The Washington State Legislature has adjourned for the year, as originally scheduled.
Before adjournment, a significantly amended version of Senate Bill 6300 was passed. This bill’s original version contained language that attempted to define animal pain to establish grounds for criminal charges for animal abuse and neglect. However, this terminology was broad and open to multiple interpretations making it difficult to enforce. In addition, AKC GR saw that the language could have also been used to subject responsible dog owners to unreasonable intrusions and accusations of abuse and neglect, even when engaging in normal, accepted, everyday humane and safe activities with dogs.
The bill as introduced also sought to dictate the type of anesthesia that should be used by veterinarians when performing ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal – which could have proven very dangerous to young puppies.
The AKC would never condone harming animals, but this language, along with the vague definition of pain, were so broad they could also have prevented safe and accepted veterinary procedures and caused a range of unintended consequences.
After a committee hearing and numerous discussions, SB 6300 was amended to include even more problematic language defining animal pain by equating it to human pain. Proponents argued that having such a definition in Washington code would make it easier to prosecute cases of animal abuse and neglect.
AKC provided numerous research and scientific studies to demonstrate why the proposal could be harmful to dogs and responsible dog owners in the state. Equating human and animal pain may seem like a convenient way to explain it. However, the veterinary medical consensus is that it is impossible to do so, because there are so many differences, variables and competing factors in the comparison. In lay language, comparing animal and human pain is like comparing apples to oranges, and it is not in the best interest of dogs. The issue of defining pain in animals is tremendously complex and any attempts to define it should only be done after extensive consultation with leading expert veterinary resources and organizations.
AKC Government Relations contacted veterinary pain management experts, worked with legislators, and was a leader in a broad coalition of concerned state and national groups to have the bill amended. These amendments included removal of the troubling pain definition and the addition of other clarifying language. In addition to the American Kennel Club, the coalition included sportsmen, agriculture, cattle and dairy organizations.
AKC was pleased to get the bill amended to remove the vague definition and add other clarifying language to ensure the best interest of dogs. The bill also now clarifies that ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal must be done by a veterinarian, using accepted veterinary protocols. The mandatory anesthesia provisions were removed.
Finally, AKC along with support from sportsmen groups succeeded in clarifying that when determining if an owner should be charged with cruelty for leaving a dog outside in “excessive heat or cold”, the animal’s breed, health, age, and physical characteristics (including whether the breed is physiologically adaptable to the conditions) must be taken into consideration.
Senate Bill 6300 as amended was passed by both chambers of the legislature and has been sent to the governor. AKC appreciates the legislature being willing to consider the AKC’s concerns and make several amendments to the bill to protect dogs and responsible Washington dog owners.
For more information, contact AKC Government Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.