Legislative Review 2010

The Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders (VFDCB) dealt with 25 dog bills this year. Of the 18 bills that did not pass, we opposed nine, were neutral on five, and supported four. Of the seven bills that passed into law, we opposed three, were neutral on two, and supported two.
Note: HB= House Bill SB=Senate Bill
On the disappointing side, we were unable to stop bills that increased penalties for care violations (HB 281) though we did get it amended to eliminate the increased penalty on a first offense. We also unsuccessfully opposed a bill (HB 1145) that exempts veterinarians from all civil and criminal penalties if they unjustly report someone as an animal abuser. The third bill we objected to (HB 904) allows an animal control officer to obtain a felony warrant without a law enforcement officer present. A law enforcement officer still has to execute a warrant.

Bills we supported which failed would have prevented shelters from euthanizing animals on the basis of breed (HB 429), protected the names of people who turn in animals to shelters from Freedom of Information requests (SB 274), and extended protective orders to family pets when threats against the animals were being used to control or abuse family members (HB 285). We supported a bill that would have effectively repealed the rabies reporting “Big Brother” law which requires veterinarians to report clients who get rabies vaccinations for their dogs to the county. That bill (SB 641) was, unfortunately, withdrawn by its sponsor.

But our successes included helping to stop several bills that would have restarted the humane investigator program (SB 648), assisted in stopping a move to turn over management of the State Veterinarian’s office to a private entity (SB 698), and helped prevent the expansion of the dangerous dog definition to dogs that merely frighten people (SB 251). We also helped stop a bill that would have required an attacking dog to actually injure or kill your pet before you could use force to protect your animal (HB 140). We helped prevent a bill from passing which would have given all animal control officers law enforcement powers without any additional training (HB 1056), and we stopped the passage of a bill that would have allowed juveniles to participate in and perform “any and all” functions at an animal shelter, including handling intakes and dangerous dogs (SB 281).

We supported successful bills to allow exemptions from rabies vaccinations for animals whose lives would be threatened by administration of the vaccine (HB 322), and a bill allowing localities to sell trained police dogs to their handlers (SB 52).

Below is a listing of the bills we worked on in 2010. The ones in green passed through the House and Senate and were signed into law. The ones in red did not pass. For detailed information go to the Virginia General Assembly Legislative Information System website.
Bills that passed
HB 239
Title: Animal protection officers; powers of those in localities with county manager form of government.
Sponsor: William R. Janis
Abstract: Requires that the division of police in localities using the county manager form of
government, currently only Henrico County, have an animal protection police officer and at least one deputy animal protection police officer. These officers shall have all of the powers vested in law-enforcement officers as defined in § 9.1-101, provided they have met the minimum qualifications and have been certified under §§ 15.2-1705 and 15.2-1706.
Status: Senate: Signed by President, 03/25/10
VFDCB NEUTRAL

HB 281
Title: Animal cruelty; increases penalties.
Sponsor: David B. Albo
Abstract: Increases the penalty for a second or subsequent violation of the animal care laws regarding an owner’s failure to provide adequate food, adequate water, adequate shelter, and adequate veterinary care from a Class 4 to a Class 2 misdemeanor. A second or subsequent violation related to adequate space, adequate exercise, and adequate care, treatment and transportation are increased from a Class 4 to a Class 3 misdemeanor. The civil penalty for failure to sterilize a dog or cat adopted from a shelter is raised from $50 to $250.
NOTE: § 18.2-11. Punishment for conviction of misdemeanor.
The authorized punishments for conviction of a misdemeanor are:
(a) For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.
(b) For Class 2 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than six months and a fine of not more than $1,000, either or both.
(c) For Class 3 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $500.
(d) For Class 4 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $250.

Status: Senate: Signed by President – 03/08/2010
VFDCB OPPOSED — The violations with increased penalties are care violations, not intentional cruelty. Intentionally depriving an animal of food, shelter, water, and vet care is already considered cruelty and has a stronger punishment. We did manage to get some amendments to the bill, but still believe that previous penalties were appropriate. We did not object to raising the fine for failure to sterilize a shelter dog or cat.
HB 322
Title: Rabies vaccination; exempts certain dogs and cats.
Sponsor: Kenneth R. Plum
Abstract: Requires the Board of Health to provide, by regulation, an exemption to the requirement that an owner of a dog or cat must have his animal vaccinated for rabies if the veterinarian determines that the dog or cat has an underlying medical condition that is likely to result in a life-threatening condition in response to the vaccination.
Status: Governor: Acts of Assembly Chapter text (CHAP0182) – 03/29/2010
VFDCB SUPPORTED – This bill will make legal what many vets and owners have long been doing anyway.

