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2011 Legislative Successes

The following list provides some of the highlights of AKC Government Relations’ (AKC GR) legislative successes through November 8, 2011. Other victories not included in this list have been won by other AKC federations, clubs, and responsible dog owners and breeders around the country who continue to work tirelessly to promote positive canine legislation in their state and community.

To view all Legislative Alerts posted for your state in 2010, as well as the latest information on all bills being tracked by the AKC Government Relations Department, visit the AKC 2011 Legislation Tracking page. To see a list of legislative successes from 2010, click here.

  • Arizona – The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to consider a proposal that would limit dog ownership to four dogs per acre, with a maximum of 20 dogs on a private property. This would also include those who have foster homes for dogs. The AKC notified parent clubs, local clubs, and breeders about the proposal and sent a letter of concern to the Board. Due to the overwhelming number of calls and e-mails received by the Board, the proposal was removed from the agenda.
  • California - The City of Cypress will not proceed with an ordinance to require the mandatory spay/neuter of specific dog breeds. The idea was rejected before a formal draft was finalized so the included breeds were not determined GR sent a letter and resources to the city council as well as alerts and talking points to local AKC judges, officers, and clubs.
  • Colorado – Senate Bill 11-009 sought to make significant changes to the impoundment laws and the ability of owners to get their animals back if they are seized during a cruelty investigation. This included changing the hearing from civil to criminal court and requiring that the person charged with cruelty continually pay for the costs of caring for dogs seized. If the owner did not pay at any point, they lose the right to challenge the costs and ownership rights in the trial. The bill also stated that the court must consider a warrant alone as sufficient cause for impoundment. SB 11-009 passed the Senate, but was pulled by a sponsor in the House Agriculture Committee. AKC GR sent a letter of concern, alerted local clubs, and worked with the Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs to defeat the measure.
  • ColoradoAn attempt to place an ordinance on the Fort Collins city ballot to define a hobby breeder as anyone who sells less than two litters per year and to prohibit the sale of ALL pets in pet stores failed to garner enough signatures to qualify. AKC thanks the local responsible dog owners and breeders who worked to educate the public about the negative consequences of this measure.
  • Hawaii – Senate Bill 1522 SD2 HD 1 would have imposed a 50-dog ownership limit and required licensing for anyone who sells 25 or more puppies per year or owns 20 intact female dogs or 30 intact dogs of either sex over the age of 6 months. This bill would also have established arbitrary care and extensive engineering requirements for licensees’ facilities and allow inspections of any areas in which dogs are kept, handled or transported with no exemptions for private residences. The bill was held in conference committee. AKC GR conferred with the state veterinary association, sent letters of concern, and alerted Hawaii clubs and breeders.
  • Maryland – House Bill 169 would have added problematic provisions to the state’s dangerous dog law, including declaring a dog “potentially dangerous” if it bites one time in its lifetime, regardless of the severity. If the dog bit a second time, it would be declared dangerous and the owner would be subject to numerous regulations. The AKC sent a letter of concern and provided suggestions for more effective legislation. The AKC’s state federation also contacted legislators and provided much grassroots work on this bill. The bill died in the House Judiciary Committee.
  • MichiganHouse Bill 4714 sought to ultimately ban “pit bulls” in the state, defined as American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers or a dog displaying the majority of physical characteristics of any of these breeds. Dogs displaying “distinguishing characteristics” that “substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club for any of these breeds” would also be impacted. Within one year after passage, no one could breed or sell one of these breeds in the state. After four years, a mandatory spay/neuter for these breeds would be implemented, and after 10 years ownership would be banned. The bill was assigned to the House Committee on Regulatory Reform. The AKC issued a Legislative Alert to parent clubs and local Michigan dog owners and breeders and sent a letter of concern and some materials on the ineffectiveness of breed-specific legislation to the MI committee. The committee chairman contacted AKC GR and stated that he was not going to hear this bill.
  • MichiganThe Egelston Township Board of Trustees rejected a proposal that would have, among other provisions, automatically declared all “pit bull dogs” as dangerous. “Pit bull dogs” were defined as Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers and any dog that has the appearance of or characteristics predominant in these breeds. Owners of “dangerous animals” would have been subjected to numerous new laws, including keeping the animal muzzled and on a 4-foot leash when in public, confining the animal in a kennel built to specific standards, and possessing $50,000 of liability insurance. AKC GR alerted local residents about the public hearing and sent a letter to the board about the problems with BSL and encouraged them to consider more effective solutions. The board sent the proposal back to the Planning Commission and pledged to work with local kennel clubs and dog owners to develop a breed-neutral dangerous dog ordinance.
