Legislative Review 2009

HB – House Bill; SB – Senate Bill; Name in ( ) is the bill sponsor

HB 1951 (Shuler) Dangerous Dog Registry – Copies of all records, documents, and other papers pertaining to the Dangerous Dog Registry that are duly certified and authenticated in writing on the face of such documents to be true copies by the State Veterinarian or the Dangerous Dog Registry administrator shall be received as evidence with like effect as the original records, documents, or other papers in all courts of the Commonwealth.

HB 2097 (Orrock and Cosgrove), and SB 897 (McDougle) identical bills that allow animal shelters and pounds to have and use various controlled substance medications/drugs under supervision of a veterinarian.

NOTE: VFDCB STRONGLY OPPOSED the original version of SB 897 (McDougle), which would have allowed shelters to provide vaccinations and “other veterinary care” without waiting the minimum 5-day waiting period. VFDCB asked that this bill be revised to make sure releasing agencies could not spay and neuter animals against the owner’s wishes and could not provide optional veterinary care such as dentals, bloodwork, etc and charge the owner for it before the animal was released. The sponsor dropped all the language in his original bill and made it the same as HB 2097.
HB 2241 (Valentine) Provides partial exemption from compulsory entry-level training for detector canine handlers and detector canine handler examiners having previous employment in a unit of the United States Armed Forces Military Working Dog (MWD) program

HB 2345 (Landes)
Animal laws – correct error in 2008 recodification to Title 3.1 to allow town to adopt by reference certain ordinances of surrounding counties

HB 2364 (Gilbert) Provides that a court, upon finding an animal to be a dangerous or vicious dog, may order the owner, custodian, or harborer thereof to pay restitution for actual damages to any person injured by the animal or whose companion animal was injured or killed by the animal. This bill incorporates HB 2321.
The original bill was AMENDED to cover ONLY ACTUAL DAMAGES.

HB 2321 (Athey)
Dangerous dog – owner must pay medical cost of injured victim
Incorporated into HB 2364

HB 2393 (Bell) Animal control officers deemed law-enforcement officers
and crimes against them would be prosecuted accordingly and given mandatory prison time. The impact statement for the original bill projected costs for incarcerating offenders at almost $200,000 by 2015. The bill was amended to just be obstructing an animal control officer from performing his duties, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor (no prison time).

HJ 730 (Peace) Study/report on the shortage of large animal vets
Amended that no state funds can be used in study.

Bills That Did Not Pass

HB – House Bill; SB – Senate Bill; Name in ( ) is the bill sponsor

SB 950 (Howell) Dogs, dangerous and vicious – any person can apply to magistrate for summons (currently only law enforcement and animal control can go to magistrate).
VFDCB strongly opposed this bill as did the Virginia Animal Control Association and the Commonwealth Attorney’s Association. We objected to putting law enforcement into the hands of untrained civilians.
The Senate Agriculture Committee voted it down.

SB1151 (McDougle) Companion animals must be spayed or neutered after second impoundment.
VFDCB strongly opposed this bill as it would accomplish nothing as far as controlling unwanted litters. Dogs often escape in spite of an owner’s best efforts and a punishment is already in place. The owner pays a fine when he picks up his dog. By requiring that the dog is sterilized at the owner’s expense would encourage relinquishment to the pound and increase euthanasia numbers.
The Senate Agriculture Committee voted it down.

HB 2220 (Alexander) Salaries of animal control officers– allows localities to exceed statutory caps on dog and cat licenses to cover salary and pound expenses
The VFDCB opposed this bill. It would give localities the freedom to raise dog and cat license fees to any amount they deemed necessary to cover building expenses, salaries, and any other cost associated with a pound. License fees exceed $100 per dog in some parts of the country. At a time of economic crisis for many pet owners, removing the cap for licenses would discourage licensing and even cause some owners to relinquish pets.
The bill was tabled by the Agriculture Subcommittee.

SB 931 (Ticer) Animal cruelty; enforcement authority-immunity
This bill would have granted sovereign immunity to any animal control officer, humane investigator or State Veterinarian’s representative, which means regardless of their actions, they could not be sued or held responsible.
VFDCB objected to this bill due to evidence that some ACOs are functioning as vigilantes. Training for animal control officers in the Commonwealth is terribly inadequate; misinterpretation of the law and abuse of power is too often reported. Furthermore, neither they nor humane investigators are employees of the state. We do not feel offering immunity to them is in the best interest of the Commonwealth or the public. Several senators also objected to this bill and Senator Ticer pulled it back. The bill was left in the Agriculture Committee and died.

HB 2669 (JM Scott) Humane investigators – new appointments.
Humane investigators are unpaid volunteers who are given the powers of animal control officers. Over the years animal owners have reported problems with them overstepping their authority. People who volunteer for this service often have an animal rights, anti-breeding agenda. In 2004, due to complaints from the public, the General Assembly voted to discontinue the humane investigator program: Existing humane investigators may be reappointed, but the program is no longer open to new participants. The VFDCB believes that law enforcement powers should be reserved for law enforcement officers and we oppose the reinstatement of this program in Virginia
The bill was tabled by the Agriculture Subcommittee

HJ 661 (Hull) Feral cats – study
This was a study in name only, as the conclusions that were intended to be drawn were already written into the bill. The feral cat problem has been studied over and over throughout he country and Virginia’s problems are no different. The VFDCB joined the Cat Fanciers Association in opposing this overtly animal rights-oriented study.
The bill was tabled by the Agriculture Subcommittee

HB 2263 (Kilgore) Moves oversight of ACOs from State Vet to Dept of Criminal Justice Services
The VFDCB strongly supported this bill. Issues of animal control officer training and the enforcement of animal laws are a continuing and serious problem in the Commonwealth. We feel that the Department of Criminal Justice would be able to solve those problems and moving the oversight would allow the State Veterinarian to concentrate on veterinary issues.
The bill was tabled by the Agriculture Subcommittee due to the financial impact. (The State Veterinarian does not charge the state for oversight; the Department of Criminal Justice would have expenses associated with development and implementation of a training program)
HB 2377 (Englin) Makes it a Class 3 misdemeanor to raffle, give away, offer for sale as a novelty, or offer or give as a prize any animal, including fish.
VFDCB took no position on this bill.
The bill was tabled by the Agriculture Subcommittee.
HB 2290 (Cline) Income tax, state; animal adoption fee credit
This bill was left in committee and thus died.

HB 2381 (Scott) Animals and livestock owned by a child or adult covered by a protective order would also be covered the same protective order.
This bill was promoted by the Virginia Voters for Animal Welfare. It was passed by indefinitely and died in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.