2021 is already shaping up to be an extraordinarily active year for canine legislation and the AKC Government Relations (GR) team. As an “off-election”, or odd-numbered year, all 50 state legislatures are in session. And, as is commonly the case after an election, new leadership and newly-elected lawmakers are anxious to get to work! This often results in an increase in legislative introductions. Add in the bills from last session that were put on hold after legislatures were shut down early due to the pandemic, and it’s meant an avalanche of dog-related legislation in the first quarter of 2021.
Currently, the Government Relations team is monitoring more than 2,000 dog-related bills at the federal, state, and local levels in all 50 states. We know this level of activity means more alerts, and activity for you, too; so we have also developed a number of new resources to help you be effective advocates in your state and community. For the latest alerts, legislative tracking for your state, and advocacy resources, be sure to visit our Legislative Action Center at www.akcgr.org.
You can also view a list of legislative successes already accomplished this year protecting dogs, dog owners, and canine events in states across the country.
Here are highlights of key issues and activity by the GR Department in the first quarter:
Key First Quarter Legislative Issues:
Tethering/Dogs Outdoors: The issue of keeping dogs outdoors continues to be one of concern for many state and local lawmakers. AKC advocates for balanced laws that protect dogs from being kept in conditions where their health and safety are at risk. AKC also recognizes that there is no species more diverse than the dog. For this reason, laws must be written to prevent arbitrary requirements that can actually undermine practical enforcement or the wellbeing of some dogs. Attempts to define conditions based on specific weather and temperature requirements, or to mandate outdoor shelter even when the dog is outside for only a brief period of time, often do more harm than good. AKC GR has been working in jurisdictions from Connecticut to Maryland to Oklahoma, among others, to address these issues and propose amendments that provide reasonable discretion to animal control, and offer a balanced approach to prevent and prohibit negligence and cruelty while also allowing for varying activities, breeds, and situations when a dog may be safely maintained outside.
View AKC’s one-pager for legislators that further explains our position on these issues.
Breeder Regulations: AKC GR continues to closely monitor all bills that could impact dog breeders. In California, for example, a bill has been introduced that would require a permit and arbitrary regulations for all dog breeders. AKC GR is encouraging all clubs to contact the author’s office to oppose the bill, and is in communication with the Assembly and other impacted groups to express opposition.
Tennessee considered a bill that would have established arbitrary breeder regulations for any person maintaining 10 or more intact female dogs over 6 months of age. AKC, local clubs, sportsmen, and many others expressed significant opposition to the bill and it was held in committee. AKC GR continues to closely monitor it.
“Lawyers for Dogs”: Bills have been introduced in New Jersey, Rhode Island, Illinois, New York, and Florida to allow court-appointed advocates for animals in cases of cruelty or injury. AKC and our state federations oppose these bills, which undermine the rights and responsibilities of animal owners and current statutory protections for animals. These bills may create rights for animals that are traditionally reserved for children or humans unable to manage their own affairs; however, they do nothing to assure the proper care or wellbeing of animals. AKC is working with numerous other animal welfare and scientific organizations to oppose these bills and ensure that such measures do not impact the status of animals as property. View AKC’s new one-pager on this issue.
Bond for Care: AKC GR remains concerned about bills that would result in an owner permanently losing their animals on suspicion of cruelty – even if they are ultimately found not guilty of the charges. Two bills of this type have been considered in Wyoming. One was tabled and the other was amended to address AKC’s concerns and ensure that if the owner is found not guilty, the animals are returned. Bills are also under consideration in the Maryland House and Senate, and AKC has expressed similar concerns. These bills are pending in committee.
In Missouri, AKC and its state federation are supporting a bill that would protect the rights of dog owners during animal seizures and also protect their animals. It ensures that owners are considered innocent until proven guilty.
Pet Choice Restrictions: AKC GR is fighting bills in multiple states and municipalities across the country that would limit pet stores to selling only dogs from shelters and rescues. This includes Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and numerous municipalities in Massachusetts and Illinois, among many others. In Colorado and Washington, the bills as introduced would allow current pet stores to exist, but would not allow any new pet stores in the states.
Pet choice restrictions limit pet choice, eliminate current consumer protections, and imply that a shelter or rescue is the best/only place to get a dog. A measure in Utah provided a definition of pet store could have been interpreted to include anyone who sells a dog.
