Recently, the West Virginia General Assembly adjourned its 2021 session. While very few bills relating to dogs and dog owners got much traction, AKC Government Relations did monitor a few bills of note.
Those bills monitored by AKC Government Relations included:
- House Bill 2095 was comprehensive legislation seeking to enhance West Virginia’s animal welfare laws covering everything from the care of animals in shelters to the care of animals by private individuals. The legislation would bring West Virginia law into alignment with reasonable, accepted animal husbandry and care laws and provide comprehensive laws regarding the care of animals by public shelters. Prior to a vote by the full House, a letter was sent to all delegates requesting and suggesting amendments related to extreme weather, hoarding, and consumer protection. See Alert.
The sponsor, Delegate Dianna Graves, reached out and was willing to and did offer the requested amendments to extreme weather and consumer protection while at the same time extending an invitation to work with AKC on the hoarding issue and language during the interims and next session. The bill passed the House with amended language to the extreme weather section that stated it is it unlawful to:
Leave [animals] outside during extreme weather conditions, including, but not limited to, extreme heat, freezing or near-freezing temperatures, thunderstorms, tornadoes, or floods, unless adequate food, potable water, shade, shelter, and protection is provided, based on the breed, age, general health of the dog and its ability to handle the environment. See alert.
Unfortunately, the bill did not make it to the Senate floor for a vote prior to the end of session. AKC GR will be working with the sponsor to have the bill reintroduced next session and hopefully identify a member of the Senate to introduce similar legislation in that Chamber. We would ask you to contact Delegate Dianna Graves and thank her again for offering the AKC requested amendment, and encourage her to reintroduce the legislation next session.
- Senate Bill 309: As originally introduced, this bill sought to create the felony offense of aggravated cruelty to animals. During a hearing on the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee, much discussion and debate on what actions should raise to the level of a felony offense took place. Ultimately, a final committee amended version of the bill failed to pass out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- House Bill 2561 sought to change several areas of the current laws related to animal cruelty. It would have added language that limits the amount of time a dog can be outdoors when temperatures are below 32 degrees and above 85 degrees with no exceptions or exemptions. The bill allowed for seizure for violations and increased criminal penalties. Finally, it added a provision that a person in violation of the statute for a second time shall be added to a state-wide, publicly available, do not adopt or sell registry with no means for removal from the list. The bill was assigned to the House Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee and did not receive a Committee hearing prior to the end of session.
With the session now over, AKC Government Relations would like to thank all the West Virginians who took the time to reach to their Delegate and Senator to advocate for sensible legislation that protects the health, safety and welfare of dogs and their responsible owners.
For more information on how you can get involved in West Virginia, contact AKC GR Legislative Analyst/Community Outreach Coordinator Charley Hall at Charles.Hall@akc.org.