April 5, 2019
The Virginia General Assembly met yesterday for a veto session and rejected the governor’s recommendations that could have required Virginia dog owners, sportsmen, and exhibitors to tether their dogs in a manner that could be harmful and contradict current law. This was the latest in a series of bills and amendments this year seeking to regulate dog owners in Virginia.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of AKC clubs, our state federation, and sportsmen, the final bill is a victory for dog owners and dogs in the Commonwealth.
Senate Bill 1025 was the latest in a series of bills considered this year in Virginia on this issue, most of which included bans on tethering in specific temperatures, and/or mandatory tether lengths of up to 15 feet or 4 times the length of the dog (whichever is longer) – lengths significantly longer than current law. AKC and its state federation expressed concerns that the arbitrary temperatures did not take into account the needs or tolerances of different breeds, and a tether length of 15 feet would make it virtually impossible for dog owners to follow current law that does not allow for dogs to be tethered in a way that they could be endangered, tangled, or harmed.
At several points, this bill and others also had a dangerous provision that would have allowed any locality in the Commonwealth to establish their own animal care laws – including laws regarding food, water, or veterinary care – as long as they were at least as strict (or stricter) than current law. Current Virginia code simply states that all owners must provide these basic needs, but does not provide specifics, as each animal is different. AKC and its federation expressed concerns that this provision could have resulted in an inconsistent and confusing patchwork of animal care laws across the commonwealth. It could also result in laws that may not be appropriate for all dogs in all situations.
All these bills were defeated except Senate Bill 1025. As sent to the governor, the local law provision and temperature requirements were removed and a compromise tethering length of 10 feet was included.
Because of yesterday’s vote, Senate Bill 1025 will either be vetoed, or become law with the amendments that were originally agreed to. While the bill is not perfect, it is significantly improved and a tremendous victory for Virginia dog owners.
AKC thanks the many Virginia dog owners who took the time to contact the General Assembly throughout the session on this issue. AKC also appreciates the ability to have worked with allies in the sporting community, including the US Sportsmen Alliance, to have a united voice for dog owners in Virginia.
Finally, the AKC wants to acknowledge and commend the tremendous efforts of the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders, who worked tirelessly this session to represent the voice of purebred dog owners and breeders in person in Richmond.