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PENDING LEGISLATION
Posted on 09/09/2009 in Your Dog, Your Rights.

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PENDING LEGISLATION

California: two bills that will damage dog owners rights up for consideration
Assembly Bill 241

When California Assembly Bill 241 was originally introduced, it limited breeders to 50 intact dogs, with no age specifications. The bill has now been amended as of July 23 to limit breeders to 50 intact adult dogs. The bill specifies that any owners of dogs over this limit have 30 days following notification to spay, neuter, transfer, or otherwise rid themselves of the excess animals---including euthanasia if necessary. Further, it gives authority to any peace, humane, or animal control officer to seize an animal kept in violation of the code “when necessary to protect the health or safety of the animal or health or safety of others;” in other words, they could come up with any excuse to seize animals if an individual is over the limit. The proposed bill does not provide for any sort of due process for owners whose animals have been seized, and leaves it open for cities and counties to adopt more restrictive laws than this. The bill is scheduled for a hearing on August 17, 2009.

What it means:

Should this bill become law, breeders with over 50 intact dogs will be faced with some tough decisions in order to bring their number of intact dogs down to 50 or less. Breeders will also need to be on the lookout for local ordinances that may limit the number of intact dogs even further than this law already proposes to do. Potentially, responsible breeders will be forced to either comply with the limits or relocate in order to continue breeding operations. Conversely, the so-called ‘puppy mills’ that continue to maintain over 50 intact dogs and violate the law will cost the already economically deprived state greatly in caring for seized or excess dogs.

Senate Bill 250

California Senate Bill 250 passed the Senate Assembly Appropriations Committee on July 15, 2009, and was sent to the Assembly Appropriations Suspense File, with no hearing date listed yet at this time. The bill was last amended on May 28, and if enacted as written it would force dog owners to either sterilize their dogs by the age of 6 months, or in the alternative, obtain a license for intact dogs if permitted to do so by local ordinance. The bill gives free rein to local licensing agencies to establish their own procedures for intact dog licenses. Anyone found selling intact dogs 4 months old or older must have an intact dog license for the dog, even if it is under the 6 month limit stated above. The only exempt dogs are those that sterilization would cause serious bodily harm or death, or dogs used for hunting so long as the owner has a valid hunting license. Unlicensed intact dogs will be required to be sterilized. If an unlicensed intact dog is impounded, the dog will be sterilized. No hearing process is provided for; it does not appear that owners of unlicensed intact dogs will have any option other than to sterilize the dog. Further, the bill specifically states that local jurisdictions may require ALL dogs be spayed or neutered. During the hearing on July 15, it was acknowledged that the fiscal effects of the law could be high, as more animals may be surrendered or abandoned as a result of the cost of sterilization, licensing fees, and fines; thus the move to the Suspense File.

What it means:

If this bill becomes law, it will have a huge impact on dog owners in California. Sterilization of dogs will no longer be a personal choice but a requirement by law. There is no set standard age for spaying/neutering dogs, and can be a controversial subject amongst dog owners.
Even the AVMA does not set an ideal age to sterilize dogs, per the following AVMA policy:

The AVMA supports the concept of pediatric spay/neuter in dogs and cats in an effort to reduce the number of unwanted animals of these species. Just as for other veterinary medical and surgical procedures, veterinarians should use their best medical judgment in deciding at what age spay/neuter should be performed on individual animals.

There is no requirement in the bill that intact licenses be offered everywhere. As such, the only dogs that will be truly exempt from the sterilization requirement would be dogs used for hunting or dogs that can’t be sterilized because of medical reasons or age. People selling intact dogs between the age of 4 and 6 months will be required to have intact licenses for those dogs, yet how is a seller supposed to get the license if they live in an area that does not offer them? If an owner of an intact dog is unlucky enough that their dog becomes impounded, they will have no other choice than to sterilize the dog.

Show and performance breeders could really be hurt by this law, because there are no exceptions for those dogs. If a show or performance breeder lives in an area where intact licenses ARE available, they would have to buy a permit for each intact dog in order to continue breeding, which could become very expensive. Jurisdictions that create ordinances requiring ALL dogs be spayed or neutered will lose income derived from dog breeders, and breeders in those locales will be forced to either quit breeding altogether or move to another location. Not only will there be an economic impact due to decreased numbers of breeders, but the cost of enforcing the potential law could be enormous.

