This weekend, the Virginia House and Senate passed a Substitute version of SB 272 and the bill now heads to the governor.
This Substitute included the absolute temperatures and weather conditions language, along with a new (and unclear) provision that would allow an animal control officer to assess a situation a determine the ability of a dog to handle conditions outside these parameters. AKC was pleased, however, that a dangerous provision that would allow localities to pass their own stricter laws regarding a dog’s food, water, and medical care was removed from the final version of the bill.
Those who reside or participate in dog events in Virginia are encouraged to contact Governor Northam to respectfully express any concerns or comments you have on SB 272 as soon as possible, as he could take action on the bill very soon. He may be contacted via email or call 804-786-2211.
AKC and the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders worked hard to defeat the bill in its entirety from the beginning, especially as the Commonwealth just last year passed a compromise tethering bill that better addresses all the issues raised in this bill. SB 272 is very confusing in how it will be interpreted and enforced. It would have been far worse had the local provision language not been removed, as Virginia municipalities could have used the provision to further target responsible dog owners. AKC GR thanks the VFDCB for their tireless efforts on this bill.
Bill History and Background:
As mentioned in a previous alert, HB 1552/SB 272 started out as companion bills. In the original forms, both bills contained language regarding tethering based on absolute temperatures and weather conditions. Additionally, each contained a dangerous provision that would allow local governments to arbitrarily pass laws stricter than state law on such items as proper food, water, and veterinary care for dogs.
The House version of the bill was amended to remove the temperature language, while the Senate version was amended to remove the local law provision. As it became apparent that neither Chamber would approve the other Chamber’s version, AKC sent an update alert that a Conference Committee was likely. As such, a Conference Committee was established and a Substitute version of HB 1552 offered which included both the local law provision language and absolute temperatures and weather conditions language and expanded to include unclear language regarding a determination by an animal control officer as to the ability of the dog to handle such conditions. While it could allow for situations where a dog could be allowed outside when the temperatures are outside the range listed, it could also prove problematic. AKC contacted the legislators expressing concerns with how this new provision will be enforced and questioned if there will be an opportunity for an appeal if the determination is not accurate. The House approved the Substitute HB 1552 language, but the Senate rejected it and requested a second Conference Committee.
The second Conference Committee resulted in a Substitute version of SB 272. This Substitute included the absolute temperatures and weather conditions language and the animal control officer determination. Fortunately, the local law provision language was removed. Both Chambers approved the final SB 272 Substitute, which will now go to the Governor for his signature.
AKC and the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders will continue to monitor this bill and provide more information as soon as it is available. For questions, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.