MI Animal Policy — December Update / 2019 Recap

Matt Kuhn
7 min readJan 1, 2020

As 2019 came to an end, only a pair of bills impacting animal policy were introduced into the legislature. Michigan certainly has its topics that remain quite partisan, however, policies improving animal welfare, protecting pets, and supporting veterinarians continue to have bipartisan support. In the first half of this legislative session, almost 50 bills were introduced that impact animals, veterinarians, or public health in some way. Although all of these bills which have not yet passed will continue on for another year, I’d like to give a brief synopsis of some of the ‘wins’ for animal legislation from 2019.

Regarding wildlife protection, a bill overturning a ban on deer baiting put in place by the DNR was vetoed by Governor Whitmer as described more thoroughly below. This will help to slow the spread of disease in Michigan’s deer population which are a health risk to deer, cattle, and humans.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

In animal agriculture, the Animal Industry Act was significantly amended to better allow the state to respond to disease outbreaks or emergencies. Additionally, this bill will shift all egg-laying in the state to cage-free and protect our egg layers by requiring all eggs sold in the state to come from cage-free facilities if they are imported from out of state.

For veterinarians, the introduction of a bill that would allow for discussions between veterinarians and clients on the use of marijuana or CBD in pets represents a positive step in the right direction. Although this bill has not yet moved out of committee, it shows that legislators are willing to be open to the needs of the veterinary community and has at least started the conversation in Lansing. Additionally, a bill that would have threatened veterinarians with a misdemeanor if they did not report suspected animal abuse, a very vague bill, was amended to remove this requirement. As discussed previously, such a bill could actually reduce animal welfare rather than increase it. This change in verbiage will help protect the veterinary-client relationship and trust that is key to providing optimum care to pets.

Finally, a win for all parties was the recent appropriation of $400,000 from the State’s general fund for animal disease prevention and response as appropriated in SB 154 this month.

New Bills Introduced in December

SB 666 introduced by Senators Rosemary Bayer and Paul Wojno looks to stop the practice of pet leasing or loaning in Michigan. The companion bill in the House, HB 5273, was introduced by William Sowerby. Both bills were referred to their respective Committees on Agriculture.

Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

According to Representative Sowerby, a new financing scheme for pets has become popular in MI over the last few years which involves selling pets with the pets used as collateral for the loan. In these situations, pets are essentially leased to new owners while ownership remains with the seller until they are fully paid off. Many of these transactions come with exorbitant fees and do not always make it clear that ownership is not immediately transferred to the buyer. To prevent pet owners from being taken advantage of, SB 666 and HB5273 would make all contracts signed after 1 January 2020 that use animals as collateral for such transactions illegal and void. Representative Sowerby referred to a specific situation as an example.

It certainly seems that this bill would ease the financial burden of pet ownership and increase the continuity of ownership by keeping pets in families.

Significant Bill Updates

HB 4687 which would remove a ban on deer baiting put in place by the DNR passed the Senate with less support than seen in the house, nearly split with 61 yays and 44 nays. Governor Whitmer has since vetoed this bill, which is likely final as it is unlikely to pass either house with enough support to override a veto.

HB 4910 which aims to reduce the misrepresentation of service animals to housing providers has been referred from the Committee on Regulatory Reform to the Committee on Judiciary. A new and comprehensive bill analysis has been released after this referral.

HB 4911 is a tie-bar with 4910 to update language elsewhere in Michigan law to match new language in HB 4010.

Updates on bills included in the November Update

HB 5239 creating an equine industry check-off program has not moved.

HB 5203 creating a Small Farm Coordinator has not moved.

HB 5085 allowing veterinarians to speak with clients about the use of CBD in pets has not moved; however, there is hope that this bill will find traction in late 2019/early 2020.

HB 5125 regulating the aerial spraying of pesticides has not moved. A bill analysis, background, and fiscal impact has been released. Indeed, this bill stemmed from Kalamazoo County’s choice to opt-out of aerial spraying this past fall and would extend their time to do so in the future from 48 hours to 5 days. This would have no significant fiscal impact on state or local government. Although this is the fiscal impact of the bill itself, reducing aerial spraying for disease when deemed necessary by The State could have significant negative financial impacts due to increased disease spread in the future.

HB 4910 and SB 610 defining an Emotional Support Animal and reducing falsification of such animals has not moved. A bill summary states that this bill should have no fiscal impact on state or local governments. SB 608 and SB 609 also alter how Emotional Support Animals are regarded and neither has moved.

HB 4496 regarding the adoption of dogs used for research purposes has not moved but has moved from the Committee on Regulatory Reform to the Committee on Agriculture.

HB 4941 which alters how long an animal is held during a criminal trial has not moved.

HB 4931 making a dog sitting on a driver’s lap while driving a misdemeanor has not moved.

HB 4860 expanding the authority of the Large Carnivore Act has not moved. A bill analysis and fiscal analysis has been released. It states that this bill is not expected to impact time spent by MDARD on large carnivore licensure and as only a single license has been granted to date, this bill should have no fiscal impact.

HB 4833 regulating the transport of deer both inter- and intra-state has not moved.

SB 429 which would require reporting of suspected animal abuse by veterinarians was discussed above. This bill in its amended form has moved out of committee to the Senate floor. A fiscal analysis now shows that this bill would have no fiscal impact.

SB 352 mandating reporting of animal abuse or neglect by child protective services employees has moved out of committee and is now awaiting the Senate floor. SB 353 which would make false reporting by such employees a felony has not moved despite the activity of SB 352. The aforementioned analysis of this bill (352) states that it also would have a negative fiscal impact due to increased costs from the necessary training of employees to spot animal abuse and neglect at the Department of Health and Human Services.

SB 419 requiring state registration of animal rescues has not moved; an analysis of this bill has been released. Significant discussions have also been made between the bill’s sponsor and rescue groups making it likely that any future discussed bill will be edited from its original form.

HB 4687 and SB 37 allowing for deer baiting passed both the House and Senate and were promptly vetoed as discussed above.

SB 174, an amendment of the Animal Industry Act, has become law as discussed above.

SB 316 regarding animals for fighting has been moved out of committee but not yet taken under consideration by the Senate. A bill analysis states that this bill would have a negative fiscal impact due to increased resource demands on law enforcement.

HB 4592 which would allow animal advocates in court has not moved.

HB 4593 regarding canine vocalization has not moved.

HB 4594 regarding the ownership of non-human primates has not moved.

HB 4595 regarding carrier pigeon regulations has not moved.

HB 4596 regarding community cat programs has not moved.

HB 4610 regarding community vaccination has not moved.

House Bills 4659, 4603, 4604, 4606, 4607, 4608, and 4609 have not moved. Of note, a bill was passed in New York with similar language as that of HB 4659, requiring information about Lyme Disease to be posted in state parks. Additionally, a fiscal analysis is now included with this set of bills.

HB 4092 regarding leaving pets in cars has not moved.

SB 63 regarding income tax deductions for service animals has not been moved.

HB 4035 regarding the prohibition of breed-specific legislation has unfortunately not moved.

HB 4217, SB 254, SB 248 have all been amended, however, the veterinary exemption has remained intact in all forms. Bills in both the Senate and House have independently passed their respective houses and await agreement between the houses to move forward.

HB 4455 designating the shelter pet as the state pet has not moved.

Twitter: @MattKuhnDVM

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Matt Kuhn

Veterinarian. PhD. AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow. Bookworm, SciPol junky, dad, ER vet husband.