example.com for more information.