HB 621
Title: Rabies; clarifies procedures and responsibilities to prevent and control.
Sponsor: Robert D. Orrock, Sr.
Abstract: Clarifies the procedures and responsibilities among the Department of Health, localities, and other entities to prevent and control rabies. This bill clarifies that all dogs and cats over the age of four months must be vaccinated, provides that rabies certificates shall be issued to the owner of the animal vaccinated and that the veterinarian shall keep a copy of the certificate in his own files, clarifies the authority to access rabies certificates maintained at veterinary hospitals, addresses
Status: Senate: Signed by President – 03/13/2010
VFDCB NEUTRAL

HB 904
Title: Animal control officers; magistrate to issue arrest warrant for complaint for felony offense.
Sponsor: Robert B. Bell
Abstract: Clarifies the role of animal control officers in light of two changes made to criminal procedure statutes during the 2009 Session of the General Assembly. First, the provision in Title 3.2 is conformed with existing Title 18.2 to show that the heightened penalty for obstructing an animal control officer in the performance of his duties was increased from a Class 4 misdemeanor to a Class 1 misdemeanor. Second, Title 19.2 is amended to show that animal control officers may obtain a felony warrant
Status: Governor: Approved by Governor-Chapter 240 (effective 7/1/10) – 04/07/2010
VFDCB OPPOSED — This was presented as a “housekeeping bill,” trying to make several areas in the code agree with each other. We do not believe anyone other than a law enforcement officer should be allowed to obtain a felony warrant.

HB 1145
Title: Animal cruelty; requires vets to report suspected animal abuse; exempts vets from sanctions.
Sponsor: James M. Scott
Abstract: Provides that any veterinarian who makes a report of suspected animal cruelty or who provides records or information related to a report of suspected cruelty or testifies in any judicial proceeding arising from such report, records, or information shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability or administrative penalty or sanction on account of such report, records, information, or testimony, unless such veterinarian acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose.
Status: Senate: Signed by President – 03/13/2010
VFDCB OPPOSED — We believe veterinarians, just like anyone else, should have to bear consequences if they accuse someone unjustly.

SB 52
Title: Police dogs; authority to sell dogs trained therefor.
Sponsor: Stephen H. Martin
Abstract: Provides that a locality may sell any dog specially trained for police work to the handler who was last in control of such dog, at a price deemed by the locality to be appropriate. Such sale shall not be deemed a violation of the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act.
Status: Senate: Signed by President – 03/15/2010
VFDCB SUPPORTED

Bills That Did Not Pass in 2010

HB 140
Title: Animal cruelty; narrows exemption to penalties available to owner of dog or cat.
Sponsor: Albert C. Pollard, Jr.
Abstract: Narrows the exemption to animal cruelty penalties available to the owner of a dog or cat when his dog or cat is attacked on his property by a dog. Currently, that exemption allows the owner of the injured dog or cat to use all reasonable and necessary force against the attacking dog. The amendment clarifies that “attack” shall only be construed to mean an actual injury or death has occurred to an owner’s dog or cat, and not the mere threat thereof.
Status: House: Left in Courts of Justice – 02/16/2010
VFDCB OPPOSED – This bill would have required you to wait until your own pet had been actually injured before you could defend it against an attacking dog.

HB 285
Title: Companion animals; court may include in protective order provisions prohibiting harm.
Sponsor: James M. Scott
Abstract: Provides that a court may include in a protective order provisions prohibiting harm to a companion animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by the petitioner, or his family or household members, when the harm to the companion animal is with the intent to threaten, coerce, intimidate, or harm the petitioner or his family or household members.
Status: House: Continued to 2011 in Courts of Justice by voice vote – 02/03/2010
VFDCB SUPPORTED May come up again next year. This bill essentially would make it illegal for an abusive spouse to use harm to an animal to threaten or harm his family. (“If you leave me, I’ll kill the dog.”)
Note: 02/03/10 House: Continued to 2011 in Courts of Justice by voice vote

HB 366
Title: Rabies vaccination certificates; veterinarians to forward copies to treasurer of locality.
Sponsor: Onzlee Ware
Abstract: Requires veterinarians to forward copies of rabies vaccination certificates to the treasurer of the locality where the animal resides on a standardized form developed by the State Veterinarian. Currently, veterinarians are not required to use a standard form and transmit the information to the treasurer of the locality where the vaccination occurs.
Status: House: Passed by indefinitely in Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources by voice vote – 02/10/2010
VFDCB OPPOSED – A ratcheting up of the rabies vaccination “Big Brother” law.

