Bill Would Require Uniform Rules On Military Family Dogs In Military Housing

Section 1050 of S. 4049, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 as currently awaiting a vote by the Senate, if enacted into law, would strengthen the pet ownership protections and policies of  military families living in military housing with canine pets by requiring the Department of Defense (DoD) and its Public Private Venture housing contractors to enact uniform breed-neutral pet policies regarding dog ownership for families living in military housing in the United States. 

Pet ownership often creates challenges for relocating families.  Military families experience these challenges more often than the average American family with pets because military families relocate 10 times more often than civilian families — on average, every 2 or 3 years. 

Managing living arrangements for military families wiht pets is challenging because when military families are reassigned, they have to relocate without knowing how the move will impact their pet ownership.  DOD currently does not have a consistent pet policy and policies vary greatly among the military branches and often among specific duty stations within a branch. Consequently, military families with pets transferring to new assignments often must choose between giving up their pet or when available, moving into less convenient and often more expensive private housing when they transfer in order to retain their family pet.  Since affordable pet friendly housing ofen may not be an option, military already dealing with the disruption of regular transfer often also are forced to experience the emotional trauma of leaving their family pet behind iinstead of having the support of their loved pet to help them through the transfer process.  

Section 1050 of S. 4049 seeks to address this concern by requiring the DOD to establish and enforce uniform, breed neutral policy applicable across all military communities for the regulation of dangerous dogs consistent with advice from professional veterinary and animal behavior experts in regard to effective regulation of dangerous dogs.  Among other things, the legislation would require DOD policy to address strategies, for implementation within all military communities, for the prevention of dog bites consistent with the following best practices:

  • Enforcement of comprehensive, non-breed-specific regulations relating to dangerous16 dogs, with emphasis on identification of dangerous dog behavior and chronically irresponsible owners.
  • Enforcement of animal control regulations, such as leash laws and stray animal control policies.
  • Promotion and communication of resources for pet spaying and neutering.
  • Investment in community education initiatives, such as teaching criteria for pet selection, pet care best practices, owner responsibilities, and safe and appropriate interaction with dogs.

The bill is supported by the American Bar Association Section on Tort & Insurance Practices Animal Law Committee.

As of July 26, 2020, a cloture vote by the Senate cleared the way for Senate debate on the version of the legislation that includes Section 1050.  The companion legislation pending in the House,  H.R.6395, presently does not include any provision similar to Section 1050 of S. 4049.  Those supporting enactment of  Section 1050 of S. 4049 should consider communicating their support for its provisions to their elected officials and other relevant committee members and leaders in the House and Senate.  To review and monitor the legislation, see here

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