Legislative Review 2012


2012 was a fairly quiet year for dog bills in the Virginia state legislature. Only two major bills were introduced: HB 158, which would have banned bark softening surgery, and HB 888, which would have allowed localities to ban or restrict tethering.


The devocalization bill, HB 158, was put off till next year by the sponsor. The VFDCB opposed it because we believe that decisions about pet care should be made by the owner and the veterinarian. Bark softening surgery is often the last chance for a chronic barker to be able to stay in his home. The dogs suffer no more ill effects from it than from any other minor surgery and seem to have no idea that they are not barking as loudly as ever.


The anti-tethering bill was tabled. HB 888 would have allowed localities to restrict or ban tethering. We spoke against it on the basis of the confusing patchwork of animal laws we already have in Virginia — we pointed out that when localities are allowed to pass their own animal laws, people can become criminals without knowing it. What is legal in one place may be illegal a mile down the road. The Farm Bureau opposed the bill and Delegate Bobby Orrock also objected, saying (among other things) that he has a dog who is an escape artist that cannot be contained in a fence.


A few bills were introduced that would not have affected our members directly, but it’s certainly of interest to all of us as dog lover.


HB 650 — Companion animals; euthanasia. Requires a city or county pound to maintain a registry of organizations willing to accept healthy, nonvicious animals scheduled to be euthanized, and prohibits the pound from euthanizing such animals until it has given 24 hours’ notice to all of the organizations in its registry. The bill also requires a pound to make available annual statistics on impounded animals. The “no-kill bill” HB 650 was tabled (killed). HB 650 would have required shelters to keep lists of rescues and notify them of available animals, along with more requirements. We testified that while the VFDCB supported the bill in spirit, we were concerned about the ability of individual pounds to evaluate rescuers, as well as a line in the bill that required unweaned , orphaned puppies and kittens to be held for eight hours before euthanizing them in the hope that a rescue could be found to take them. We feel that time span is too long for newborn puppies and kittens. The bill was opposed by the Virginia Animal Control Association and a number of others, who stated that they also appreciated the motive behind the bill but felt it required more than smaller pounds could do. They pointed out that most pounds already work with rescues. HB 650 was just one of those ‘sounds like a good idea but there was no way to make it work’ bills. (And Virginia already keeps statistics on pound animals.)


COMMENT — Localities are in a better position to know how much their own pounds are able to do in the way of finding new homes for homeless animals. Citizens unhappy with shelters that simply refuse to cooperate need to seek replacement of the shelter director. While we appreciate the sentiment of wanting to make Virginia a (largely) no-kill state, we don’t think pounds can be forced to work with rescues (and there is the question of who determines which rescues are legitimate). Shelters should cooperate with rescues but the responsibility for maintaining contact needs to stay on the rescues. One big problem with the bill is that rescuers will be “self-certifying” as they sign up with the shelters, and as we know from recent well-publicized events, all rescues are not equal. Also we were concerned that there was no geographical limitation for the rescuers — a dog re-seller from Massachusetts could come down, pick up a load of dogs and sell them in the northeast with no screening of homes or follow-up.


HB 651 — Special license plates; I SUPPORT ANIMAL RESCUE. Authorizes the issuance of revenue-sharing special license plates to supporters of Homeless Animal Rescue Team and its programs of animal rescue.
COMMENT — $15 of the $50 fee for each such license plate would to an organization called HART — Homeless Animal Rescue Team. To get to this point, HART had to collect orders for 450 prepaid tags at $50 each.


This bill was “continued” or put off till the 2013 session. We researched this and discovered that pretty much any 501c3 can apply for this. In case you’re interested in pursuing this for your club or group, here’s some more information http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/pdf/platesponsor_special.pdf