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Different versions of bills regulating leaving dogs outdoors and allowing localities to arbitrarily pass laws regulating the care of dogs continue to move in Virginia.  The House ACNR Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, February 19, to conform Senate Bill 272 for possible action later in the week.

Summary of Legislative Activity:

Update on SB 272/HB 1552- Tethering and Local Regulations:

On Monday, February 10, the Virginia Senate passed Senate Bill 272 with the Lieutenant Governor casting the deciding vote.  Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the House passed an amended version of House Bill 1552.  Both bills seek to include or amend provisions that were not included in the tethering legislation that was just passed and became law last session.

While House Bill 1552 has been amended to remove language regarding temperature standards and increasing the length of a tether, both bills continue to contain a dangerous provision that will allow local governments to arbitrarily pass laws stricter than state law on such items as proper food, water, and veterinary care for dogs.  This will result in a confusing patchwork of laws across Virginia and potentially also result in laws that are not in the best interest of dogs.  We continue to urge the General Assembly to remove this provision from the bills.

In their original form, both bills sought to increase the length of a tether to 15 feet or 4 times the length of the dog, and establish temperature standards and language related to extreme weather conditions, which do not account for the different needs or safety of different dogs.

While AKC appreciates the amendments to House Bill 1552, it still contains the provision that would disallow the tethering of any dog during a heat advisory issued by a local or state authority or during the effective period for a severe weather warning issued for the area by the National Weather Service, including a hurricane warning, tropical storm warning, or tornado warning.  This restrictive language would essentially bar dogs that assist with the needs of animal husbandry and public health and safety from performing the many important functions they are trained to provide- especially in severe weather conditions.

Senate Bill 272 continues to include the temperature standards as well as language relating to extreme weather conditions, but did add an exemption for a dog “that is not actively engaged in conduct that is directly related to agricultural activity on property with a zoning classification, if any, that permits such agricultural activity.

AKC is recommending language for both bills that removes absolute temperatures and allows for discretion in adverse weather situations that would consider the needs of various breeds, age, and general health of the dog.  Our suggested language is: “during any period in which a hazardous weather advisory or warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for the local area, no dog shall be left in conditions where the health and safety of the dog is at risk.”   Such wording would consider the needs of various breeds, age and general health of the dog.  We also believe an exemption should be added for dogs that are with the owner, as well as exemptions that allow for either training or working in conditions that are suitable for the breed, age, and general health of the dog.  Such changes will ensure the safety and health of dogs are protected in all situations while allowing dogs that assist with the needs of animal husbandry and public health and safety to perform the many important functions, they are trained to provide in adverse weather conditions.

SJ 68- “Puppy Mill Awareness Month”:

Additionally, we would like to alert you to SJ 68 which seeks to name December as “Puppy Mill Awareness Month” in perpetuity in Virginia, which was recently approved by the Senate and is now in the House Rules Committee.  Among other negative connotations, such a resolution does nothing to further protect the health and welfare of dogs.  Instead of a resolution designating Puppy Mill Awareness, AKC has recommended that the General Assembly should consider a resolution that supports the importance of public education and research to find a responsible breeder and dog that is the best fit for a family or lifestyle.

What You Can Do: 

Those who reside or participate in dog events in Virginia are strongly encouraged to contact the members of the House ACNR Committee as well as members of the House and Senate today and ask them to oppose SB 272/HB 1552 unless amended to address concerns.  As written these bills could have many unintended consequences for dogs.  We would also encourage you to have your fellow club members, colleagues, and family, friends, and neighbors who are dog owners do the same. 

To comment on SJ 68, we would encourage you to contact the members of the House Rules Committee and your Delegate.

AKC Government Relations and the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders continue to closely monitor these and several other bills under consideration and communicate our concerns to the members of the General Assembly.  For questions or more information, contact