Creating and supporting animal-friendly legislation
Since the 1900s, The Federation has actively worked on state legislation that benefits and protects animals. The Legislative Committee is made up of Federation members and supporters who along with our paid lobbyist track and address legislation affecting animals in our state. We network with local agencies and national groups including the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA to leverage the influence that our vast membership can have on policy makers.
The Legislative Committee works directly with The Federation lobbyist to identify legislation that impacts animals and makes recommendations to support or oppose bills brought up during the state legislative session. Our work is most intensive during the state legislative session (usually the months of January through April) and can involve testifying on bills. We do planning and educational efforts during the off-session months, and keep abreast of federal bills that can impact our work and the animals.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Legislative Committee, want to discuss a specific piece of state or local legislation, or simply become involved in our activities during the upcoming state legislative session, please check out our volunteer opportunities page or contact us.
History of legislative successes
During the 2019 legislative session, the Federation worked closely with member agencies, legislators, the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association, the ASPCA and other stakeholders to successfully champion key bills during the session. The Veterinary Services bill, SB 5004, greatly expanded access to basic veterinary care for many beloved pets of qualified low-income households, allowed shelters to provide medical support up to 30 days after adoption, and clarified that shelters could provide treatment in the case of an emergency for animals brought into the shelter.
SB 1476 closed the loop-hole which allowed pet stores to finance dogs and cats. This important legislation will now stop the practice where a security interest is held in the dog or cat by the financing company—thus subjecting the animal to possible repossession.
The Federation worked with legislators to reduce breed-specific discrimination of dogs with the passage of HB 1026. The current State RCW 16.08 will be amended to specify that a city or county may not prohibit possession/ownership of a dog based on its breed, impose requirements specific to possession/ownership of a dog based on its breed, or declare a dog to be dangerous or potentially dangerous based on its breed unless the specific conditions are met.
During the 2017 legislative session, The Federation championed a “humane treatment of dogs” bill. Under the new law, dogs cannot be restrained for a reckless period of time and when they are ‘tethered’, they must have access to food and water, protection from extreme weather and the ability to move about without becoming tangled. In order to avoid injuries and permanent damage tethering by a choke, pinch, or halter collar, or a chain or rope that is so heavy it impedes the dog’s free movement is now prohibited.
Under the measure each violation of the humane dog tethering law is considered a separate offense. The first offense results in a warning to correct the violation within seven days. Further offenses are considered escalating civil infractions. Washington became the 21st state along with the District of Columbia to have specific animal tethering laws in place, although they vary.
Governor Jay Inslee signs the Humane Treatment of Dogs into law, accompanied by prime sponsors Senator Joe Fain and Guy Palumbo. Federation member, Laura Clark – Executive Director of Whatcom Humane Society – and Federation lobbyist Mike Shaw are also in attendance.
The Federation worked with the Department of Revenue to make technical corrections to state tax law, which formalized and clarified tax policies and procedures administered by the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR). The effect of the statutory change was to clarify that animal rescue organizations are exempt from charging state and local retail sales tax on adoption fees. However, sales of animals by individuals, breeders or pet stores are still subject to the sales tax.
In 2016, The Federation worked on a bi-partisan bill to clarify and “clean-up” some of the language within RCW 16.52 which addresses animal cruelty. The new law improves support for animal control officers and prosecutors working to stop animal cruelty and the negative impacts it has upon communities.
One of the primary changes to the code addresses animals who are left unattended in a vehicle or other enclosed space where their health or life is threatened due to extreme temperatures, or lack of water or ventilation. In situations where the animal is suffering or likely to suffer harm, an animal control officer may enter the vehicle or space and remove the animal. Prosecutors would also be able to charge a class two civil infraction with an up to $125 fine and in certain situations animal cruelty charges could be filed.
The legislation also strengthens first degree animal cruelty statutes, expands animal fighting laws from just dogs and roosters to all animals and increases the charges that can be sought by prosecutors for killing or stealing pets.
Another major success during the session, was the passage of House Bill 2644 to improve the bonding and forfeiture law – which helps animals seized during a cruelty case investigation by minimizing the amount of time animals have to stay at the shelter. This ensures that animals have the chance to be adopted and reduces the cost incurred by the shelter and animal control agency housing the animals. The Federation worked closely with the ASPCA, HSUS, the Washington Alliance for Humane Legislation and the Pierce County Auditor’s office. The new law holds abusive or negligent owners responsible for the cost of care of their animals by requiring owners to post a bond within 15 days thereby avoiding uncertain futures for animals who are seized.
Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 2644, on April 1, 2016 with Federation lobbyist Mike Shaw in attendance.
In 2009, in association with the Humane Society for the United States, the “puppy mill bill” (SB 5651) was signed into law to establish humane requirements for large scale breeding operations. The new law limits the number of adult dogs with intact sexual organs one person can possess to 50 and includes mandatory care standards to anyone who has custody of more than 10 intact adult dogs. Standards include access to clean food and water, exercise, proper housing, basic veterinary care, and protection from extreme weather conditions.
In 2006, in association with the Washington Department of Licensing, The Federation sponsored a vanity license plate called “We Love Our Pets” (now called “Spay~Neuter~Adopt”). A portion of the cost of the plate supports a spay/neuter fund administered by The Federation. Member agencies of The Federation are eligible to apply for grants up to $5,000 to create or enhance spay/neuter programs.
In 1994, the accomplishments of The Federation included coordinating comprehensive revisions to the state’s animal cruelty laws. For the first time since 1901, the Washington State legislature passed legislation to dramatically improve the RCW 16.52 which addresses animal cruelty.