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Pet disaster relief: Orange tabby cat left behind during storm drinking from puddle

New pet laws focus on disaster relief and commercial breeding

To keep you informed on pet-related laws being considered or enacted across the US, we have provided a few summaries. This edition of Pet Legal Briefs discusses new pet legislation concerning pet evacuation relief, commercial breeding, and other pet legislation occurring in the District of Columbia, Illinois, Oregon, California and Nationwide.

District of Columbia: Weather Extremes Prompt Interest In Pet Evacuation Relief

With the recent weather-related disasters—namely Hurricanes Harvey and Irma—the impact of emergency evacuation on our pets, is being widely debated in the media. In October 2006, HR 3858 (known as Public Law 109 – 308, the PETS Act) was passed, “to ensure that State and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.” This law provides funding for state and local government agencies assisting disaster victims, who travel with their pets and assistance animals. It applies only to these agencies, and does not require any private business (hotels, shelters, etc.) providing shelter for travelers from disaster areas to accept the traveler’s pets as well.

Editor’s Note: Veterinarian Dr. Lee provides these tips for evacuating your home with your pet.

Illinois: Marriage Act Amendment Considers Pets “Family Members”

Gov. Rauner signed SB 1261 into law this month, amending the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to include companion animals in family law proceedings. Basically, the courts are required to make a determination if the animal is a marital asset when issuing an order under the Act, taking into consideration the well-being of the companion animal. Further, the court "shall allocate the sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal." Service animals, however, are covered under separate laws. So, does this mean Fido (or Fluffy) can be named as a beneficiary in your will? Certainly!

Oregon: OR Becomes 27th State To Enact Hot Car Legislation

Gov. Kate Brown signed HB 2732 into law last July, making Oregon the 27th state to pass ‘hot car’ legislation. Recently, several states enacted laws giving civil immunity to all individuals who break-into vehicles to remove pets in imminent danger. Consistency in our laws is a hallmark of our legal system: Nearly all of the 27 states, which have enacted this type of law, set clear standards of procedure, directing the steps which a rescuer must follow to ensure immunity from liability.

In general, those steps are:

1. determining the vehicle is locked;

2. observing an animal in imminent danger;

3. notifying law enforcement/first responders before taking action;

4. using no more force than necessary to remove the animal; and

5. staying with the animal, in a safe place, until law enforcement arrives.

Here is additional information on pets and hot cars—including temperature risk and symptoms of heat stroke in pets.

California: Pet Shop Buys Topic Of Commercial Breeding Bill

California is set to become the first state in the nation to ban the commercial breeding of dogs, cats, and rabbits. Assembly Bill 485—the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act—is awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature. This law will ban pet shop sales of commercially-raised dogs, cats and rabbits. This forward-looking bill seeks to protect millions of at-risk animals: similar legislation has already been passed in 36 separate jurisdictions in California already. Once again, California leads the nation in progressive lawmaking. Woof-woof! 

Nationwide: Legal Action Alert!

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a unit within the USDA, needs the input of pet owners. Responsible for enforcement of the rules and regulations under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), APHIS issues nearly 6,000 licenses annually to commercial dog breeders, sellers of animals to testing labs, and exhibitors of wild animals. While an inspection is required prior to the issuance of an initial license, current regulations do not require a licensee to demonstrate compliance when making any subsequent changes to their animals or facilities.

The current status of the law will likely result in the issuance of subsequent licenses—without any review of the licensee's history of violations, or any re-inspection of licensee’s facilities. To make your voice heard on this important topic, contact APHIS by October 23, 2017.


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

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