HB 429
Title: Animal welfare; prohibits city or county from euthanizing or adoption of any dog solely on breed.
Sponsor: H. Morgan Griffith
Abstract: Prohibits city or county pounds from euthanizing, or prohibiting the adoption of, any dog based solely on breed.
Status: House: Left in Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources – 02/16/2010
VFDCB SUPPORTED Shelters opposed this because they were afraid of being accused to euthanizing dogs due to breed when their actual decision might be based on homes available.

HB 551 and also same bill in Senate, SB 249
Animal care; adoption of regulations permitting non-commercial intrastate transportation by officer.
Sponsor: Daniel W. Marshall, III
Abstract: Require the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services to adopt regulations that permit the transportation of animals by law-enforcement officers, animal control officers, and releasing agencies by vehicles that are not enclosed under certain conditions. (This would have saved some small southern counties from having to buy another vehicle just to transport animals instead of being able to adapt and use their current vehicles.)
Status: Both bills were left in committee.
VFDCB NEUTRAL

HB 809
Title: Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund; dangerous and vicious dogs.
Sponsor: Vivian E. Watts
Abstract: Expands definition of victim (for the purpose of eligibility to receive awards from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund) to include individuals who have suffered physical injury or death resulting from an attack by a dangerous or vicious dog as defined in § 3.2-6540 and as may be determined by a court subsequent to the attack.
Status: House: Left in Courts of Justice – 02/16/2010
VFDCB NEUTRAL

HB 884
Title: Animal welfare laws; sheriffs & police chiefs designate & utilize volunteer deputies to enforce.
Sponsor: Clifford L. Athey, Jr.
Abstract: Authorizes sheriffs and police chiefs to designate and utilize volunteer deputies for the enforcement of this chapter, all ordinances enacted pursuant to this chapter, and all laws for the protection of domestic animals.
Status: House: Left in Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources – 02/16/2010
VFDCB OPPOSED — This is just the humane investigators program by another name.

HB 914
Title: Barking dog ordinances; locality may require parties to use mediation in resolving dispute.
Sponsor: Robert B. Bell
Abstract: Provides that in any ordinance that regulates barking dogs, a locality may include provisions that require parties to use mediation or arbitration as an initial step in resolving a dispute.
Status: Senate: Passed by indefinitely in Courts of Justice (15-Y 0-N), 03/08/10
VFDCB SUPPORTED This would have provided another way to solve barking dog disputes rather than only having the courts as a recourse. It failed due to cost concerns about having to provide mediation services.

HB 1056
Title: Animal control officers; clarifies duties and responsibilities.
Sponsor: Ward L. Armstrong
Abstract: Clarifies the duties and responsibilities of animal control officers, who shall be sworn law-enforcement officers with jurisdiction over animal control and protection laws. All sheriffs, police officers, conservation police officers, or other peace officers of the Commonwealth shall be ex officio animal control officers. When in uniform or upon displaying a badge or other credentials of office, animal control officers and deputy animal control officers shall have the power to issue a summons or obtain and execute a search warrant or a felony warrant as necessary.
Status: House: Continued to 2011 in Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources by voice vote – 02/03/2010
VFDCB OPPOSED – This bill would have given ACOs the powers of law enforcement without requiring any additional training.
HB 1143
Title: Humane investigators; allows appointment thereof.
Sponsor: James M. Scott
Abstract: Allows the appointment of new humane investigators. Currently, existing humane investigators may be reappointed, but the program is no longer open to new participants. The administrative entity that oversees animal control will be required to (i) supervise humane investigators and (ii) maintain and annually update a list of persons eligible for appointment as humane investigators. Circuit courts that appoint a humane investigator must notify the administrative entity that oversees animal control
Status: House: Continued to 2011 in Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources by voice vote – 02/03/2010
VFDCB OPPOSED – We will continue to oppose the humane investigator program, as it places law enforcement into the hands of fanatics.

