MI Animal Policy — February Update

Matt Kuhn
10 min readMar 1, 2020


Updates on MI Legislation Relating to Animals, Veterinary Medicine, and Public Health

Despite focusing largely on budgetary matters, the Michigan Legislature was quite busy with other matters throughout February. Several new bills were introduced covering deer baiting, cat declawing, and a special rare disease commission along with significant updates to a few previously discussed bills.

Deer baiting is back! Well- kinda. Senator Jim Stamas has introduced a new bill, SB 800 in which the ban on deer baiting not technically overturned, however, the penalty would become a civil infraction with a fine not to exceed $1.

As an odd twist, Senator Stamas is from district 36 — the heart of Michigan’s modified accredited zone. The modified accredited zone is so-called because bovine tuberculosis (TB) is endemic within white-tailed deer in this area and occasionally spills over into our cattle. Not only has this issue caused immense State financial resources to be allocated over the past twenty years to slow the spread of TB from the area, but more importantly, bovine TB can also infect hunters, those working with cattle, or anyone who consumes raw milk. Part of the reason a ban was placed on deer baiting in the first place was to slow the spread of TB in wild deer, along with Chronic Wasting Disease.

The likelihood of this bill becoming law is minuscule as long as Governor Whitmer remains in office. Rather, SB 800 is a nod to the constituents of certain Senators who see the deer baiting ban as an infringement on hunting rather than a public health measure. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Natural Resources.

Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash

HB 5508 from Representative Nate Shannon is sure to ruffle some feathers. This bill, which has the backing of at least one significant national animal rights group, would add Michigan to the growing list of states to ban feline onychectomy, phalangectomy, or tendonectomy — essentially any procedure used for declawing of a cat. These procedures, in which most cases involve the amputation of a digit, are seen by many as unnecessary and inhumane, leading to chronic pain and behavior disorders. Many others see the necessity of declawing cats in certain situations, such as households with hemophiliacs or elderly members. The arguments for and against such bills are complex, nuanced, and go well beyond the scope of this blog. I would encourage anyone who has further interest in this topic to review the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Policy as well as their recent literature review on the topic.

The bill does give a certain amount of discretion to veterinarians, allowing for therapeutic declawing if it is needed for medical reasons rather than an elective procedure. Violation of this bill results in a civil fine of not more than $1,000 for the veterinarian who performed the procedure. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture.

HB 5486 from Representative Tommy Brann would add protections for service animals to include those raising, training, and socializing the animals. In these cases, those who question their validity may ask for documentation showing they are raising, training, or socializing an animal to become a future service animal- asking for proof that a service animal is indeed a service animal is otherwise illegal. This bill is another positive step forward for the use of service animals. It both reduces the stigma of bringing animals into areas where they would otherwise not be allowed and will help service animals to become more adequately trained and socialized, leading to better and safer service. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform.

SB 780 from Senator Peter Lucido continues on his track to intertwine reporting between child protective services and animal control. In this version of the bill, animal control officers would be required to report suspected child neglect or abuse if suspected during the course of their normal work, such as animal abuse investigations.

Although none of the bills in this grouping (SB 429 and SB 352 are currently awaiting full a House vote) have seen recent progress, their introduction has raised a very important topic for human and animal health professionals to keep in mind. The evidence supporting the connection between domestic violence, child abuse/neglect, and animal abuse/neglect is very clear. These bills are truly science-based policies that could help to reduce domestic violence by utilizing animal neglect/abuse as a sentinel. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Families, Seniors and Veterans.

HB 5465 introduced by Representative and veterinarian Hank Vaupel would establish a Rare Disease Review Committee for the State of Michigan under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A rare disease as defined by this committee is any in which there are less than 200,000 cases in the US at any given time. The Committee would be Governor appointed with two HHS members, a licensed physician, an individual nominated by the Senate majority leader and a second by the Speaker of the House, a licensed nurse, a social worker, and two members of the public.

The task set forth to this committee is to first develop a list of rare diseases and biennially update this list. Based upon this list, the committee shall select at least one disease per year and estimate its prevalence in MI, estimate the cost of the disease over a year, report any other important findings on this disease and develop recommendations for legislation to address these findings. The bill goes on to specify that spina bifida, Krabbe disease, cystic fibrosis, any pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder, Long QT syndrome, and cytomegalovirus.

Based upon this list, a few inferences can be made about the goal of this bill. First, there is a lack of infectious diseases aside from cytomegalovirus, known for its opportunistic infections of those with compromised immune systems. Second, many of these diseases are inherited and predominately infect newborns or children.

This bill has been referred to the Committee on Health Policy of which Representative Vaupel is the chair.

Significant Bill Updates

HB 5085 allowing veterinarians to speak with clients about the use of CBD or cannabis in pets has had a new substitute added which significantly simplifies the bill. In this substitute, the bill would allow veterinarians to consult with owners on the use of marijuana and industrial hemp in pets. It is important to note that in this new version, with my understanding of the definitions state law uses for marijuana and industrial hemp, the bill actually would not include CBD under the new wording. Additionally, using the term ‘consult’ is rather vague and would likely open discussions on what this may truly mean - ie. prescribe vs recommend vs neither. It is promising that this bill is receiving attention and has been voted out of committee, moving from the Committee on Agriculture to the Committee on Ways and Means, however, work remains for a truly beneficial final product for veterinarians.

A significant update to Update on HB 4035 which would end all breed-specific legislation in Michigan involves a substitute that would still ban breed discrimination but would still allow for units of government to develop guidelines from which they could label specific dogs to be “dangerous dogs” which could have restrictions placed upon them. By my reading of the bill, this could not be based strictly on breed, however, I was not able to clarify this by the time this blog is posted. This bill has been referred from the Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance to the Committee on Ways and Means with the new substitute.

Updates on bills included in the January Update

SB 666 and HB 5273 aiming to end the practice of pet leasing/loaning in Michigan have not moved.

HB 5239 creating an equine industry check-off program has not moved. It also has a new summary and fiscal analysis available which states that it is likely to increase administrative costs for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development although the exact cost cannot be determined at this time.

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 had a new substitute added and referred from the Committee on Agriculture to the Committee on Ways and Means.

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 4911 is a tie-bar with 4910 to update language elsewhere in Michigan law to match new language in HB 4010 and has not 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. This bill moved out of the House Agriculture Committee on party lines and has now been referred to the Committee on Ways and Means despite opposition from several zoological and animal groups.

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 amended from its original text and would no longer mandate that veterinarians report suspected abuse. As such, it does not have any real implications for either owners or veterinarians and is likely redundant with current Michigan law. 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.

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

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 been moved to the Committee on Way and Means with substitute H-1.

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



Matt Kuhn

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