We encourage all clubs to join AKC in opposing these bills when they are introduced in your state or community. Even if you do not personally do business with a pet store, the implications and consequences for all dogs and future dog owners are significant. For more talking points, visit www.akcgr.org/petchoice.
Working Animals/Event Protections – States including Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa, Illinois, and Texas have introduced bills to protect the right to use working animals. Many of these bills also extend protections to animal competitions, education, and other similar events. AKC GR has joined local clubs, fairgrounds, and others in support of these bills, which prohibit municipalities from enacting any regulation that would essentially ban these events and activities, or the use of working animals. This would include any regulation providing undue financial hardships. Visit the Legislative Action Center to see the latest information on these bills.
COVID-19: COVID-19 continues to be a significant issue in many legislatures. AKC GR is monitoring bills that would impact events, gatherings, and pet-related businesses. We are also supporting measures that would provide some liability protections for persons holding events. This year, Indiana and South Dakota have joined other states who passed laws in 2020 that would provide liability protections for events such as dog shows. For more information, visit www.akcgr.org/covidliability.
AKC GR is also providing regular updates on reopenings in every state, so clubs, businesses and others can know basic regulations regarding gatherings, travel, and other requirements. This can be found at: https://www.akc.org/legislative-alerts/status-animal-services-state-closures/
AKC GR Resources to Help Clubs, Dog Owners and Breeders:
These are just a few of the many issues being addressed this year by AKC GR across the country. Dog owners are encouraged to visit the Legislative Action Center at www.akcgr.org, where you can view our latest legislative alerts and take action on bills, and view our legislative tracking page to see the status of all bills we are tracking in your state.
There is a wealth of additional resources in the Legislative Action Center as well. Visit our Toolbox for printable resources on a wide variety of topics, and click on the Key Issues tab to view policy documents, model legislation, and talking points on a broad range of legislative policies impacting dog owners.
In addition to new key issues we introduced in late 2020, we continue to provide new resources to assist you. These include sample introduction letters for you and your club to introduce yourselves to lawmakers. AKC GR also recently unveiled a new one-page document for you to provide legislators that outlines many of the good things that AKC and our clubs do for dogs. This is a great resource to use in conjunction with your introduction letter to help lawmakers understand that you and the AKC are experts on dogs and dog legislation.
U.S.-Bred Detection Dogs:
AKC GR also continues to be proudly involved with the Detection Dog Task Force, which is working to address the critical shortage of U.S.-bred working and detection dogs. We are hosting monthly webinars to provide more information on the many facets of this program. The Patriotic Puppy Program provides resources to dog breeders and puppy raisers interested in providing and preparing dogs to serve as future detection dogs.
We have developed a number of resources that are available on the Detection Dog key issue page as well as resources detailing the increased demand for U.S-bred working and detection dogs, and the crucial role these dogs play in fighting terrorism.
Be watching AKC’s Legislative Alerts and Blogs pages in the AKC Legislative Action Center for the latest information on this essential issue and how you can participate in one of our webinars and get involved.
Most legislatures are still in session, and many major bills impacting dog owners are still active. There are many things clubs and breeders can be doing to join AKC GR as we continue to advocate for reasonable, effective dog laws:
- Regularly check AKC’s Legislative Action Center at www.akcgr.org for the latest alerts and information. You can also sign up to receive text updates on your phone.
- Make sure your club has an active Legislative Liaison who will receive and quickly send out important legislative alerts. Contact AKC GR if your club needs to update your legislative liaison.
- When you see an alert – act on it. AKC GR works hard in every state to communicate on issues impacting dog owners, but the most effective and important communications are those from local residents who are directly impacted. As constituents, you can provide a unique perspective as local dog owners and breeders. Visit the AKC Legislative Action Center or contact AKC GR for help on developing talking points and contacting your lawmakers.
- If you hear of an issue in your community, let AKC GR know. AKC GR team members are happy to help and can provide analysis, talking points, and other assistance. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will work with you to fight anti-dog legislation and promote good dog laws in your community.
AKC GR has been proud to work alongside so many clubs, federations, and breeders already this year. Please be sure to keep checking the AKC Legislative Action Center for the latest information as we continue to work together to advocate for reasonable dog laws and protect the rights of dog owners.