Legislative News

The 2015 Virginia General Assembly is going full throttle now and we have been watching carefully and working on several bills. Fortunately, there are very few bills affecting dog ownership this year. Here are the ones we are watching:

SB 698 Companion animal; surgical sterilization program, fund, penalty.
Patron: William M. Stanley, Jr

Establishes a fund to reimburse participating veterinarians for the surgical sterilizations they perform on eligible cats or dogs. The bill provides that a surcharge of $50 per ton of pet food distributed in the Commonwealth be deposited in the fund and such pet food be exempted from the existing litter tax. An animal will be eligible for sterilization under the program if it is a feral or free-roaming cat or is owned by a low-income individual or a releasing agency such as an animal shelter. The bill establishes penalties for providing false information or submitting false payment requests.

The VFDCB has not taken a position on this bill as of this date.

SB 700 Animal Cruelty Conviction List established and HB 1354 Animal Cruelty Conviction List; established.
Patrons: William M. Stanley, Jr. (Senate) and David I. Ramadan (House)

Requires the Superintendent of State Police to establish and maintain an Animal Cruelty Conviction List available to the public on the website of the Department of State Police by 2017. The list shall include the names of persons convicted of certain felony animal cruelty offenses on or after July 1, 2015. Persons so convicted will be required to pay a fee of $50 per conviction to fund the maintenance of the list. The bill requires the State Police to remove a person from the list after 15 years if he has no additional felony conviction of a relevant animal cruelty offense.

The VFDCB opposes these bills. Virginia’s definition of cruelty includes failure to obtain “emergency veterinary treatment,” defined as “veterinary treatment to stabilize a life-threatening condition, alleviate suffering, prevent further disease transmission, or prevent further disease progression.” This definition covers nearly any medical abnormality a pet might have, including diarrhea, a minor limp, or fleas. It has been interpreted to cover toy dogs that need dental treatment (even though appointments had been scheduled for the dogs). As long as that definition remains in the code, we cannot support any “list” of animal abusers. Furthermore, many cruelty convictions result from ignorance or mental illness, Hoarding, for example, is a recognized illness. The victims of this disorder will not be helped by public shaming. Both of these bills should be withdrawn or tabled.

SB 1001 Dogs or cats; sale and procurement prohibited on or in a roadside, parking lot, etc.Patron: William M. Stanley, Jr.

Prohibits the sale or display of a dog or cat on or in a roadside, parking lot, flea market, or similar place and limits the sources of pet shop dogs to humane societies, public animal shelters, and breeders who meet certain qualifications. The bill also establishes a record-keeping requirement for pet shops selling dogs and applies the existing misdemeanor penalty for a violation of the section to each dog sold or offered for sale. Localities are empowered to adopt ordinances more stringent than the provisions of the bill.

There is a lot more to this bill than the description would indicate. While most of it has to do with pet stores and where they obtain puppies to sell, the part that concerns us is, believe it or not, the part about selling puppies at roadside or flea markets. Though the bill is obviously aimed at people who sell puppies “out of the bed of a pickup,” the way it is currently written would prohibit a breeder from meeting a buyer at a rest stop or parking lot to transfer a puppy. We will be working with the sponsor to add an exemption for prearranged sales to an individual. If we are not successful, we will oppose the bill.

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