 

HJ 57
Title: Animal welfare and enforcement; joint subcommittee to study institutional design.
Sponsor: H. Morgan Griffith
Abstract: Creates a legislative study to examine best management practices in Virginia and other states for animal humane law enforcement and regulation; the most effective standards for training and supervision of animal control officers; the real and potential conflicts between animal welfare and animal health professionals; the appropriate oversight agency and division of responsibilities for animal health and humane laws and regulatory programs; ….[and more.]
Status: House: Left in Rules – 02/16/2010
VFDCB NEUTRAL – Some confusion about what this study would entail, but since the resolution did not pass, it didn’t matter. May come up again.

SB 251
Title: Dangerous and vicious dogs; expands definition.
Sponsor: W. Roscoe Reynolds
Abstract: Expands the definition of a dangerous dog to include a dog that has, without provocation, attempted to bite, attack, or inflict injury, or reasonably induce fear in the mind of the person that an attempt to bite, attack, or inflict injury on such person is imminent.
Status: Senate: Failed to report (defeated) in Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources (7-Y 7-N) – A tie is a loss. 01/18/2010
VFDCB OPPOSED – Would have deemed a dog dangerous just because someone was scared of it.

SB 274
Title: Animal control records; exempt from release to public name and address of owner of an animal taken in.
Sponsor: Mary Margaret Whipple
Abstract: Exempts from release to the public the name and address of the owner of an animal that has been taken into custody by animal control officers, law-enforcement officers, humane investigators, or any pound or shelter.
Status: Senate: Left in Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources – 02/16/2010
VFDCB SUPPORTED – This would have prevented animal rights fanatics from accessing the names and addresses of people who turn in a pet to a shelter.

SB 281
Title: Child labor; authorizes participation by children in activities of any nonprofit entity.
Sponsor: Frederick M. Quayle
Abstract: Authorizes the participation by children of any age in all activities of any nonprofit entity organized to provide for the care and welfare of animals. However, children aged 13 and younger may participate only if accompanied by a parent.
Status: Senate: Stricken at request of Patron in Commerce and Labor (15-Y 0-N) – 02/15/2010
VFDCB OPPOSED UNLESS LIMITS WERE SET ON WHAT CHILDREN COULD DO IN SHELTERS

 

SB 641
Title: Rabies vaccination certificates; removes responsibility from treasurer.
Sponsor: W. Roscoe Reynolds
Abstract: Removes the responsibility of the local treasurer for transmitting dog license applications to residents of the locality who have vaccinated their dog for rabies but failed to apply for a dog license.
Status: Senate: Passed by indefinitely in Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources (13-Y 2-N) – 02/01/2010
VFDCB SUPPORTED – Would have removed the rabies vaccination Big Brother law.

SB 648
Title: Humane investigators; allows appointment thereof.
Sponsor: Jill Holtzman Vogel
Abstract: Allows the appointment of new humane investigators. Currently, existing humane investigators may be reappointed, but the program is no longer open to new participants. The administrative entity that oversees animal control will be required to (i) supervise humane investigators and (ii) maintain and annually update a list of persons eligible for appointment as humane investigators. Circuit courts that appoint a humane investigator must notify the administrative entity that oversees animal control
Status: Senate: Stricken at request of Patron in Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources (14-Y 0-N) – 01/25/2010
VFDCB OPPOSED – Another humane investigator bill

SB 698
Title: State Veterinarian; privatization of recordkeeping and inspection responsibilities, penalty.
Sponsor: Jill Holtzman Vogel
Abstract: Privatizes certain recordkeeping and inspection responsibilities of the State Veterinarian for companion animals. The State Veterinarian will award a five-year renewable contract to a private entity under the guidelines of the Public Procurement Act. The private entity will be act as a deputy for the State Veterinarian and public records held by the private entity will be subject to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The private entity will have the responsibility to investigate companion
Status: Senate: Stricken at request of Patron in Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources (14-Y 0-N) – 01/25/2010
VFDCB OPPOSED – This bill would have turned over management of the Virginia State Veterinarian’s Office to a “private entity”….and we can all guess who that would be.

submitted by Alice Harrington and Sharyn Hutchens