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A bill has been introduced in the Washington State Senate that would add a new definition for animal pain and suffering that is vague, overly broad and open to multiple interpretations.

Washington residents are strongly encouraged to contact your State Senator, as well as the Senate Committee on Law and Justice, today and express your concerns with Senate Bill 6300. The committee is expected to consider this bill in executive session on Thursday, January 30 (Scroll down for contact information).


The bill would add the following definition to animal cruelty:

(p) “Pain or suffering” means a state of physical or mental lack of well-being or physical or mental uneasiness that ranges from mild discomfort or dull distress to unbearable agony.

The AKC strongly agrees that a dog should never be mistreated or harmed.  However, as written, this legislation does not define what any of these terms mean. Who would determine if a dog has mental uneasiness? Putting a cone on a dog’s neck to keep it from pulling out sutures could be considered illegal if that causes the dog distress, yet it is for the dog’s protection. It is important to remember that how a dog may be acting may not be an accurate determination on whether an action should be considered cruel.  For example, a dog may bark or cry to go outside or get outside a fenced area when it is not in its best interest.  While at times the dog might experience “mild discomfort,” this should not be characterized as pain and suffering if the owner is acting in the dog’s best interest and in a responsible manner.

Secondly, the bill would require that a debarking, tail dock or ear crop procedure be performed by a licensed veterinarian. We agree that these medical procedures should be done by a medical professional. However, the bill goes on to dictate the type of anesthesia the veterinarian should use. This language should be changed to allow the veterinarian to decide the proper anesthesia protocols that should be used, not the state legislature.

Another section dictates that the court must prohibit anyone convicted of animal abuse from owing or harboring an animal. The American Kennel Club will never condone any kind of animal abuse or cruelty. However, many contend that the court should have their independence in deciding the appropriate punishment for a criminal proceeding.

We would, however, commend the bill’s sponsor for removing language from existing Washington law that allows a person accused of animal abandonment to use economic distress as a defense. There can never be justification for animal abandonment. We would ask that language be added to this bill that would require a person who cannot keep an animal to safely and humanely surrender the animal to an appropriate place.

For questions or more information, contact AKC Government Relations at