AKC Government Relations Department: Public Policy: Building on New Horizons

By AKC

This past year has been marked with the development of a special relationship between groomers and the American Kennel Club’s Government Relations team (AKC GR). Legislation regulating or impacting groomers and pet health and safety was introduced in a number of states, including New York, New Jersey and New Hampshire. 

AKC GR was proud to partner with groomers and advocates across the country who stepped into the trenches to ensure that regulation focuses on pet health and safety, and recognizes and respects the expertise of grooming industry professionals. 

Working together, we learned that grassroots advocacy works! Lawmakers increasingly tell us they only want to hear from those who will be directly impacted by the proposals they are considering. 

 At Groom Expo this past September in Hershey, Pennsylvania, AKC staff met some extraordinary groomers who are eager to get involved. We’re excited about synergies that are growing from the personal contacts, messages and phone calls we’re getting from groomers across the country who are getting politically active to protect and grow their business and the reputation of their profession. 

As we prepare for the year ahead of us, let’s take a look back at key issues we encountered in 2019 that impact groomers and pet ownership—and are likely to do so again in 2020.

State and Local 2019 Trends and Key Issues

In 2019, AKC tracked more than 2,2001 bills that impact dog ownership on the state, county and municipal levels. Animal issues can be among the most controversial and emotion–packed measures that legislators encounter. This is especially true if a new regulatory proposal is introduced following a well–publicized tragedy such as the death of a pet in a shop, a dramatic cruelty/negligence issue or a vicious dog bite. 

Major canine legislation issues in 2019 included: cruelty, breeder and retail pet regulations, service animals, groomer bills, veterinary/health, animal control policy, and tethering/temperature bills. While it’s common to focus on groomer–regulation measures, keep in mind that there are also many other types of proposals that can have just as great an impact on you, your clients and your grooming business. 

At the state level, the most common issue addressed in 2019 by AKC GR was animal cruelty. The AKC recorded 336 cruelty related bills on the state level alone. In 2018, this number was at 235. These bills cover a broad range of topics including licensing, tethering, animal control and ownership requirements. Some of these measures increase penalties or make changes most grooming professionals are unaware of. For example, several years ago, South Carolina banned coloring or dying of animals and considers it animal cruelty2

Other examples of cruelty proposals include regulations on tethering and kennel sizes. Athens, Alabama, for example, amended their animal ordinance in 2019 to set new parameters on kennel enclosures for dogs3. An enclosure for a dog weighing under 30 pounds must be at least 100 square feet, while an enclosure for a dog weighing over 30 pounds must be at least 225 square feet. This could potentially make it illegal to put your dog in a crate! For comparison, the average square footage of a rental apartment in Seattle, Washington is 711 square feet. Again, this well–intentioned but misguided proposal aimed at preventing animal cruelty could cause greater harm to pets and have real implications on your business. 

AKC monitored 25 state tethering bills in 2019, a 20% increase over 2018. Tethering bills are commonly intended to combat the stereotypical “pit bull on a chain” imagery; however, these bills are often written so broadly that they ban the use of a grooming loop on a grooming table. 

A proposed ordinance in Hattiesburg, Mississippi would have required a dog “tether” attached to a stationary object to be at least 10 feet in length. In this ordinance, the definition of “tether” did not distinguish between tethers used outdoors and tethers used indoors4. As a result, use of grooming loops, tethering for training or veterinary restraints could have been criminalized. Fortunately, the AKC and local dog owners and professionals got involved and educated local lawmakers about unintended consequences, and the city agreed to clarify the ordinance so it would not impact grooming businesses. This was a great example of residents and experts getting involved and making real change. 

AKC GR is currently monitoring more than 20 state grooming regulation/licensing and related proposals across the country from New Hampshire to California. Proposals cover a variety of subjects that could impact your business, including your ability to hire contract employees, defining a commercial kennel to include a grooming salon, and state–wide registration and regulation of pet groomers. 

In some cases, these measures have been introduced with little or no consultation with groomer industry experts. New Hampshire HB 3765 would establish a commission to study best practices for companion animal groomers. However, as filed, the bill does not include a commission seat for any professional dog groomer association or individual expert. [AKC has asked that a representative of a professional grooming organization with nationally–recognized expertise be added to the commission]. AKC believes groomers in the state should be outraged that there may be a commission responsible for creating groomer regulations in which grooming experts would have no input. If you live in New Hampshire and did not know about this bill, it’s time to start getting involved! 

Looking Ahead

Animal issues continue to be important to state and local lawmakers. A wide range of proposals to license or regulate professional groomers will likely continue to be introduced in 2020. Ongoing vigilance, education and communication by knowledgeable groomers are more important than ever to ensure that new laws recognize the expertise of grooming professionals, and are fair, non–discriminatory, and in the best interest of dogs and their owners. 

As always, reach out to AKC Government Relations at (919) 816–3720 or [email protected] if you hear of an issue in your state or community. We look forward to continuing to work with you to protect our beloved dogs and those who care for dogs. ✂️


References:

1 Policy numbers in this story are current as of October 2019

2 https://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t47c001.php

3 https://www.athensalabama.us/DocumentCenter/View/1248/Overview-of-proposed-animal-ordinance-changes?bidId=

4 http://www.hattiesburgms.com/wp-content/uploads/DRAFT3_AnimalControlOrdinance_Sept2019.pdf

5 http://gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/bill_status.aspx?lsr=259&sy=2019&sortoption=&txtsessionyear=2019&txtbillnumber=HB376