2022 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
2022 Legislative Recap for Companion Animals Bills
The 2022 Georgia General Assembly concluded on April 4th with mixed results for companion animals and exposed the continuing obstacles that animal protection legislation faces in Georgia.
The GA Pet Coalition (GPC) professional lobby team was there at every step of the way during the legislative session to promote our priority bills and to ensure that the companion animal community spoke with a unified voice to lawmakers. Many thanks to our subject matter experts for their help with bill language and fact sheets, and to member organizations in the Georgia Alliance for Companion Animal Protection (GACAP) for their endorsements, support, and written testimony. The GPC is the coordinator for GACAP.
This is an election year so please take the time to ask incumbents and candidates where they stand on these issues. Your vote is the voice for companion animals.
Beneficial Bills/Resolutions for Companion Animals
SR 402: This resolution was ADOPTED by the Senate to acknowledge the importance of Spay/Neuter Awareness Month and World Spay Day (February 22). A resolution is often a statement of policy, belief, or appreciation; it usually does not enact statute.
SB 515: This bill would authorize first responders to provide emergency treatment and ambulance transport of K-9 police dogs to vet clinics and provides immunity from civil liability for doing so in good faith. Police dogs risk their lives every day and deserve prompt medical attention when injured. SB 515 had 21 sponsors but did not receive a vote in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
HB 609: Spearheaded by the GPC, this bill would prohibit the sale of dogs, cats and domestic pet rabbits in poorly regulated outdoor locations such as parking lots and roadsides. Passage of the measure would be an important step towards limiting opportunities for illegal pet sales by Georgia’s many unlicensed and reckless backyard breeders. The bill did not receive a hearing in the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee and therefore did not move forward. The Georgia Veterinary Medical Association endorsed HB 609.
HB 1450, Georgia Safe Outdoor Dog Act: This lifesaving bill would improve the minimum standards of care and safe restraint for dogs who live outdoors, thereby providing a safety net to help prevent irrevocable physical harm. HB 1450 had a groundswell of support from both advocates and lawmakers (15 cosponsors) but did not move forward because the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee declined to put it on their agenda for a vote.
Problematic Bills/Resolutions for Companion Animals That Did Not Pass
SR 135: This resolution required a two-thirds majority in both chambers to become a ballot measure in November to amend the state constitution to allow sports gambling. SR 135 was revised in late session to include pari-mutuel betting which would have brought horse racing to Georgia. The GPC collaborated with other groups, including Georgia Companion Animal Advocacy, to defeat horse racing in Georgia. Steven Cook of Equus 369, a trainer of off-track Thoroughbreds, spoke at a press conference at the GA Capitol on behalf of the GA Pet Coalition, and emphasized the difficulties of their rehabilitation and of those who go to slaughter. Horse racing is NOT good for horses. The GPC continues to oppose any bill that would burden Georgia citizens with the expensive aftercare of retired Thoroughbreds. Fortunately, the resolution as written did not receive a vote on the House floor.
SB 303: Originally intended to improve the living conditions of breeding dogs in puppy mills, this bill had problematic language that would have increased backyard breeding in Georgia. The bill’s sponsor ultimately gutted the bill and replaced it with bogus “puppy lemon law” language that would have weakened consumer protections when buying a sick puppy from a pet store and potentially served as a vehicle for preemption legislation (similar to retail pet sales HB 144 in 2017). The AKC lobbyist testified in favor of the revised bill language. The Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee declined to move the bill forward but assigned the topic to a study committee due in part to the testimony of a humane advocate (see SR 803).
SR 803: Due to the collaborative efforts of the GA Pet Coalition to defeat SB 303 in committee, this pro pet store lemon law was reduced to a study committee under SR 803. The title of the study, “prevention of unhealthy puppies and protection ethical retail sales,” is hypocritical because puppies sold in pet stores are primarily sourced from puppy mills. Further, the breeder Code of Ethics for most national breed clubs forbid or discourage their members from selling litters to pet stores. Fortunately, SR 803 did not pass out of committee.
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