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Legislative Updates: Bill Seeking Court-Appointed Pet Advocates Advances

Two weeks ago we reported in Legislative Updates  that in Connecticut, legislation that would create legal representation, or “animal advocates,” for animals had been referred to the state’s Joint Environment Committee. On May 14 the bill was approved by that committee and sent forward with a “joint favorable” designation, meaning that the committee determined that the legislation should be considered by the full General Assembly.

A proposed law in the state of Connecticut could severely limit the rights of pet owners to make decisions about their animals. Photo © www.canstockphoto.com

This bill would allow the courts to appoint a person, similar to court-appointed advocates for children, who could help determine what would happen to the pet. As noted by AKC, providing third-party representatives in a legal dispute is usually done in order to protect the rights of people who are unable to make legal decisions on their own. There has never been a law allowing for third-party representatives for animals. The use of advocates to represent pets could, as previously reported, severely limit the rights of pet owners, and Connecticut residents are strongly encouraged to contact their legislators to express opposition to this bill. Contact information for legislators in the state can be found here.

I typically don’t express personal opinions regarding legislation, but I think the concept of court-appointed animal advocates is among the most dangerous ideas I’ve heard of. Our court system has a structure in place whereby decisions regarding the welfare of animals can be made when necessary. Allowing outside third parties to participate in this decision making is a slippery slope that could, in my opinion, lead to serious deterioration of the rights of pet owners.

In the state of Massachusetts, another alarming set of bills has been introduced and will be considered next month. Massachusetts residents are encouraged to be proactive in contacting legislators, as time is running out.

Among AKC’s concerns regarding these bills is the potential redefinition of “hobby breeder” as anyone who houses more than three female dogs and/or cats, and a requirement that such individuals to be licensed as “pet dealers,” making them subject to commercial breeder regulations.

Among the bills being considered in June are several that with positive implications, which both the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners (MassFed) and AKC have expressed approval for, including HB 1825, which would require that no person or company be able to sell a puppy younger than 8 weeks of age. HB 1840, also supported by AKC, seeks to change the required “minimum space” that owners must provide outdoors for their pets from 100 square feet to “adequate for the size of the dog.”

MassFed’s positions on all pending legislation can be found on its website under “Bills to Watch.

In another positive development, the city of South Bend, Ind., has created a committee to examine the city’s animal control laws, and according to public statements may consider a repeal of breed-specific and ownership limit laws.

Current law marks “American pit bull terriers” and crosses thereof as dangerous, and in addition limits pet ownership to three total dogs and/or cats, regardless of breed. The American Kennel Club position states that “animal control laws should be based on responsible ownership” rather than the breed or number of pets owned. Residents should contact their council members to express support for removing breed-specific references and limits from the books. Contact information may be found here.

APHIS Completes Review of Public Comments
Remember last summer  when fanciers were asked to sign a petition and contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regarding proposed changes to the Animal Welfare Act? In June 2012, BISD reported on how the proposed regulations could impact hobby breeders,  and fanciers and clubs responded in droves with comments for the USDA. In addition, more than 70,000 people signed AKC’s petition “in support of small hobby breeders.”

The concerns of hobby breeders and AKC were, among others, that the term “breeding female” was not defined in the new rule and that small hobby breeders would find it “unreasonable and virtually impossible to comply with the strict kennel engineering standards that were designed for large commercial breeders.”

In early May this year, AKC reported  that the USDA has completed its review of all public comments, and a final version of the new rule has been sent to the federal government’s Office of Management and Budget for further review and possible changes prior to finalization. According to AKC, “no information about the contents of the final rule is available at this time,” and AKC continues to express its concern to Congress and the USDA about the proposed rule change. AKC and BISD will continue to monitor the information coming out of APHIS and will report any information gathered. More information about these changes to the AWA may be found here.

Best In Show Daily reports biweekly on legislative actions around the country that will or may impact dog ownership. The American Kennel Club government relations office also maintains a list of Legislative Alerts  on its website, where fanciers can stay up-to-date on current issues in dog-related legislation around the United States and find contact information when legislation is pending in their area.

Written by

Christi McDonald is a second-generation dog person, raised with a kennel full of Cairn Terriers. After more than a decade as a professional handler’s apprentice and handling professionally on her own, primarily Poodles and Cairns, she landed a fortuitous position in advertising sales with the monthly all-breed magazine ShowSight. This led to an 11-year run at Dogs in Review, where she wore several hats, including advertising sales rep, ad sales manager and, finally, editor for five years. Christi is proud to be part of the editorial team for the cutting-edge Best In Show Daily. She lives in Apex, N.C., with two homebred black Toy Poodles, the last of her Foxfire line, and a Norwich Terrier.