2009 Legislative Successes
The AKC Government Relations Department is working hard with local federations, dog clubs, and concerned owners to protect the rights of responsible dog owners. Despite the many challenges we have seen so far this year, there have been a number of victories for owners, breeders, and fanciers at the state and local level.
Colorado – House Bill 1172 would have limited the number of unsterilized dogs over 6 months of age that a breeder could keep on premises (excluding dogs being temporarily boarded) to 25. It also would have mandated annual certification by a licensed veterinarian before a dog could be bred, and would have authorized the commissioner of agriculture to promulgate rules for certification and to inspect premises or records at any time. In early February, the Colorado House Agriculture Committee voted 7-5 to table the bill indefinitely.
Florida – House Bill 451 would have required owners of every dog or cat in Florida to have each animal sterilized within 30 days of the animal reaching four months of age, or within 30 days of the owner receiving the animal, with a few ambiguous exemptions. The AKC worked closely with the Florida Association of Kennel Clubs to defeat this measure, and posted legislative alerts and notified local clubs and judges. The Florida Association of Kennel Clubs reports that an amendment, offered by HB 451's sponsor, Representative Scott Randolph, has removed all mandatory spay/neuter language, and instead provides local government officials the option of using a $5 surcharge currently added to animal control citations to help pay for low-cost spay/neuter programs.
Louisiana – AKC’s Government Relations staff was contacted by dog owners in Vermilion Parish who were concerned about a proposed ordinance to ban “put bulls” in all towns within the parish. AKC’s Legislative Analyst Phil Guidry wrote a letter to the legal counsel and Police Jury expressing our concerns with breed-specific legislation and offering assistance in crafting a more reasonable and effective animal control law. AKC also sent talking points to local dog owners. The Police Jury decided not to move forward with the proposal.
Maryland – The Maryland General Assembly introduced concurrent House and Senate bills to strictly regulate dog breeders through ownership limits, strict enclosure and exercise requirements, and many other provisions. Anyone owning at least 10 intact dogs over 4 months of age would be required to comply with the rigid engineering and exercise requirements, without regard to the fiscal impact this would have on responsible owners. The AKC has been working closely with the Maryland Dog Federation and responsible dog breeders and fanciers to oppose House Bill 495 and Senate Bill 318. The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee gave an unfavorable recommendation to Senate Bill 318 and the bill is dead for this session. It is hopeful that as a result the House will not allow HB 495 to advance.
Minnesota – The Minnesota Senate Agriculture and Veterans Committee considered two bills that would restrict the rights of breeders. SF 7 sought to require and provide for the licensing and regulation of dog and cat breeders by the Board of Animal Health through a number of new restrictions and penalties. Though slightly different than its predecessors, this is the third year such a breeders bill has been introduced in Minnesota. SF 201 also sought to regulate breeders, but is significantly different from SF 7. AKC sent out Legislative Alerts on these bills and worked with local clubs and breeders to oppose these bills. The committee has decided to table the bills and AKC is hopeful they will not be reintroduced this year.
Montana – Approximately 100 responsible dog owners and breeders showed up to speak at a Montana House Committee hearing in opposition to a ban on pit bulls in the state. House Bill 191 prohibited the ownership, harboring, or keeping of dogs described as "pit bulls". "Pit bulls" was defined to include Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and "any dog that has the physical characteristics that substantially conform to the standards established for those breeds by the American Kennel Club." If the bill had passed, all such dogs would have been seized and euthanized, with very few exceptions.
The AKC sent letters of opposition to committee members and alerted tens of thousands of dog owners throughout the country about this legislation. The combined efforts of AKC and local dog owners and clubs resulted in the legislation being soundly defeated by a 17-1 vote.
New Hampshire – The New Hampshire House of Representatives that creates a new civil forfeiture action against an animal owner. Under the provisions of House Bill 220, the owner of any animal taken into custody on an animal cruelty charge may now be subject to a state civil hearing in addition to the criminal hearing already required. In this new civil case, the burden of proof for violation of the animal cruelty laws is less than in the criminal case and there is no provision for a pro bono or court-appointed attorney. In addition, the owner is only given 14 days to prepare a defense and the animal(s) could be put out for adoption or euthanized before the criminal case is decided. This bill was defeated in committee. The AKC posted a legislative alert and worked with local dog clubs to defeat this legislation.
New Mexico – The New Mexico House of Representatives introduced a bill to label all “pit bulls”, Rottweilers, and any dogs with similar physical characteristics as dangerous dogs. This would have required owners of these breeds to comply with strict laws including mandatory spay/neuter. AKC published a legislative alert on this issue, and thanks to the overwhelming amount of contacts received from dog owners and fanciers, the sponsor agreed to remove the breed-specific language from the bill and instead focus on general dangerous dog legislation.
Tennessee – A bill was introduced in the Tennessee Senate to define a commercial breeder as any person who owns 20 or more adult female dogs for the purpose of sale of their offspring as companion animals. Senate Bill 258 also limits ownership to 75 dogs. AKC worked with local dog clubs and responsible owners, who were successful in deleting all language from the bill.
Texas – The Plano City Council rejected an ordinance that would have made numerous changes to local animal control laws, including placing numerous regulations on breeders, limiting dog ownership, and mandating spay/neuter on the first impoundment of a dog or on the sale of any puppy over four months old. AKC sent a letter of opposition to the council and worked with local concerned dog owners to defeat this measure.
Virginia – Thanks to the efforts of the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders, the Virginia Senate Agriculture Committee defeated a mandatory spay/neuter bill by an 8-6 vote. Senate Bill 1151 imposed a mandatory spay/neuter requirement after the second pickup from animal control. The AKC GR Department assisted the work of the Virginia Federation by contacting Virginia dog clubs and encouraging them to attend the hearing.
Wisconsin – The Oshkosh City Council rejected an ordinance which would require the sterilization of all animals with exceptions for only show animals, those temporarily in the city and those animals a veterinarian says can not be sterilized. The ordinance would also have restricted ownership of Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and any dog which has the physical characteristics of these breeds. The Government Relations department sent a letter opposing the ordinance and sent information packets to the Oshkosh Kennel Club.