Tennessee House Bill 2303, introduced on January 21, 2016 would enact the “Commercial Dog Breeders Registration Act” that would make the following consumer protection violations:

  1. selling of dogs by unlicensed breeders;
  2. misrepresenting the condition of a dog for sale; or
  3. altering or falsifying a dog’s health certificate.

A companion bill was concurrently introduced into the Tennessee Senate (SB2175).

The bill defines “commercial dog breeder” as:

any person who possesses or maintains, under the person’s immediate control, sixteen (16) or more intact female adult dogs in this state at one time for the primary purpose of breeding or selling, or who sells twenty (20) or more dogs within a calendar year.

The bill exempts from licensure:

dogs possessed or maintained, under the person’s immediate control, primarily for any of the following purposes shall not be counted for determining the number of adult intact female dogs:

(A) Herding livestock or other agricultural uses;

(B) Hunting, tracking, chasing, pointing, flushing, or retrieving game; or

(C) Competing in field trials, agility events, confirmation events, obedience trials, tracking trials, hunting tests, or any other similar dog sport designated in rule by the commissioner.

The law would require licensure of all “commercial dog breeders” and would prohibit licensure of any person who has been “convicted of a violation of this chapter or has a conviction or pled nolo contendere to animal cruelty or neglect, a violation of title 39, chapter 14, part 2, domestic assault under § 39-13-111, or offenses with the same or similar elements in another state for ten (10) years from the date of the completion of any sentence or court ordered probation, whichever is later.”

The department of commerce and insurance, authorized to enforce this law, would be able to inspect “any location used or suspected to be used by a commercial dog breeder and investigate complaints to enforce this chapter without warrant or subpoena.”

The law includes provisions for the method and the officials permitted to confiscate dogs:

Nothing in this chapter shall grant the authority to the commissioner or any other person to confiscate dogs in the possession of, or maintained by, a commercial dog breeder. Upon reasonable belief that a violation of title 39, chapter 14, part 2, is occurring on the property of a commercial dog breeder, a person may notify any applicable law enforcement immediately and in writing. The chief law enforcement officer of the county shall authorize only a POST-certified or POST-compliant law enforcement officer to conduct a confiscation of dogs. The law enforcement officer may enlist the assistance of a veterinarian or other personnel as necessary to effectuate the confiscation and treatment of dogs.

The law also authorizes the commission to promulgate rules governing the operating standards and facility requirements for commercial dog breeders including: facilities and housing; mobile or traveling housing facilities; primary enclosures; compatible grouping of dog; adequate veterinary care; exercising, feeding, and watering for dogs; cleaning, sanitization, housekeeping, and pest control; and commercial dog breeder employees.

The law provides that the regulations may be based on standards established by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Kennel Club or similar rules in other states, but does not limit the commissioner to these entities.

Hopefully, if the law is passed, the regulations will be science-based to adequately and reasonably provide for the care of the regulated dogs.