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A problematic animal cruelty bill is on the agenda of the Tennessee House Criminal Justice Subcommittee tomorrow, February 11, 2020, at 12:00pm.  House Bill 1643 seeks to require the court to impose a mandatory 2-year ban on custody of any companion animal for a person convicted of certain offenses involving animals.  In contrast, current law allows courts to equitably provide for the protection of any animal for the time period they see fit.  Concerned animal owners are urged to contact subcommittee members and respectfully ask that they AMEND HB 1643 so that the courts continue to have discretion in sentencing as provided under existing law.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) supports full enforcement of animal cruelty, animal fighting, and bestiality laws, with appropriate penalties for persons convicted.  We thank bill sponsor Rep. Darren Jernigan for his efforts to increase penalties for criminal offenses involving animals.  However, we are concerned with several aspects of HB 1643.

  • Regardless of the facts of a case, the bill seeks to impose mandatory minimum sentencing by requiring that courts prohibit a person from having custody of a companion animal for at least two years if convicted of certain aggravated cruelty, animal fighting, and bestiality offenses.
  • The bill’s prohibition would impact possession of companion animals, even though companion animals may not have been subject to criminal conduct.

The American Kennel Club believes that existing Tennessee law is preferable to the changes proposed in HB 1643 because it allows courts full discretion to consider the facts of a case when determining penalties.  Furthermore, existing law already allows a court to prohibit a person found guilty from having custody of any animals for any period of time the court determines to be necessary and reasonable.

AKC Government Relations has submitted recommended amendments to HB 1643 that conform with current law, maintain judicial discretion in determining penalties, and protect all animals.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  Contact subcommittee members and/or their staff prior to the meeting on February 11, 2020, at Noon and ask that they do not advance HB 1643 as introduced.  Respectfully recommend that they amend the bill so that the courts continue to have discretion in sentencing as provided under existing law.

TN House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Contact Information:

Rep. Andrew Farmer, Chairman,, (615) 741-4419
Rep. Michael Curcio,, (615) 253-0244
Rep. Brandon Ogles,,  (615)741-6808
Rep. Karen Camper,, (615)741-1898
Rep. William Lamberth,, (615) 741-1980
Rep. Antonio Parkinson,, (615) 741-4575
Rep. G.A. Hardaway,, (615) 741-5625
Rep. Clay Doggett,, (615)741-7476

For more information, please contact or call 919-816-3720.