By: Robert Likins
Staff note: This letter to the editor was originally published by The Richmond-Times Dispatch April 7 2017. It has been republished with permission.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed into law a bill that will protect puppies, the people who own them, and the small businesses that make the connection possible. Senate Bill 852 was the result of hard work by state legislators who worked with all stakeholders, including the state’s responsible pet industry.
Legislators chose to empower ethical businesses and focus the state’s oversight, investigative, and enforcement powers on bad actors.
SB 852 was originally a flawed bill that would have allowed substandard pet retailers and breeders to stay in business even if they violated federal animal care standards. Conversely, it could have led to the closure of ethical breeders that had minor paperwork or other low-level violations of federal standards.
After passing the Senate, the bill was improved in the House and unanimously passed through committee, the Assembly floor, and the Senate. As signed into law, it matches USDA language for breeder requirements and clarifies that businesses can only be punished for intentionally violating state law. It also provides clarification on an exemption for small hobby breeders.
The legislature and McAuliffe also deserve praise for House Bill 2381 becoming law. This law requires animal control officers to thoroughly investigate dog bite incidents and take the time to gather evidence — a significant improvement from previous laws that allowed animal control officers to assume guilt first.
Thanks to the hard work of all parties in 2017, Virginia’s puppies will be healthier and better pets from birth to the time when they arrive in a loving home. The process that led to SB 852’s improvement and subsequent signature into law shows that Virginia’s legislators and governor are serious about protecting pets, consumers, and businesses.
As other issues face partisan vitriol, it is encouraging to see both parties support common-sense legislation.