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Three bills affecting animal owners in Tennessee are scheduled for votes on March 3-5, 2020.  Please scroll down to view each bill.

 Mandatory Sentencing—Lifetime Bans on Custody of Companion Animals.  Senate Bill 1747/House Bill 1643 has passed in the Senate and is scheduled for a vote in the House on Thursday, March 5 at 9:00 a.m. This legislation would require a court to impose a mandatory minimum 2-year ban on custody of companion animals for persons convicted of aggravated animal cruelty, animal fighting, and bestiality offenses. It further would require a court to impose a lifetime ban on the custody of companion animals on a second or subsequent conviction.  If this bill passes in the House, it will go to the Governor for signature.

AKC supports full enforcement of animal cruelty, dog fighting, and bestiality laws and appropriate penalties for persons convicted of these offenses. We agree that a court should impose increasingly harsh penalties for repeat offenders. AKC does not oppose legislation that provides a court with the option to impose an animal custody ban upon conviction for any period of time a court determines to be appropriate.

Existing Tennessee law regarding aggravated animal cruelty provides that the sentencing court may order the defendant to surrender custody and forfeit all companion animals, and may award custody of the animals to the agency presenting the case. The court also may prohibit the defendant from having custody of other animals for any period of time the court determines to be reasonable, or impose any other reasonable restrictions on the person’s custody of animals as is necessary for the protection of the animals. 

 Instead of enacting SB 1747/HB 1643, the American Kennel Club recommends that existing penalties for aggravated animal cruelty be maintained and that new legislation be enacted that also give courts the option of prohibiting custody of animals for the crimes of dog fighting or bestiality for any period of time the court determines to be reasonable.

Moreover, we note that one of the purposes of sentencing is to rehabilitate offenders. An offender—and particularly a young offender—should have the opportunity of rehabilitation.

While it is extremely important that a victimized animal be protected, a mandatory ban on custody of companion animals could also victimize innocent family and household members of the convicted person. A minor child should not have to give up a cherished pet because of an offense committed by a family member. SB 1747 would tie the hands of a court by requiring companion animal custody bans, regardless of the facts and surrounding circumstances of the case.

For these reasons, the American Kennel Club continues to be concerned with SB 1747/HB 1643. Tennessee animal owners with concerns about this bill are urged to contact their state Representatives and politely request a NO vote on SB 1747/HB 1643. Click here for contact information for members of the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Veterinary Exemption from Rabies Vaccination Requirements for Certain Dogs. Senate Bill 2539 would authorize a dog owner to obtain an exemption from the dog’s rabies vaccination requirement by obtaining a certificate of exemption from a veterinarian based on a finding that the vaccine would endanger the dog’s health. Exemption would be subject to titer testing and other requirements. AKC supports this bill as introduced. SB 2539 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee on March 3.

Tennessee dog owners who support SB 2539 are urged to contact Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee members and ask them to vote YES on SB 2539 as introduced.

 Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee

Sen. Steve Southerland,, (615)741-3851
Sen. Shane Reeves,, (615)741-1066
Sen. Dolores Gresham,, (615)741-2368
Sen. Mark Pody,, (615)741-2421
Sen. Katrina Robinson,, (615)741-2509
Sen. Raumesh Akbari,, (615)741-1767
Sen. Rosalind Kurita,, (615)741-2374
Sen. Paul Rose,, (615)741-1967
Sen. Bill Powers,, (615)741-2374
Sen. Frank Niceley,, (651)741-2061

Impounded Animal of Deceased Owner Considered Abandoned within Seven Days.  House Bill 2543, as introduced, would require an animal owner’s relative to retrieve an animal from an animal control agency within seven days of the owner’s death. The bill would also authorize an animal control agency to treat an animal as abandoned if the relative does not retrieve the animal within seven days.

AKC Government Relations has requested a friendly amendment to HB 2543 to provide that a relative, co-owner, or other authorized person who contacts the animal control agency within seven days and states intent to retrieve the animal shall be granted additional time. Additional time could be conditioned upon payment of a reasonable and customary boarding fee to the impounding agency. HB 2543 is scheduled to be heard in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee on March 3, 2020.

Tennessee animal owners are urged to contact Rep. Jason Potts, sponsor of HB 2543, and subcommittee members and politely ask that HB 2543 be amended so that a family member, co-owner, or other authorized person who contacts an animal control agency shall be granted additional time to retrieve an animal that was impounded because of the death of its owner. 

Sponsor HB 2543, Rep. Jason Potts,, (615) 741-2035

House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee

Rep. Andrew Holt,, (615)741-7847
Rep. Curtis Halford,, (615)741-7478
Rep. Chris Todd,, (615)741-7475
Rep. Rusty Grills,, (615)741-0718
Rep. Mike Stewart,, (615)741-2184
Rep. Johnny Shaw,, (615)741-4538
Rep. Jesse Chism,, (615)741-6954
Rep. Mike Carter,, (615)741-3025
Rep. Bud Hulsey,, (615)741-2886
Rep. Scott Cepicky,, (615)741-3005

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