North Carolina Commercial Breeders Bill

As of August 11, 2009 North Carolina Senate Bill 460 had passed the Senate but was pulled from the House Finance Committee by its sponsor Sen. Don Davis. While the bill is knocked out for the year, its sponsor has promised it will be re-introduced next year. If enacted, the breeders bill will define a ‘commercial breeder’ as anyone that has 15 or more intact female dogs of breeding age and 30 or more puppies for the purpose of sale. Excluded are kennels or establishments that operate for training, hunting, sporting, herding, show, or working dogs. The bill as currently written, leaves it open ended for the Board of Agriculture to establish standards of care and manner of registration for commercial breeders, and unfortunately cites the Humane Society of the United States to approve methods of euthanasia to be used. While the most recently available amended version removed the section that called for immediate seizure and impoundment of dogs kept by an unlicensed commercial breeder, it still allows inspectors the right of entry onto any commercial breeder’s property.

What it means:

Kennels that breed dogs for hunting, herding, showing, or working will not have this potential law apply to them. As currently written, this bill would mostly affect hobby pet breeders and define them as commercial breeders, alongside of so-called ‘puppy mills.’ Regardless of whether they are already responsible breeders, they will be required to pay licensing fees, follow whatever standards of care the Board of Agriculture may come up with, and will be open for inspection of their private property at any given time.

Massachusetts: four dog related bills up for consideration

Senate Bill 744 Puppy Mill Act

Massachusetts SB 774 will require that those who own 4 or more dogs over 3 months old obtain a kennel license. The proposed law will limit dog ownership to 25 intact dogs over the age of 6 months. It will further impose exacting kennel construction standards and exercise requirements. Female dogs will be permitted to be bred only between 18 months and 8 years old, and will only be allowed one litter per year. A kennel may be inspected at any time, and a nuisance hearing held if a petition signed by 25 or more citizens is brought forth against a kennel. Further, ear cropping and tail docking may only be performed under anesthesia by a licensed vet.

What it means:

If this bill would become law, then ANYONE in Massachusetts with 4 or more dogs would have to get a kennel license, even if all of those dogs are sterilized. As currently written, those with ‘kennels’ would have to follow strict kennel construction standards; even the person that has 4 dogs living in the house with them. Breeders that currently have more than 25 intact dogs will be forced to reduce their number of dogs. Any person with a kennel license will have to go through the time and expense of a nuisance hearing if 25 people get together and sign a petition that claims they are aggrieved or annoyed by the ‘kennel.’ Breeders will be annoyed themselves if they live near anyone who does not like dogs or dog breeding.

House Bill 1997 (amending current dog laws)

Massachusetts HB 1997 will make certain acts such as barking or running at large a legal nuisance that could potentially result in sterilization or destruction of the dog and places the burden on the owner to disprove the nuisance. The dog owner has 10 days to fight the charge and then may only be overturned if the district court finds that the determination was made without reasonable cause or in bad faith. Dog owners will be required to obtain special permits for intact dogs provided the dog has a ‘health certificate and current vaccinations,’ and the current bill leaves the requirements for the permits up to the city or town. The bill also allows for breed-specific legislation on a local level. Finally, the bill places severe restrictions on tethering a dog for more than 3 hours in a 24 hour period.

What it means:

Dog owners that have complaints filed against them for dogs that bark too much would potentially have to face legal expenses and a time consuming process to fight the complaint. They could still face fines and/or sterilization, banishment, or destruction of the dog should they ultimately lose. Owners of intact dogs will have to buy special permits for them, and provide a health certificate and vaccinations in order to get the permit. Neither the health certificate nor the vaccinations are yet defined. Any other necessary requirements and prices for intact dog permits will be set by the city or town. Because the bill allows breed specific legislation, any particular breed may be strictly regulated or even flat-out banned by a city or town. Owners of American Pit Bull Terriers, the most recently targeted breed, should pay close attention to local legislation if this bill becomes law. Dog owners that currently keep their dogs contained by tethering will have to build kennels or find other ways to contain their dogs. Nor will tethering be allowed outside of kennels, meaning it will not be allowed even at hunts and other dog events.

