Search Menu

This week’s enactment of “Joker’s Law” wrapped up Tennessee’s 2021-2022 legislative session with several significant wins for dogs and dog owners.

The American Kennel Club Government Relations team (AKC GR) thanks AKC club members, dog owners, sportsmen, allied organizations, and every individual who contacted lawmakers about legislation that affects our dogs. A special thank you goes to the Nashville Kennel Club and club president Jon Cole for their untiring advocacy. Here are some highlights from the two-year session.

A victory for working dogs:

HB 1646/SB 2013, also known as “Joker’s Law,” was enacted and takes effect on July 1, 2022. AKC supported this legislation, which helps protect certain working dogs by revising the offense of killing or severely injuring a police, fire, search-and-rescue, or service dog.

Problematic 2022 bills that did not advance:

HB 2034/SB 2305 addressed unlawful restraint of dogs. AKC changed its position from “neutral” to “oppose” after an unfavorable amendment to HB2034 was discussed, which would have removed practical exemptions allowing for safe tethering of hunting and working dogs. Both bills failed in committees.

HB 1859/SB 1788 sought to enact engineering standards and additional vague requirements for providing shelter for dogs, and would have made some responsible dog owners’ effective and humane care practices illegal. SB 1788 failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee. HB 1859 never received a hearing.

HB 2860/SB 2243 sought to make it an offense for a person to restrain a dog with a tether during a severe flooding or tornado warning or an evacuation order, regardless if the forecasted weather conditions occurred where the dog was tethered. AKC opposed these bills because they could have increased the risk of harm to a dog by prohibiting a person from “restraining” their dog to keep it safe and close by in conjunction with preparations to evacuate, or while evacuating with the dog. Amendments were proposed and withdrawn, and ultimately this legislation failed in the Senate.

Carry-over bills that did not advance:

HB 547/SB 511 were problematic and overreaching dog breeder bills introduced in year one of Tennessee’s 2021-2022 legislative session. AKC GR met with legislators, distributed handouts at dog shows, and provided information and talking points. Tennessee dog owners took action! A committee member said the bill received more comments than any other bill so far that year, and favorably mentioned the large number of personalized messages received from individuals. As a result, SB 511 was sent by committee to “General Sub,” which meant it was put on hold and was unlikely to be considered again in 2021. Neither bill received committee consideration in 2022.

HB 803/SB 903 were overreaching cruelty bills introduced in 2021. AKC worked with allied groups to point out inequities of this legislation. It was not considered in committees in 2021 or 2022.

As previously reported:

 HB 361/SB 310, introduced in 2021, sought to allow governmental animal control agencies to enter any property “believed” to be abandoned to rescue any non-livestock animal contained therein. AKC expressed concerns regarding vague definitions and the impact on property and privacy rights of dog owners. HB 361 was favorably amended in committee, but did not further advance in 2021.

Get Prepared for 2023! 

Problematic bills will likely be redrafted later this year and refiled for the 2023-2024 session. Take time now to meet with your state senator and representative in their home districts. Let them know that you, your AKC club, and the AKC Government Relations Department are reliable and knowledgeable resources on dog issues.

2022 is an election year. Encourage fellow dog owners to register to vote. Get to know candidates for office, learn about their positions on animal issues, and support dog-friendly candidates for seats in the state legislature.

 Stay Informed
If you are not directly receiving AKC’s legislative alerts by email, click here to sign up. Learn about key issues affecting dogs and become familiar with AKC GR’s materials you can download and use.

By working together, we can support good legislation and oppose problematic bills, thereby protecting our rights to own, exhibit, breed, and enjoy the dogs we love.

For additional information, please contact AKC Government Relations at