  • MississippiSenate Bill 2821, a felony animal cruelty bill limited to cats and dogs, passed the House and Senate and has been submitted to the Governor. Although all concerns expressed by AKC GR, the state federation and Mississippi dog owners were not addressed, a problematic sterilization provision was deleted prior to passage. This provision would have required welfare organization to sterilize impounded dogs prior to release, with no exemptions for an owned dog that accidentally escaped its enclosure.
  • Missouri – Senate Bill 161 eliminates a 50-dog ownership limit and makes several other positive changes to the Proposition B provisions passed in November 2010. Among other changes, the bill removes the restrictions on breeding ages (the bill now states that female dogs may not be bred more than what is recommended by a veterinarian) and creates the crime of “canine cruelty” for those who repeatedly violate the state’s animal welfare laws and pose a substantial risk to the health and welfare of animals. Governor Nixon has signed the bill into law, and it is effective immediately. Read more about this victory.
  • MontanaHouse Bills 390 and 515 sought to regulate breeders and impose problematic care and enclosure requirements. Local dog owners met with lawmakers and AKC GR sent alerts to clubs and dog owners, as well as letters to committee members outlining our concerns. These bills were tabled in committee.
  • Montana Senate Bill 421, which would have allowed Montana courts to order the forfeiture of animals seized based on alleged acts of animal cruelty unless the defendant pre-paid 30 days animal care costs, was defeated in the House. AKC GR sent alerts to clubs and dog owners and letters of concern to state representatives. AKC club members called and met with Montana legislators to provide education in opposition to this bill.
  • Montana – The Butte County-Silver Bow Council of Commissioners voted to table a requested ordinance that would have required “pit bulls” over the age of six months to be muzzled in public and their owners to provide proof of $100,000 liability insurance. “Pit bull” was defined as an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentina, Presa Canario, Cane Corso, American Bulldog or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more the breeds. AKC GR sent a letter to commissioners opposing a breed-specific ordinance.
  • New YorkThe Suffolk County Legislature Resolution 1545 contained legislative intent language that made a number of inaccurate, misleading and unsubstantiated claims. Although the sponsor removed language that attacked the AKC, the legislative findings still impugned the integrity of responsible dog breeders. AKC GR sent a written response to the legislation as introduced, created alerts to be distributed at local shows, and worked extensively with local clubs in opposition to the measure. Legislators were also invited to the Suffolk County Kennel Club’s Canine Experience on July 31. The sponsor, Legislator Cooper, agreed to withdraw the bill after legal concerns were raised.
  • New York – Suffolk County Resolution 1315, as introduced, would have banned the use of all choke or prong collars in the county. AKC GR alerted local clubs and sent a letter of concern asking that exemptions be made for humane uses such as slip/show leads, grooming tables and veterinary examinations. In response to AKC’s letter and the numerous communications from residents, the sponsor amended the bill to ban the use of these collars on stationary objects.
  • North Carolina – House Bill 426/Senate Bill 2, called “Chamberlin’s Law,” would have expanded the state’s cruelty laws and lowered the standard for the definition of cruelty from an act that is “intentional” to an act that is only “reckless.” While exceptions are made in current law for physical alteration of livestock and poultry to conform to breed standards, no exception is made for dogs. Anyone who is found guilty could have been prohibited from owning or having custody of dogs for an established period of time, and ordered to receive a psychiatric or psychological evaluation at his own expense. HB 426 was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary B. SB 2 was re-referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate. AKC GR sent a letter of concern to both committees. Neither bill was scheduled for a hearing.
  • OklahomaThe Tulsa City Council proposed a measure that would have subjected those with hobbyist permits to the same three-dog limit law as other residents. Current law exempts hobbyists from this limitation. Under the proposal, residents could only own more than three dogs if they possessed a private kennel permit, which could only be obtained for commercially-zoned areas. Rescues would have been provided an exemption to possess up to five dogs. The proposal was tabled after the council received numerous communications in opposition. The sponsor unsuccessfully attempted to introduce a second proposal establishing an animal welfare task force that would not be open to public participation and input. AKC GR issued alerts to local clubs and breeders, sent letters of concern and numerous educational materials to the council, and worked closely with several local clubs in opposition to these two measures. AKC GR and local clubs continue to monitor council agendas to ensure no other restrictive proposals are introduced.
