The Legislative Year in Review
The rising tide of pet-related legislation across the country kept the Pet Industry Advisory Council busy throughout 2013.
With pet-related legislation and regulations up more than 55 percent, it has been a busy year for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). PIJAC has tracked and addressed more than 800 pieces of pet-related legislation in 2013, with 425 of those classified as critical—meaning they could have a direct impact on the industry’s bottom line.
Breeders, groomers and retailers have all faced increased inspection standards, escalating licensing fees and other requirements. Manufacturers have seen increased surcharges and taxes. Dog populations are threatened by breed-specific bans, pet store sales bans, and excessive local and state breeder regulations. The reptile industry faces ownership restrictions. The aquatics industry faces restrictions on captive-bred fish. The avian industry is impacted by Endangered Species Act designations.
The following is just a small sample of the legislative issues PIJAC has addressed this year on behalf of the pet industry:
Warranty laws are becoming a trend, and PIJAC will continue to ensure that warranty bills are fair and consistent with existing laws. In 2013, both New York and Vermont enacted warranty legislation for pets.
The threat of retail pet sale bans continues to grow. In California, three localities passed pet sale bans, while one was defeated. A ban was also defeated in Colorado. Two bans in Florida have passed, with a third pending in Sarasota. The Connecticut legislature proposed a pet sale ban, but has instead established a task force—with PIJAC as a member—to study retail pet sales. PIJAC and the retail community of Connecticut have been active in pursuing an alternative to a ban.
Strengthening animal welfare and supporting retailers’ commitment to standards of care, legislation in New York passed that allows the commissioner to hold a hearing to consider the suspension or revocation of a pet dealer license if the licensee has three consecutive inspections in which it has failed to correct deficiencies of a critical nature. Additionally in New York, a bill passed allowing municipalities to regulate pet dealers as long as those regulations are not less stringent than state law.
Taxes and Surcharges
As legislators look for new ways to manage decreasing budgets, new taxes and special fees are being introduced across the U.S. In Arkansas, a measure to charge an annual fee of $50 to pet owners of purebred dogs and cats that are not spayed or neutered—an intact animal license—died in committee. Increased license and permit renewals fees for breeders were taken out of proposed legislation in Kansas. Additional fees for Montana breeders died in committee.
There was one loss in Maryland, where a special surcharge on commercial pet food to pay for a spay/neuter program was adopted. Similar legislation is pending in Washington.
Michigan has proposed legislation to increase fees for breeders with more than 15 female intact dogs. Massachusetts and Rhode Island are proposing new licensing fees for groomers, while Rhode Island is considering removing groomers and kennels from the services sales tax of seven percent, which passed in 2012.
Animal Abuse Registries
Animal Abuse Registry legislation was introduced in four states this session. Hawaii has three pending bills to establish a statewide animal abuse registry. Massachusetts has two bills pending—the first establishes an abuse registry funded by a pet food tax paid by consumers, and the second would fine any shelter, pet store or breeder violating the provision, with a fine of not less than $1,000 or imprisonment for a period of not more than one year for a first offense. Each subsequent offense would be punishable by of a fine not less than $5,000 and imprisonment for not more than five years. A similar bill in West Virginia died in committee. New York has six bills pending, four of which carry a fine not to exceed $1,000 for pet stores that sell an animal to anyone on the registry.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Working together to craft legislation to protect the welfare of animals, the California General Assembly, reptile and aquatic communities, and PIJAC successfully amended a bill that would have made it a crime to sell or give away live animals at a reptile or aquatics show. The amended bill now disallows giveaways or sales at swap meets, but protects the shows. In Illinois, a measure to ban turtle farming and increase permitting on herptile ownership died in committee after the third reading. Three states drafted legislation to ban “exotic” or “dangerous animals.” All three of these laws would have banned certain species of snakes. All three died in committee, preventing the ban.
Legislation impacting breeders is on the rise. PIJAC and the pet industry have won 18 of these legislative battles, lost four, and there are 26 states with legislation pending for 2014. Florida and Indiana each had legislation that would increase standards of care at breeding facilities—both measures died in committee. Oklahoma and West Virginia both passed bills that enacted reasonable standards of care. Massachusetts and North Carolina both have bills pending that would increase standards. Hawaii has two pieces of legislation pending that would set limits on the number of breeding dogs housed by a breeder.
Cathy Calliotte is PIJAC’s vice president of marketing and communications.. PIJAC provides its members a voice in state and national legislative issues through advocacy and timely information regarding upcoming policy issues that affect the pet industry, pet owners and the animals they care for. For more information, visit pijac.org.