The West Virginia Senate has passed Senate Bill 406, which would impose onerous restrictions on those who own 11 or more intact dogs. While some exemptions are included, the AKC believes they are vague and may still impact hobbyists who are not truly commercial breeders. The bill has now been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
There are only two weeks left in the West Virginia legislative session, and this bill is expected to move very quickly. It is urgent that responsible dog owners and breeders in West Virginia contact the members of the House Judiciary Committee and your State Delegates TODAY and ask them to oppose Senate Bill 406 as currently written. Scroll down for contact information.
AKC takes a strong line on animal cruelty, and does not believe any dog should be kept in conditions where its basic needs are not met. This is why AKC supports current West Virginia law (§61-8-19), which, among other provisions, makes it unlawful for anyone to withhold proper sustenance, protective shelter and medical treatment.
We appreciate some of the amendments that have been made, including removing arbitrary breeding ages and giving 5 days' notice prior to an inspection. Still, Senate Bill 406 as amended seeks to impose numerous restrictions on “commercial dog breeders”, defined as those who “maintain” eleven or more unsterilized dogs (males and females) over one year of age and breed dogs exclusively as household pets. The bill does provide some exemptions; however, the AKC believes these exemptions are vague and difficult to enforce.
AKC's concerns with the bill include:
- Definition of “Commercial Dog Breeder” – This bill defines a “commercial breeder” as one who owns 11 intact dogs over the age of one year and breeds dogs exclusively as household pets. It also exempts anyone who keeps or breeds dogs “for the purpose of herding or guarding livestock animals, hunting, tracking or exhibiting in dog shows, performance events or field and obedience trials…”
The AKC greatly appreciates the recognition that exhibitors, sportsmen, and other hobbyists should not be considered commercial dog breeders. However, we believe that the exemptions are vague. It is not always possible to tell immediately if dogs from a litter will develop into proper show dogs, sporting dogs, etc. Many breeders will wait to watch the puppies grow before they determine if the dogs will be used for these purposes.
It is also unclear if a breeder would be exempt if they intend to keep or breed dogs for one of these purposes, but may ultimately decide to sell or keep puppies as pets. In the same way, a person may decide at some point to cease their hobby and “retire” their dogs, thereby keeping them as pets.
The AKC is asking the House to raise the threshold to a number more indicative of a truly commercial operation and ensure that hobbyists will never be unintentionally impacted.
- Ownership Limit – The bill also limits ownership to 50 intact dogs. Laws that limit animal ownership are ineffective, arbitrary, and do not address the underlying issue of responsible ownership. Limiting the number of animals a person may own will not automatically make them a better owner. Furthermore, both the dogs and West Virginia taxpayers lose, as owners may be forced to give up their dogs to a local shelter in order to comply with the limit (particularly since those over the limit would only be given 30 days to come into compliance), and the dogs will be housed and/or euthanized at great cost to local communities.
Read AKC's Issue Analysis “The Value of Responsible Dog Breeders”
Read AKC's Issue Brief on Responsible Breeding Practices
Read AKC's Issue Brief on Dog Limit Laws
View AKC's handout “Limit Laws: Better Alternatives”
How You Can Help:
Contact BOTH the members of the House Judiciary Committee and your State Delegates and ask them to oppose Senate Bill 406 as currently written. Enter your Zip Code at this link to find the names and contact information for your Delegates. When contacting your Delegates, be sure to mention that you are a constituent.
The contact information for the House Judiciary Committee is as follows:
Delegate Tim Miley (Chair)
Phone: (304) 340-3252
Delegate Mark Hunt (Vice-Chair)
Phone: (304) 340-3392
Delegate John Ellem (Minority Chair)
Phone: (304) 340-3394
Delegate Patrick Lane (Minority Vice-Chair)
Phone: (304) 340-3275
Delegate Larry Barker
Phone: (304) 340-3149
Delegate Bonnie Brown
Phone: (304) 340-3106
Delegate John Doyle
Phone: (304) 340-3184
Delegate Michael Ferro
Phone: (304) 340-3111
Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer
Phone: (304) 340-3169
Delegate John Frazier
Phone: (304) 340-3396
Delegate Linda Longstreth
Phone: (304) 340-3124
Delegate Tim Manchin
Phone: (304) 340-3166
Delegate Mike Manypenny
Phone: (304) 340-3139
Delegate Harold Michael
Phone: (304) 340-3340
Delegate Clif Moore
Phone: (304) 340-3189
Delegate John Pino
Phone: (304) 340-3170
Delegate Meshea Poore
Phone: (304) 340-3248
Delegate David Walker
Phone: (304) 340-3135
Delegate Danny Wells
Phone: (304) 340-3287
Delegate Bill Hamilton
Phone: (304) 340-3167
Delegate Lynwood “Woody” Ireland (Assistant Minority Whip)
Phone: (304) 340-3195
Delegate Jonathan Miller
Phone: (304) 340-3147
Delegate John D. O'Neal IV
Phone: (304) 340-3164
Delegate John Overington
Phone: (304) 340-3148
Delegate Kelli Sobonya
Phone: (304) 340-3175
AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) will continue to closely monitor this legislation and provide more information as it becomes available. For questions or more information, contact AKC GR at (919) 816-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The West Virginia Senate has passed Senate Bill 406, which would impose onerous restrictions on…