  • Oklahoma – A second measure proposed by a member of the Tulsa City Council would have defined “commercial breeder” as anyone who possessed an intact female animal for “sale, indirect sale or exchange”. The proposal would also have limited those who hold Hobbyist Exemption Permits to owning five intact dogs or cats and breeding only one litter per year. As with the previous proposal, those who held a private kennel permit would be exempt from the city’s current limit laws, but those would only be issued for industrial or commercial zoned areas. Thanks to the diligence and persistence of local clubs and hobby breeders, who continued to educate the members of the council and attend every hearing after the first proposal was tabled, the measure was pulled just prior to the final vote on November 3, 2011. AKC GR assisted their efforts by sending letters of concern, issuing Legislative Alerts, and providing constituents with talking points, economic statistics, and other information to share with the council.
  • Rhode IslandSenate Bill 140 / House Bill 5690, in addition to other provisions, would have made it a violation of the animal cruelty statute to keep any dog “outside, tethered, penned, caged or otherwise confined” for more than one hour without access to an outdoor housing facility, unless the person caring for the dog also remains outside. This would mean that someone allowing their dog to play in a fenced-in backyard for an hour must have an outdoor facility available, unless they remain outside with the dog. The bills also allowed the local SPCA to enter private property without notice or a warrant to examine dogs and enforce the new law. SB 140 was held for further study. HB 5690 passed the House. The General Assembly has adjourned and neither bill will advance this year. Read more about this legislation
  • TexasHouse Bill 998 proposed to require the owner of any unneutered male dog over 20 lbs that is ever off the premises of the owner off-lead to purchase $100,000 per occurrence in liability insurance to cover instances of property damages, bodily injury or death. The AKC issued a Legislative Alert urging Texas dog owners to contact the contact their legislators and express concerns with this bill. The bill was assigned to the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence committee, but never received a hearing.
  • TexasHouse Bill 2116 would have prohibited the stacking of crates or cages unless there is an impervious barrier between them. It also directed the Health and Human Services Commission to conduct a study regarding the proper care and conditions for dogs and cats and to report those findings to the appropriate legislative chairs. The AKC issued a Legislative Alert to Texas residents and sent a letter of concern to the House Committee on County Affairs. The Legislature adjourned prior to the bill being considered in the House.
  • Utah – House Bill 124 as amended sought to place numerous requirements on “commercial breeders,” defined as anyone who owns six or more dogs “for breeding” and sells or provides the offspring of the dog to another person. Commercial breeders could not sell or solicit the sale of a dog unless the commercial breeder has a valid breeder license, business license, and land use approval from the Land Use Authority. The bill as introduced was defeated by the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, and an amended version was referred to the Rules Committee and placed in the House file for defeated bills. AKC GR sent a letter of concern to the Revenue and Taxation Committee and sent an alert to parent clubs, Utah clubs and breeders.
  • VermontHouse Bill 303 sought to change numerous licensing and tax requirements for those who sell dogs. It would also have required inspections of all “pet merchants,” defined as someone who engages in the sale of one or more litters per year or the sale of two or more animals over six months of age within a year. Anyone who owned two or more intact “domestic pets” would have to obtain a $25 annual license, which must be prominently displayed on the owner’s premises. The Vermont Legislature adjourned prior to considering this bill. It is possible it may be reintroduced in 2012. The AKC issued a Legislative Alert encouraging Vermont club members and breeders to contact the Legislature and express concerns with this bill.
  • VirginiaThe Virginia House Courts of Justice Committee has decided to not take action on House Bill 2195, which would have banned debarking unless the procedure was necessary to treat or relieve an injury or illness. Veterinarians would have been required to keep records of any debarking procedure they performed for four years and been subject to an audit. AKC GR sent a letter of concern to the committee and worked with the Virginia federation to defeat this measure.
  • West Virginia – House Bill 2883 contained ownership limits and breeding restrictions for “commercial dog breeders,” defined as any person who maintains 11 or more unsterilized dogs over the age of one year and is engaged in the business of breeding animals for sale. HB 2883 passed the House, but was held in the Senate Judiciary Committee. AKC GR supported the efforts of several local clubs and breeders by sending out legislative alerts, sample letters and letters to the committee. This bill will likely be reintroduced in 2012, and local clubs are in the process of organizing an AKC state federation.
  • Wyoming The Wyoming Legislature passed a bill that creates the crime of “household pet animal cruelty”. As introduced, Senate File 100 sought to define “hoarding” and “puppy mills” by the number of dogs owned, and other vague and arbitrary terms. An amendment was approved by the House of Representatives that deleted the original language and instead defined “household pet animal cruelty” as anyone who keeps household pets “in a manner that results in chronic or repeated physical harm” or “confined in conditions which constitute a public health hazard.” AKC GR sent numerous letters and alerts, and worked with local Wyoming kennel clubs, breeders, and the Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs to develop this reasonable and fair amendment. Read more about this victory.

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