During this time of year, Legislative Liaisons spend a great deal of
time reading and processing the many bills that are being introduced
in their state legislatures. This can be a daunting task, even for veterans
of canine legislation. Here are a few pointers to help you decipher
the often long and confusing pieces of legislation that come across
• Many new bills amend existing law. Look for language
that is in italics or is underscored. This is often new language being
added to a particular code section. Language that has a line through
it is usually being removed from the code.
Here is an example from Illinois H4212:
Sec. 24. Nothing in this Act shall be held to limit in any manner
the power of any municipality or other political subdivision to prohibit
animals from running at large, nor shall anything in this Act be construed
to, in any manner, limit the power of any municipality or other political
subdivision to further control and regulate dogs, cats or other animals
in such municipality or other political subdivision . With respect
to dogs, regulations and ordinances (i) may ban one or more scheduled
dog breeds and (ii) may be
provided that no regulation or ordinance
is specific to breed.
• Several states provide a synopsis of the bill at the
beginning or end of the legislation. Reading this first can be a good
way to find out what the author’s intentions are and understand current law before
plunging in to the bill text.
Here is an example from California’s SB861 (2005):
SB 861, Speier Animals: dogs: spay, neuter, and breeding programs.
Existing law sets forth provisions relating to veterinary public health
and safety, as specified. Existing law also provides for or regulates
spay, neuter, and breeding programs for animals, as specified. This
bill would authorize local governments to enact dog breed-specific
ordinances pertaining only to mandatory spay or neuter programs and
breeding requirements, provided that no specific dog breed, or mixed
dog breed, shall be declared potentially dangerous or vicious under
those ordinances. This bill would require those jurisdictions that
do implement such programs to provide quarterly statistical reports
relating to dog bites to the State Public Health Veterinarian, as
specified. The bill would make conforming changes to related provisions.
• Identify special definitions that are being used in
the legislation. Often words and phrases are given a specific or narrow
meaning for a particular section.
Here is an example from Alabama H252:
Section 1. As used in this act, the following words shall have the
(1) ANIMAL SHELTER. Any facility operated by or under contract for
the state or any county, municipal corporation, or other political
subdivision of the state for the purpose of impounding or harboring
seized, stray, homeless, abandoned, or unwanted dogs, cats, and other
animals; any veterinary hospital or clinic operated by a veterinarian
or veterinarians which operates for such purpose in addition to its
customary purposes; and any facility operated, owned, or maintained
by a duly incorporated humane society, animal welfare organization,
or other nonprofit organization for the purpose of providing for and
promoting the welfare, protection, and humane treatment of animals.
(2) ANIMAL WELFARE ORGANIZATION. Any unincorporated nonprofit organization
or business entity existing for fostering and adopting dogs and cats
by the public.