House Bill 1977 At Risk Dogs

Massachusetts HB 1977 seeks to improve dangerous dog laws, without singling out any particular breeds. A dog will be determined an “at risk” dog if, when unprovoked, it acts in a way that causes defensive action by the person or animal the behavior is directed toward, or acts in a highly aggressive manner within a fenced yard, or the dog’s owner is cited for the dog running at large more than once in a 12 month period. A dog is deemed “dangerous” if, unprovoked, it has killed, seriously bitten, or inflicted serious injury on a human being; or was previously determined an “at risk” dog and continued the behavior. These definitions exclude dogs defending their owner, if the behavior was directed at a trespasser, or if the dog was teased, tormented, abused, or assaulted. If an “at risk” dog has a clear record for 24 months, the determination will be lifted. The bill specifies that no breed specific legislation may be enacted at a local level.

What it means:

This law would serve to penalize dogs for acts committed, just as criminals are punished for crimes. Defining a dog by its behavior instead of by breed is better way to achieve the ultimate goal of protecting the public from dog bites. A statewide ban on breed specific legislation means no breeds will be targeted. The down side is that, as written, the standard of ‘acts in a highly aggressive manner,’ is open to interpretation, and would be the owner’s word versus the accuser. While the law provides for “at risk” dogs to lose the determination after 24 months, dogs may be incorrectly listed due to unfounded accusations.

House Bill 244 Debarking Prohibition

Massachusetts HB 344 would prohibit debarking dogs unless it is demonstrated to be medically necessary and the veterinarian has filed a certification of such with the town clerk. Violations will result in a sentence of up to 5 years and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Violators may also have to undergo a mental health evaluation, may be barred from owning animals or living with another who owns animals, and may have to take humane education, pet ownership, and dog training classes.

What it means:

This bill would make surgical debarking of dogs animal cruelty, and would carry hefty penalties similar to penalties for neglect or abuse. The intent and purpose for this bill are unclear, and equally unclear is what will be done with currently debarked dogs. If this bill is passed along with the previously mentioned HB 1997, owners of vocal dogs may have serious problems on their hands. While some people may be against debarking dogs, for others it is a last resort to be used when all other behavior modifications for barking dogs have failed. Those who are afraid of their dog being determined a nuisance under HB 1997 for barking will no longer have the option of debarking, and may resort to shock collars, physical punishment, or even getting rid of the dog in some form.

Ohio House Bill 124/ Senate Bill 95 (companion breeder bills)

Both Ohio HB 124 and SB 95 have been pushed on the back burner, but will most likely be considered again soon. They seek to regulate and restrict dog breeding within the state. “Regulated dog breeding kennels” would be required to be licensed. A “regulated dog breeding kennel” is one that produces either 9 litters of puppies or 40 puppies per year and sells dogs. A “regulated dog intermediary” is one that sells, donates, gives, or exchanges more than 9 dogs in the state, or one or more dog to a pet store annually. Both kennels and intermediaries are required to be licensed and placed in the same category as a pet store, but research kennels are excluded from licensing. The bill also creates a kennel control authority that will be given authority to create requirements and procedures for licensing and inspection. Background checks and proof of insurance will be required to obtain a kennel license.

If one proposes to start a kennel, they would have to submit with their application: an affidavit signing off on the number of adult dogs they currently have, an estimate of the number of dogs and litters they will have, photos of their facility (subject to inspection), a signed release allowing background check, and all identifying information and addresses. Licensing fees will be based on the number of litters produced per year which is a fee of up to $750 fee. A dog intermediary license fee is $500 per year, but they are not subject to an inspection or background check. The law provides many requirements and specifications for enclosures, exercise, flooring, bedding, and sanitation; some strict and some ambiguous and vague. It does specify that dogs may not be kept in any metal enclosures without plastic or rubber covering the metal. It also requires heartworm preventative for all breeding dogs. Females may only be bred between 18 months and 9 years, may only have one litter per year, and must have a certificate of health from a vet before breeding. Kennels may not sell puppies under 12 weeks of age without registering the litter with the kennel control authority at a cost of $25 per litter. Dogs will not be sold anywhere but licensed kennels, pet stores, and addresses of dog intermediaries. Kennels will also be subjected to unannounced kennel inspections, and will face license suspension or revocation. Penalties for violations could be up to $15, 000.

What it means:

If this bill becomes law, it will make breeding much more expensive and difficult for breeders that fall into the regulated dog kennel category. As with many of these breeder bills, breeders will have to be prepared for unannounced inspections, and may have to make repairs and adjustments to their kennel facilities in order to meet the strict standards and regulations. The law could also impact hunting competitions and other events that have dog trades and sales, as these will no longer be permitted.