Virginia Is for Pet Lovers, Too

Virginia Is for Pet Lovers, Too

Cosmetics testing, research dogs/cats, dangerous dogs, pet store employees come under scrutiny

The 2021 Virginia General Assembly had only six companion animal-related bills before it this session; a small number compared to the roughly two dozen during the 2020 session, and a dozen in 2019. Virginians love their pets and legislators are no different. Several frequently sponsor bills aimed to better the lives of animal companions, although the short session this year led to a restriction in the number of bills legislators were permitted to file.

Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33) and Del. Kaye Kory (D-38) sponsored bills in their respective legislative houses to restrict cosmetic testing on animals. The Humane Cosmetic Act (SB1379 and HB2250), which has passed both houses, will prohibit testing of cosmetics on animals in the Commonwealth, and prohibit the sale of any cosmetic that was developed or manufactured using animal testing by any cosmetics manufacturer. If signed by the Governor, the testing provision of the Act will go into effect on July 1, 2021, and the ban on sales on Jan. 1, 2022. Unsuccessful with similar bills last year, both legislators found success this time with accord from manufacturer associations.

Sen. William Stanley (R-20), a member of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, sponsored two bills this session, SB1412 to keep those convicted of animal cruelty from working in the pet industry; and SB1417 to give research dogs and cats an opportunity for an adopted home when no longer needed at a research testing facility, including our institutes of higher education.

Stanley’s SB1412 will mirror some restrictions for pet stores and dog breeders that public and private shelters and rescues have operated under for many years. Northern Virginia has had multiple examples of pet store manager convictions, where pet stores were closed, only to have the manager move and open at another location. The bill restricts those with animal cruelty, neglect or abandonment convictions from working as owners, managers, employees of pet store or breeders. The bill also requires pet stores to obtain a statement from purchasers or adopters, that the person has not had an animal related conviction, as shelters and rescues are now required to do.

The testing facility dog adoption bill (B1417), requires that a dog or cat, no longer needed for testing, be given an opportunity for adoption prior to euthanasia, providing that the animal does not pose a health or safety risk to the public. The testing facility may enter into an agreement with a shelter or rescue, or research arms of higher education research facilities, such as Virginia Technical College, may institute their own adoption programs. Senator Stanley himself adopted a beagle bred for research after visiting a Cumberland medical research breeder with Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) to inspect the facility. The two Senators wanted to know more about the only medical research dog breeder located in Virginia after discussion of a 2020 General Assembly bill that would have restricted the business, but did not pass. Stanley named his adopted dog Marsy in commemoration of his trip with Sen. Marsden.

Senator Marsden, Chairman of the Senate Companion Animals subcommittee, sponsored a bill to restructure the procedure for adjudicating cases of dangerous dogs; SB1135. The bill provides for the speedy adjudication of such cases, within 30 days of the summons.