2023 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
2023 LEGISLATIVE RECAP FOR GEORGIA COMPANION ANIMAL BILLS
The 2023 GA General Assembly concluded on March 29 with some positive results and momentum for companion animal protection. Two significant bills passed that increase penalties for dogfighting and harming animals used in law enforcement. Another huge victory was the defeat of several bills that would have legalized gambling at live horse racing events in Georgia.
The GA Pet Coalition’s professional lobbyist provided guidance throughout the legislative session to promote our priority legislation and ensure that the companion animal community spoke with a unified voice to state lawmakers. Many thanks to our subject matter experts for their help with bill language and fact sheets, and to organizations within the Georgia Alliance for Companion Animal Protection for their endorsements, outreach to lawmakers, and written testimonies.
The GPC works year-round on policy development and will continue to educate lawmakers in the off session. If you would like guidance on setting up an in-person meeting or shelter site visit with your state lawmakers, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. As 2024 will be an election year for all state lawmakers, please take the time to ask incumbents and candidates where they stand on companion animal issues. Your vote is the voice for companion animals. See our Citizen Lobbying Tips at https://www.gapetcoalition.org/advocacy.
Below is a status report of all companion animal bills and resolutions brought before the 2023 GA General Assembly. The GPC is deeply appreciative to those lawmakers who sponsored or cosponsored beneficial bills. The legislative session was year one of a two-year Biennium, so bills that were not defeated are still viable for the 2024 session.
Harmful Bills Related to Gambling on Live Horse Racing Events in Georgia – DEFEATED
For a multitude of financial and ethical reasons, the GA Pet Coalition is opposed to horse racing and will continue to speak out against any bill that includes it. Please see our fact sheet and videos at https://www.gapetcoalition.org/horseracing.
This sports betting bill would have legalized gambling on live horse racing events in Georgia and allowed the establishment of up to three racetracks and casinos.
Representatives from the GA Pet Coalition, Georgia Companion Animal Advocacy, and American Equine Awareness spoke in opposition to SB 57 in a hearing before the Senate Economic Development & Tourism Committee. A special note of appreciation is extended to Georgia Companion Animal Advocacy for providing in-depth research on the detrimental impacts of horse racing at https://www.georgiacompanionanimaladvocacy.com/horseracingingeorgia. Many thanks to the advocates who called their lawmakers and urged them to vote “NO.” With your help, SB 57 was defeated in the State Senate by a vote of 19-37!
SR 140, Amendment #3: https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/64378
SR 140 was another sports betting bill that would have legalized gambling by amending the state constitution, subject to a two-thirds vote in both chambers and a subsequent voter referendum. A Senate floor amendment (#3) was offered to attach horse racing and casinos to SR 140. Amendment #3 was resoundingly defeated, 4-52! SR 140 ultimately did not pass the Senate by the required two-thirds vote.
Beneficial Bills for Companion Animals – PASSED
SB 68 (Senator Rick Williams): https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/63895
There was wide support for this bill which adds the criminal offense of dogfighting to the list of crimes that constitute “racketeering activity” under Georgia’s racketeering and organized crime (RICO) statute.
SB 155 (Senator Kay Kirkpatrick): https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/64319
This bill revises the current statute for harming a law enforcement animal (O.C.G.A. 16-11- 4) and creates enhanced penalties for interfering with or harming a public safety animal or search and rescue animal.
HR 632 (Representative Houston Gaines): https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65654
This resolution recognizes the helpful role that the Atlanta Humane Society, Athens Area Humane Society, and Atlanta Beagle Rescue played in assisting HSUS with the rescue of nearly 4000 Beagles from a laboratory breeding facility. A resolution is often a statement of policy, belief, or appreciation.
A Proclamation – Spay/Neuter Awareness Month (Governor Kemp): See end of document.
A Proclamation recognizing February 2023 as Spay Neuter Awareness Month in Georgia was signed by Governor Kemp. Advocates are encouraged to use this Proclamation in any way that benefits their organization. February 28, 2023 was designated as World Spay Day. To learn more about World Spay Day, click here: https://humanepro.org/worldspayday.
Beneficial Bills for Companion Animals – Introduced and Viable for 2024
HB 573 (Representative Joseph Gullett): https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/64803
Spearheaded by the GA Pet Coalition, this bill would prohibit the sale of dogs, cats and pet rabbits in poorly regulated outdoor locations such as parking lots, flea markets and roadsides. Passage of the measure would be an important step towards limiting opportunities for pet sales by transient and reckless backyard breeders who place profit and quick cash over animal welfare. Introduced late in session, a representative from the GPC provided testimony in support of HB 573 before the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee. The Committee Chair indicated that the bill would receive further consideration in 2024.
SB 63 (Senator Randy Robertson): https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/63873
This bill would add “cruelty to animals,” as described in O.C.G.A. 16-12-4, to the list of crimes requiring bail.
HB 217 (Representative Scott Hilton): https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/63970
The GPC is opposed to any form of animal fighting. HB 217 would add cockfighting to Georgia’s dogfighting statute and add increased penalties for bringing a minor to a dogfight or cockfight.
SB 255 (Senator Chuck Payne): https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/64840
SB 255 is the companion bill to HB 217 and would add cockfighting to Georgia’s dogfighting statute and add increased penalties for bringing a minor to a dogfight or cockfight.
SB 330 (Senator Kay Kirkpatrick): https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65690
This bill is referred to as the “Outdoor Dog Protection Act” and would provide minimum standards of care for dogs who live outdoors. Although it is a priority bill, there are concerns about its current language; thus, we have no position yet. The GPC and other organizations are providing guidance to get the language corrected.
Responsible Dog Ownership/Dangerous Dog Amendments – Introduced and Viable for 2024
SB 142 (Senator Lee Anderson): https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/64229
This bill would amend O.C.G.A. 4-8-2, relating to responsible dog ownership, so as to revise the definition of dangerous dog. It would also require minimum liability insurance and provide criminal penalties for failure to maintain liability insurance coverage. Lawmakers had concerns over bill language, so SB 142 was tabled in committee. National animal welfare organizations oppose the bill as currently written. The GPC has no position yet.
Proclamation signed by Governor Kemp: