Search Menu

Legislative Alerts

UPDATE RI: Fancy Meets with Legislators

UPDATE (March 21, 2003)—Rhode Island dog fanciers had a productive meeting with House Leader Gordon Fox this week regarding the “animal protection” bill (HB5817) that contains many troublesome provisions. Fox, who is a sponsor of HB5817, listened to the concerns expressed by the fancy and appears committed to addressing their many concerns. He will take these concerns to the other sponsors and has assured fanciers that he will give them an update in the next week or two.

For the time being, according to the Rhode Island fanciers who are working on HB5817, individuals and clubs should refrain from submitting additional correspondence, including e-mails:

“Our concerns and suggestions seemed to be very well received….As we have been heard and are awaiting the committee’s response, we ask that while we wait for their reply and modification that a message be sent out for all to hold off on any further correspondences. It is our belief that any further correspondences might actually hinder what we have been able to accomplish thus far.”

AKC and Rhode Island fanciers will provide additional updates as information becomes available, including providing any necessary action items for interested clubs and individuals who want to help with HB5817.


RI Bill Further Reduces Rights of Owners

[March 13, 2003]

Rhode Island would take a giant step towards animal rights and away from the basic rights of animal owners if legislation introduced in February is allowed to pass. Help from Rhode Island clubs and individuals is needed to defeat this very real threat to responsible dog ownership.

In 2001, Rhode Island became the first and only state to approve the “guardian” concept, an animal rights initiative that denigrates owners and equates owned animals with slaves. Animal rights activists were able to convince Rhode Island legislators that animals “are not our property and we are not their owners.” Rather than “owners,” activists campaigned, individuals who keep animals should be referred to as “guardians.” The AKC and other opponents argued that this was just the first step in a mission to end all animal ownership.

HB5817 brings these concerns to reality, creating several new categories of animal neglect and abuse that will be enforced not just by police and “special humane agents,” but also must be reported by a whole series of professionals ranging from school employees to photographers to the media. If any of these “experts” suspect a guardian is not providing adequate care, the animal can be confiscated and guardianship terminated.

In addition, HB5817 prohibits “bodily alterations,” a broad category which includes ear cropping, tail docking, dewclaw removal, and debarking.

No one cares more about the welfare of animals than the purebred dog fancy and many dog fanciers may agree with some of the basic principles of HB5817. Unfortunately, HB5817 goes too far and threatens the rights of responsible dog owners. Animal care and control decisions cannot be blindly handed over to humane agencies. Owners, breeders, and veterinarians should retain some control and responsibility for making decisions about the care of pets.


What the Bill Does:

  • Creates various degrees of animal abuse and neglect and makes aggravated abuse and neglect felonies.
  • Compels 21 categories of professionals to report suspected abuse and neglect (doctors, nurses, school employees, members of the clergy, attorneys, marriage and family therapists, photographers, employees of news media, firefighters, and more).
  • Allows animal care agencies to petition for termination of guardianship.
  • If a guardian is deemed unfit, he cannot possess any animal for at least 3 years and must repay costs associated with the care of the animal.
  • Creates “animal abuser” registry and requires notification of neighbors.
  • Bans procedures that disable or remove any part or organ, making commonly accepted elective procedures such as ear cropping, tail docking, dewclaw removal, and debarking illegal. Violators will be subject to fines and jail time.
  • Allows any guardian of an animal subjected to a violation to bring a civil lawsuit for actual and punitive damages of not less than $1000 per violation.
  • Requires motorists to immediately stop and render aid to any animal injured by the motorist, including all wild animals such as deer, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, and birds.
  • Makes individuals who cause the death of a person's pet or companion animal intentionally or negligently liable for up to $10,000 in noneconomic damages if the death occurred on the owner or caretaker's property or while under the control of the owner or caretaker. Noneconomic damages shall include compensation for the loss of companionship, love, and affection of the pet.


What Rhode Island Dog Fanciers Can Do:

  • Write, e-mail, or phone the committee to which HB5817 was referred. Urge them to vote “NO” on this bill. Use the points above to prepare your letter.

House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare
State House #323
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: 401-222-2296

Rep. Joanne M. Giannini (D) [Chair] – cosponsor of HB5817

Rep. Joseph McNamara (D) [Vice Chair]

Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D)

Rep. Steven J. Anderson (D)

Rep. Richard A. Aubin (D)

Rep. Peter T Ginaitt (D)
401-222-6167 fax

Rep. Arthur Handy (D)

Rep. John B. Harwood (D)

Rep. Charlene Lima (D) – cosponsor of HB5817

Rep. William J. McManus (I)

Rep. Susan A. Story (R)

Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D)

  • Contact your own representative and ask him/her to vote “NO” on HB5817.
  • Contact the other sponsors of the bill and tell them you OPPOSE HB5817:

Representative Peter L. Lewiss
State House #323
Providence, RI 02903

Representative Raymond E. Gallison
State House #323
Providence, RI 02903

Representative Gordon D. Fox
State House #323
Providence, RI 02903

  • Share this information with Rhode Island club members and dog owners who don't want their rights to be further diminished under HB5817.


Want to Learn More?

Contact the AKC's Canine Legislation department for more information on this bill or any issue facing dog owners:

919-816-4275 fax

UPDATE (March 21, 2003)—Rhode
Island dog fanciers had a productive meeting with House Leader…