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Consideration of animal domestic rights growing nationwide

To keep you informed on pet-related laws being considered or enacted across the US, we have provided a few summaries. This edition discusses new pet legislation occurring in Alaska, California and Federal legislation being proposed in our nation's capital.

Alaska: Well-being Of Pets Considered in Divorce Agreements
In 2017, Alaska became the first state to require judges to consider the "well-being" of an owned animal during a divorce action.  Amending previous divorce law, HB 147 took effect January 17, 2017, and states: “(a) In a judgment in an action for divorce or action declaring a marriage void or at any time after judgment, the court may provide…for the ownership or joint ownership of the animal, considering the well-being of the animal." Courts in most states have limited awarding pets in marriage dissolution based on traditional property classifications, seldom is any attention given to a pet's best interests.

San Francisco, California: Pet Store Ban Aims To Halt Abusive Practices
The City and County Board of San Francisco voted unanimously to ban the pet store sale of puppies or kittens not sourced from shelters or animal rescue organizations. The ordinance also prohibits the sale of puppies or kittens less than 8 weeks of age. City officials are quoted as saying the ordinance is not designed to put breeders out of business, but rather to “halt the inhumane and deceptive practices of large-scale breeding operations” that supply animals to pet stores. Another reason to love the City by the Bay because of its love for and commitment to pets! 

Sacramento, California: Tax Credit Could Bring Relief To Pet Parents
Assembly Bill 92, which proposes an individual tax deduction of up to $2,000 for veterinary costs, has been presented to the CA General Assembly. Over $16 billion is spent annually on vet care in the US, and with 29 states already passing laws to protect pets’ rights, this is a natural extension of a trend in the law demonstrating support for the status of pets as legitimate members of a family. Devon Mathis (R Visalia), who supports two dogs (Gypsy & Bailey) and two cats (Monster & Minnow), said “It helps everyone across the state, every family and every pet lover out there.” 

Washington, District of Columbia: Domestic Violence Act Considers Victimization Of Pets
Bipartisan support for the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act is building again, thanks to two U.S. Senators: Gary Peters (D-MI) and Dean Heller (R-NV). Historically, domestic violence and pet safety have been addressed as separate issues under the law, with precious few resources available for victims with pets. The PAWS Act will enhance existing federal domestic violence protections to include threats or acts of violence against a victim’s pet, provides grant funding to programs offering temporary shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence victims with pets. PAWS also requires full restitution of the victim's losses in domestic violence and stalking offenses, including any costs incurred for veterinary services relating to physical care for the victim's pet. Pets are family, and now 29 states have enacted laws which increasingly recognize and reflect that reality. 

Washington, District of Columbia:  National Animal Abuse Database Shut Down
US Humane Society’s Legislator of the Year recipient Vern Buchanan (R-FL.), recently authored a letter to President Trump—signed by over 100 other members of Congress—to express their dismay at the action recently taken by the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS unexpectedly shut down their widely used searchable, online database documenting animal abuse in research labs, puppy mills and other facilities. Among the affected users were animal welfare groups, journalists—even biomedical research groups—who accessed the sites pages to monitor circuses, zoos, aquariums and other facilities for violations of the laws related to animal cruelty. It’s certainly cruel to leave animals unprotected! 

David Chambers is a retired paralegal living in Chicago with his partner, Stephanie, and two fluffy cats, Jasper and Joy

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