LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The Dog Law of 1919. Michigan animal advocates have long lamented and complained about this archaic law that hasn’t kept up with the times and challenges of making sure that domestic pets are protected from abuse and neglect. 1919 was a long time ago. 104 years ago to be exact. World War I had just ended and right before women gained the right to vote.

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More than ten decades later, the Dog Law of 1919 still governs how dogs are treated in the state of Michigan.

According to Michigan Pet Alliance (MPA), a nonprofit professional trade association representing Michigan’s animal welfare organizations and pet advocates, the Dog Law of 1919 is an act relating to dogs and the protection of livestock and poultry from damage by dogs; providing for the licensing of dogs; regulating the keeping of dogs and authorizing their destruction in certain cases; providing for the determination and payment of damages done by dogs to livestock and poultry; imposing powers and duties on certain state, county, city and township officers and employees.

The act is used by different municipalities in the state to investigate and prosecute possible abuse and neglect of animals; however, most counties also have their own animal ordinances to give their  citizens more defined rules on how animals are to be treated in their communities.

Along the way, during those 104 years of the dog law’s existence, MPA says that because the primary focus of the legislation has been on the protection of livestock, dogs and cats lacked a voice in our state capitol – at least until now.

As of May 1st, Michigan Pet Alliance began working with Midwest Strategy Group, a contracted lobbying firm representing MPA, its members and Michigan’s pets.

MPA says in a statement, “That means we now have a voice for the animals in Lansing daily, representing our members throughout the state, from the U.P. to Grand Rapids, from Charlevoix to Detroit. This partnership allows us to reach out to MPA members to let them know a phone call to their legislator at a critical point in the process could have a real effect on policy. The voice of our members will now become a chorus that can be heard on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.”

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Michigan News Source reached out to Deborah Schutt, Chair and Founder of Michigan Pet Alliance, about this new development and she said, “Most of Michigan’s Animal welfare laws are antiquated i.e. we are still operating under the Dog Law of 1919 focused on damages to livestock from dogs and we have few protections addressing cats. Recent years, have shown the legislature was not animal friendly, as most introduced bills were not given hearings and left to languish – or bills passing the house or senate were DOA as leaders withheld final votes so bills did not become law. “

She went on to say, “Animal welfare lobbying was fruitless until now. The new legislature has shown an interest in pet protections. So, the timing was right to gather resources and work with the legislature through a professional lobbying firm. This afternoon we are providing testimony for Teddy’s Law. We have gathered support from 60 other animal welfare organizations, which is why we became a membership organization, to speak with ONE VOICE and represent organizations throughout Michigan to our law makers.  We are filling a void that shelters and rescues don’t have the bandwidth to fill.”

Teddy’s Law refers to a package of bills including, SB 0148 and SB0149 (also HB 4277/4278) which would make it easier for Michigan residents to adopt animals that have been used by laboratories and are no longer needed for research.

Another animal bill that MPA is interested in lobbying for is HB4674 which would ban declawing cats in the state of Michigan. It is currently assigned to the House Committee of Agriculture and awaiting a committee hearing. If passed Michigan would become the third state to ban the procedure. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture.

Schutt says about one of the future goals of MPA’s lobbying effort and those to come, “We are also working on reversing a recent regulation change making the use of Telemedicine for shelters illegal. Our Policy & Advocacy Committee is finalizing a list of MPA priorities. We look forward to working with this pet friendly legislature and encourage Michigan shelters and rescues to join MPA and lend their voices to this process.