Fanciers today know they have to remain aware of what is going on around the country, as new legislation is proposed on a regular basis that has the potential to impact their relationships with their dogs and how they keep, breed and even show them. Best In Show Daily will now bring readers a biweekly report on what’s happening on the legislative front around the United States.

New York

On June 13, 2012, the New York State Assembly passed a bill that would ban surgical devocalization (called simply “debarking” in dogs) for dogs and cats in the state. AKC’s position on debarking is as follows: “Debarking is a viable veterinary procedure that may allow a dog owner to keep a dog that barks excessively in its loving home rather than to be forced to surrender it to a shelter. Debarking should only be performed by a qualified, licensed veterinarian after other behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive barking have failed. As with other veterinary medical decisions, the decision to debark a dog is best left to individual owners and their veterinarians.”

According to AKC’s Government Relations department, the press release issued by the New York State Assembly following the vote “demonstrates that the legislators have an incorrect understanding of what this procedure actually is, and the important role it can play in ensuring dogs stay out of shelters and in loving homes.”

After passing the assembly, AB 3431 was scheduled to go to the senate. However, the state legislature adjourned on Thursday, June 21, without taking further action on the bill. Lawmakers are not expected to reconvene until a possible special session after the fall elections, and it is likely that the bill will make no further progress this year. However, the issue will probably resurface next year, and fanciers will again be asked to help educate their legislators about the practice of debarking.

Rhode Island

On June 21 the governor of Rhode Island signed into law Bill H7663A and S2035A. According to the State of Rhode Island General Assembly website, the new law, which went into effect immediately, prohibits keeping a dog in a pen, cage or other shelter for more than 14 hours in a 24-hour period, regardless of the size of the enclosure. It also makes it illegal to keep a dog tethered for more than 10 hours during a 24-hour day, and prohibits tethering a dog using a choke or prong-type collar and keeping a dog on a permanent tether that restricts its movement to less than 113 square feet, or a 6-foot radius.

The bill has an exemption for dogs that are actively engaged in hunting, hunt training or field trials, or while being transported for these activities, but not for dogs engaged in or traveling to other events. It also does not apply to dogs “tethered or confined for medical reasons or if the tethering or confinement is authorized by an animal control officer.” It does not apply to “training or grooming facilities, commercial boarding kennels, pet shops, livestock farmers or exhibitors holding a Class C license under the Animal Welfare Act.”

AKC believes that this law will be detrimental to many responsible dog owners, including those who crate their dogs while at work during the day or while they’re asleep at night for the safety of the dogs. Under the new law, “such an owner would be breaking state law…regardless of whether an owner acts responsibly by providing walks, training, exercise, playtime, etc.” These bills also make keeping dogs in fenced yards for the specified period of time illegal, whether or not they have proper housing and protection from the elements. Crating dogs for more than 14 hours en route to and at dog events, other than hunting and field trials, is also prohibited under the law.


While the passage of these restrictive laws in Rhode Island is now a fact, California Senate Bill 1221 failed to pass that state’s general assembly on Wednesday, June 27. The proposed law would specifically have banned hunting of black bears and bobcats using dogs.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, it was the large turnout of hunters and other concerned citizens, more than 700, that helped defeat the bill as it was being considered by the general assembly’s Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. The bill previously passed the state senate in a vote of 22 to 15.

While laws already exist that prohibit anyone from using dogs to hunt, pursue or molest bears except under certain conditions, the proposed bill would have banned using dogs to pursue bears or bobcats at any time. It also would have prohibited the use of dogs by federal, state or local law enforcement when carrying out their official duties.

Research by the California Department of Fish and Game shows that bear populations have more than tripled in the past 40 years, leading to a major increase in conflicts between humans and bears, and an increased need to manage bear populations. Experts believe that regulated hunting is an effective method of managing wildlife populations. Fish and game authorities must also on occasion track bears and bobcats that have come into conflict with humans. Experts believe that using trained dogs is among the most humane, and thus ethical, ways to track bears and bobcats that need to be dispatched. The dogs track the animals, which climb trees to escape, and once treed, hunters can quickly and humanely dispatch the targeted animal, or if necessary leave them unharmed.

The American Kennel Club did not issue a statement regarding California Senate Bill 1221.

Ballston Spa, New York

Ballston Spa, N.Y., is currently considering a law that would create a five-dog limit of ownership for anyone living or staying within the city limits, even those temporarily being housed at a residence. The village board is scheduled to vote on the proposed law on Monday, July 9. The law could affect exhibitors and handlers who take dogs into the village for AKC dog events if they stay with a resident inside the city limits, as their dogs would be included in the resident’s number of dogs.

AKC opposes this kind of limit on dog ownership under the belief that arbitrary restrictions placed on responsible dog owners do not aid in keeping dogs safe and well cared for, while stronger enforcement of animal control and cruelty laws are more effective.

Interested parties can contact the mayor and the village board to express their opposition to the limit by emailing them at or may attend the “Neighborhood Village Meeting” on July 9.

Watch Best In Show Daily every other Tuesday for our biweekly updates on current legislation pending around the country. AKC also posts regular updates in its Legislative Alerts section online.