Monday, March 16, 2009

TN- Bill Summary for HB 386 and SB 258

HB 0386 by *Sontany, Maggart, Fincher, McManus, Turner M, Shepard, Sargent. (*SB 0258 by *Jackson, Ketron.)
Animals and Animal Cruelty - As introduced, enacts the "Commercial Breeder Act." - Amends TCA Title 47, Chapter 18, Part 1; Title 39, Chapter 14, Part 2; and Title 44, Chapter 17.

Fiscal Summary
Not Available

Bill Summary
This bill:

(1) Creates new criminal offenses regarding the commercial breeding of companion animals;
(2) Requires commercial breeders to become licensed by the commissioner of agriculture; and
(3) Specifies that certain actions by a commercial breeder would also be deemed to be a violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977.


This bill makes it an offense for any commercial breeder to advertise, sell, offer to sell, transport or offer for transportation any companion animal unless the commercial breeder has a valid license from the commissioner of agriculture and has complied with the rules and regulations promulgated by the commissioner pursuant to this bill. A "commercial breeder" is a person who possesses or maintains at least 20 female dogs in order to sell their offspring as companion animals. This bill also makes it an offense for a commercial breeder to kill or destroy a companion animal by any means other than euthanasia performed by a licensed veterinarian. These offenses would be Class B misdemeanors, punishable by fine only.

This bill also makes it an offense for a commercial breeder to operate or maintain a controlling interest in any releasing agency or to violate any provision of this bill. The offense would be a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by fine only. After a licensed commercial breeder receives notice from the commissioner of any violation of this bill, each day of a continuing violation would constitute a separate offense.


An application for a license as a commercial breeder would be made to the commissioner on a form provided by the commissioner. Each application for a license must be accompanied by a license fee based upon the following:

(1) Possessing or maintaining 20-40 adult companion animals per year, $500; or
(2) Possessing or maintaining 41-75 adult companion animals per year, $1,000.

The commissioner would issue a license to an applicant after determining that:

(1) The applicant or the responsible officer of the applicant is of good moral character;
(2) An inspection has been made of the premises and a finding is made that it conforms to this bill and is a suitable place in which to conduct the commercial breeder's business;
(3) The commercial breeder has a valid sales tax registration number and is in good standing with the Tennessee department of revenue; and
(4) The licensee has never been convicted of any criminal offense against an animal.

A license would not be issued to any commercial breeder who possesses or maintains more than 75 unsterilized companion animals over the age of six months.

The license of any commercial breeder may be suspended or revoked by the commissioner for any of the following reasons:

(1) The violation by the licensee of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977;
(2) Willful falsification of any information contained in the application;
(3) The licensee's conviction of any offense involving cruelty to animals or a violation of this bill; or
(4) The licensee's nonconformance with: this bill; the rules and regulations of the commissioner; the Non-Livestock Animal Humane Death Act; or the present law provisions governing offenses against animals.

This bill requires each commercial breeder to file semi-annual reports containing the following information:

(1) The number of dogs or cats in the possession of the commercial breeder on the date the report is filed;
(2) The number of dogs and cats sold during the reporting period and the names and addresses of the persons to whom they were sold; and
(3) The number of dogs and cats received by the commercial breeder during the reporting period under circumstances other than purchase and the names and addresses of the persons from whom they were obtained.

The premises of a commercial breeder must be made available to the commissioner for inspection at all reasonable times. The commissioner would make or cause to be made such inspections or investigations of the premises and records as considered necessary.

This bill authorizes the commissioner to confiscate companion animals maintained in violation of this bill and to enter into cooperative agreements with local or federal animal welfare agencies or national humane organizations to house and provide for the humane treatment of the animals. The commissioner would also have the authority to petition the court in which a violation of this bill or criminal offense against animals is being heard to request that the commercial breeder or person commercially breeding in violation of this bill be ordered to post security as provided in present law regarding criminal offenses against animals. The commissioner may also enter into cooperative agreements with local and federal agencies for purposes of implementing this bill.


The following violations of this bill would also be deemed to be violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977:

(1) Each companion animal sold, offered for sale, or advertised while the dealer or commercial breeder is unlicensed or has had such license suspended or revoked; and
(2) Each unfair or deceptive statement, material omission, or action taken by a commercial breeder.

Any commercial breeder who commits a violation of the Act as described above in (1) or (2) would be subject to a remedial civil penalty for each separate violation not to exceed $1,000. Upon reason to believe that a commercial breeder is selling dogs or cats while unlicensed, the attorney general, after consultation with the director of the division of consumer affairs, may issue a pre-filing request for consumer protection information in
accordance with the Act. Should a person deny the representative access to the premises, the attorney general would petition, a circuit or chancery court for an order granting access to such premises and records.

The provision of this bill making it an offense for any commercial breeder to kill or destroy a companion animal by any means other than euthanasia performed by a licensed veterinarian would take effect upon becoming law. All other provisions of this bill would take effect:

(1) Upon becoming a law for the purposes of notifying the public, making staff arrangements, and for promulgating rules and regulations; and
(2) On January 1, 2010, for all other purposes.

NOTE: In 44-17-708 (a)(4) of Section 1 of this bill, the language "title 4" should be "title 44."

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