House Bill 1909 is a problematic bill that could criminalize the actions of dog owners who use a cord, tether, or “similar device” to keep their dogs safe during emergency situations. This bill has been placed on the consent calendar in the Tennessee House of Representatives for Monday, March 19.
If dog owners do not take action immediately, this bill will pass in the House without discussion. Concerned dog owners, groomers, and trainers are encouraged to immediately contact members of the Tennessee House of Representatives and ask them to OPPOSE House Bill 1909. Please scroll down for contact information.
HB 1909 criminalizes actions that keep a dog safe
HB 1909 is written so broadly that it would make it a crime of animal cruelty to restrain a dog with a chain, cord, tether, cable, or similar device to keep the dog safe when a natural or manmade disaster is imminent or occurring. Under this bill:
- Any person who used a chain, cord, tether, cable, or similar device to “restrain” their dog in an effort to keep it safe in a disaster situation could be found guilty of animal cruelty. As the bill is currently written, restraining a dog with a leash held by the owner could even be considered a criminal act during a tornado warning or severe flood warning.
- Any person who used a cord or similar device, either indoors or outdoors, to safely “restrain” their dog prior to or during an emergency evacuation could be found guilty of animal cruelty.
- Safely “restraining” a dog with a grooming noose or leash could result in charges of animal cruelty if a tornado or severe flood warning was issued for the “geographic area” where the dog is located. This not only affects individual dog owners, it would require grooming shops and dog trainers to suspend their operations each time certain weather warnings were issued.
As HB 1909 is written, restraining a dog with a chain, tether, cord, cable, or similar device also would be a criminal act when a mandatory or voluntary evacuation order is in effect for the geographic area.
Penalties for a violation of HB 1909 are significant
A court making the sentencing determination for a person convicted under this section shall order the person convicted to surrender custody and forfeit the animal or animals whose treatment was the basis of the conviction. Custody shall be given to a humane society incorporated under the laws of this state. The court may prohibit the person convicted 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 necessary for the protection of the animals.
Unintended consequences of HB 1909 outweigh the benefits
AKC is concerned that although the proposed law is well-meaning, HB 1909 could have potentially harmful unintended consequences, including the criminalization of restraints that might be the only safe way to handle or transport a pet in an emergency situation. As currently written, HB 1909 would make it a crime during emergency situations to restrain a dog with a leash held by a person, to secure a dog with a tether for its own safety, or to restrain it using a cord or tether so it so it could not escape prior to or during an emergency evacuation.
Further, HB 1909 is unnecessary and duplicative, because dogs are already protected against harmful tethering in Tennessee. Under existing animal cruelty law 39-14-202(b), “a person commits an offense who knowingly ties, tethers, or restrains a dog in a manner that results in the dog suffering bodily injury as defined in § 39-11-106.”
What You Can Do
Contact members of the Tennessee House of Representatives to express your concerns and ask them to vote “no” on HB 1909. It is important to act quickly, because unless a House member asks that HB 1909 be pulled from the consent calendar, it will pass among a batch of other bills that are considered to be non-controversial. You can call outside of business hours and leave a voice mail message.
Click here to view contact information for members of the Tennessee House of Representatives. Click on the “envelope” next to each name for the email address. Click on the House member’s last name to view phone numbers. http://www.capitol.tn.gov/house/members/
Click here and enter your address here to identify the Representative for your district. http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/Apps/fmlv3/districts.aspx
For more information, please contact AKC Government Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-816-3645.