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Both the House and Senate versions of legislation that would require Tennessee courts to prohibit custody of companion animals upon conviction for certain offenses involving animals will be heard in committees next week.  A problematic amendment that would establish mandatory lifetime bans will also be considered.  These bills are on the agendas of their respective committees on Tuesday, February 18, 2020, and Wednesday, February 19, 2020.

House Bill 1643 and Senate Bill 1747 would require courts to impose a mandatory 2-year ban on custody of companion animals for a person convicted of aggravated cruelty, animal fighting, and bestiality offenses.  An amendment has been filed that would expand this mandatory sentencing to include a lifetime ban on the custody of companion animals on any second or subsequent conviction.     

Concerned animal owners are urged to immediately contact members of both committees and ask that they do not advance HB 1643 / SB 1747.  Politely express to committee members that the courts should continue to have the discretion to impose such penalties as provided under existing law, but should not be mandated to do so.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) supports full enforcement of animal cruelty, dog fighting, and bestiality laws and appropriate penalties for persons convicted of these offenses.  We believe the courts should be provided a range of stringent penalties for individuals found guilty of aggravated animal cruelty, animal fighting, and sexual activity with animals.  However, we are concerned that HB 1643 / SB 1747 would tie the hands of courts by requiring that every sentence imposed include a ban on the custody of dogs and cats—regardless of the facts of the specific case.  We are further concerned that such mandated penalties would affect innocent family and household members of the convicted person.  We note that:

  • There is no loophole in current law. Current law already allows a court to prohibit a person found guilty of these offenses from having custody of any animal (and not just a dog or cat) for any period of time the court determines to be appropriate based on the facts of the case.
  • These bills would require the court to prohibit custody of a companion animal, even though the dog or cat may not have been subjected to criminal conduct. As an example, the court would be required to prohibit the convicted person from having custody of a dog or kitten—including a pet that is loved by the defendant’s child—based on an offense committed by the defendant against swine, sheep, cattle, etc.

AKC strongly supports laws that provide courts with the option of imposing a range of penalties, which may include restrictions or prohibitions on the custody of animals.  We support existing Tennessee law, which provides for these and other significant penalties for crimes involving animals at the discretion of the court.

View HB 1643 as originally filed
View SB 1747 as originally filed
View the proposed amendment – scroll down to the 9th and 10th pages of the amendment packet.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  Tennessee dog owners should contact members of both committees and politely ask that they do not advance these bills, and instead continue to allow the court’s discretion to apply these and other penalties as is appropriate based on the facts of each case.

Tennessee dog owns are also encouraged to attend the committee hearings to express their concerns in person.

Senate Bill 1747 is on the agenda of the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Tuesday, February 18, at 3:00 p.m., Senate Hearing Room I, 425 5th Avenue N, Nashville, TN 37243.

House Bill 1643 is on the agenda of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, February 19, at 3:30 p.m., House Hearing Room I, 425 5th Avenue N, Nashville, TN 37243.

Contact members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary to express concern with Senate Bill 1747:

Sen. Mike Bell,  sen.mike.bell@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-1946
Sen. Katrina Robinson, sen.katrina.robinson@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-2509
Sen. Kerry Roberts, sen.kerry.roberts@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-4499
Sen. Dawn White, sen.dawn.white@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-6853
Sen. Sara Kyle, sen.sara.kyle@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-4167
Sen. Jon Lundberg, sen.jon.lundberg@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-5761
Sen. Todd Gardenhire, sen.todd.gardenhire@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 253-0209
Sen.  John Stevens, sen.john.stevens@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-4576
Sen.  Janice Bowling, sen.janice.bowling@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-6694

 Contact members of the House Judiciary Committee to express concerns with House Bill 1643:

Rep. Michael Curcio, rep.michael.curcio@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 253-0244
Rep. Paul Sherrell, rep.paul.sherrell@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 253-0207
Rep. Rick Eldridge, rep.rick.eldridge@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-6877
Rep.  Martin Daniel, rep.martin.daniel@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-2287
Rep. J. Micah Van Huss, rep.micah.vanhuss@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-1717
Rep. Brandon Ogles, rep.brandon.ogles@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-6808
Rep. Bruce Griffey, rep.bruce.griffey@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-6804
Rep. Bill Sanderson, rep.bill.sanderson@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-0718
Rep. William Lamberth, rep.william.lamberth@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-1980
Rep. Iris Rudder, rep.iris.rudder@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-8695
Rep. Mike Carter, rep.mike.carter@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-3025
Rep. Andrew Farmer, rep.andrew.farmer@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-4419
Rep. Dan Howell, rep.dan.howell@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-7799
Rep. Joe Towns, rep.joe.towns@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-2189
Rep. Antonio Parkinson, rep.antonio.parkinson@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-4575
Rep. Karen Camper, rep.karen.camper@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-1898
Rep. Rick Tillis, rep.rick.tillis@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-4170
Rep. Jeremy Faison, rep.jeremy.faison@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-6871
Rep. Bud Hulsey, rep.bud.hulsey@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-2886
Rep. Mary Littleton, rep.mary.littleton@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-7477
Rep. Bill Beck, rep.bill.beck@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-3229
Rep. Clay Doggett, rep.clay.doggett@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-7476
Rep. Curtis Johnson, rep.curtis.johnson@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 253-0269
Rep. Bo Mitchell, rep.bo.mitchell@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-4317
Rep. Jason Potts, rep.jason.potts@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-2035
Rep. Johnny Garrett, rep.johnny.garrett@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-3893

For more information, please contact AKC Government Relations via email at doglaw@akc.org or call 919-816-3720.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us at enewsletter@akc.org
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