The West Virginia House is expected to vote tomorrow on legislation providing increased regulations for the welfare of domestic animals in the care of animal shelters, breeders, and private individuals.
House Bill 2095 as amended is comprehensive legislation that seeks 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 also adds additional language to the state’s commercial breeder laws (defined as possessing 11 or more unsterilized dogs over the age of one year at any one time for the exclusive purpose of actively breeding), including new consumer protection requirements which the AKC believes are positive and would protect the rights of the seller and breeder, and provide appropriate recourse for purchasers if there is a significant health issue with their new puppy.
Overall, the legislation will 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. However, AKC is requesting a few clarifying amendments to ensure a fair, reasonable and effective law:
- Clarification regarding keeping dogs outdoors – As written, the bill makes it unlawful to leave a companion animal outside during extreme weather conditions, unless adequate food, potable water, shade, shelter, and protection is provided. Dog breeds are very diverse and what might be an extreme condition for one dog is simply not for another. As written, the language is unclear as to how it would apply to dogs participating in hunting, field trails or other similar activities, search and rescue, detection and other police canine activities, or training for these and other humane activities. AKC is requesting that any language regarding dogs and weather should be based on the breed, age, general health of the dog and its ability to handle the environment. Read AKC’s issue brief for more talking points.
- Amendment to address the issue of animal hoarding – As written, §61-8-19e makes the hoarding of animals a crime. Unfortunately, hoarding is a mental disorder. The act of animal neglect ought to be the misdemeanor. We are encouraging the addition of language which authorizes a judge to order a psychiatric evaluation if a defendant presents with these charges against them. Getting the person into treatment is best for the animals and the defendant, who without treatment will repeat the behavior of collecting animals.
- Amendment/clarification regarding consumer protection – We agree with the language requiring consumer protection and recourse. It protects the consumer if they purchase a sick puppy and holds breeders accountable for the animals they sell. We are requesting an amendment regarding remedies to a consumer. While some remedies allow for reimbursement up to the purchase price of the dog, one section would require reimbursement of veterinary costs up to 150 percent of the purchase price. For consistency and fairness, AKC is recommending that this be changed to only require reimbursement up to the purchase price of the dog.
What You Can Do:
This bill is on second reading today and scheduled for final passage in the House tomorrow. Contact your House members today and express your opinion and request that the bill be amended for clarity.
Click here to find the name and contact information for your House Delegate.
AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) will continue to monitor this legislation. For questions or more information, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.