A handful of dog bills and other animal-related bills passed through the General Assembly this year. (Photo by TheDogPhotographer/iStock Getty Images)

Legislative Wrap-up: animal-related bills passed in 2024

Jarek RutzGovernment, Headlines

A handful of dog bills and other animal-related bills passed through the General Assembly this year. (Photo by TheDogPhotographer/iStock Getty Images)

A handful of dog bills and other animal-related bills passed through the General Assembly this year. (Photo by TheDogPhotographer/iStock Getty Images)

This year’s legislative session had a slew of bills related to animals and domestic pets that passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

RELATED: Legislative Wrap-up: gun bills passed in 2024

From laws pertaining to financial and legal penalties for owners to laws aiming to prevent dog fighting, here are the animal bills that passed in 2024:

House Bill 190 – population control

Sponsored by Rep. Kim Williams, D-Marshallton, the bill updates the current law relating to the Spay Neuter Fund and the administration of that fund.

Its purpose is to make it easier to administer the fund and animal population control programs. 

House Bill 124 – noisy dogs

Sponsored by Rep. Eric Morrison, D-Glasgow, the bill eliminates animal noise and noise disturbances from the Noise Control and Abatement Chapter in Delaware Code. 

It gives the Office of Animal Welfare and Department of Agriculture the authority to enforce all state laws relating to the protection and control of animals with, as occasion requires, the assistance of police officers. 

The owner or person in possession or control of a dog is prohibited from allowing the dog to bark for an extended period, defined as continuously for 15 minutes or more, or intermittently for 30 minutes or more. 

It exempts barking dogs if:

  • A person is trespassing on private property
  • An animal is intruding on private property
  • The dog is being teased or provoked. 

It also exempts dogs located in animal shelters, pet stores, dog grooming facilities, veterinarian offices and animal clinics. 

More exemptions are if the dog’s engaged in dog training, dog exhibition, lawful performance competitions, hunting and herding. 

Penalties include a first warning, $50 for a second violation, $100 for third violations and $150 for all violations after. 

There is a state cost of about $240,000 each year for personnel operations, specifically with the Office of Animal Welfare.

Senate Bill 269 – penalties for dangerous dogs

Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, the bill simplifies and increases some of the civil penalties for violations of laws related to dogs that run at large, dogs that bite a human being or domestic animal while running at large and dogs that are designated as dangerous or potentially dangerous. 

It expands the requirements for keeping or maintaining a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog to include provisions related to licensing, vaccination, microchipping, and leashing. 

Examples of fines include $50 for the first offense of a dog running at large, and a $200 fine if it happens a second time within a year of the first. 

For dogs that bite someone while running at large, the owner is fined $500, and $1,000 every other time it happens after.

Senate Bill 219 – service and assistance animals

Sponsored by Dave Lawson, R- Marydel the bill creates penalties for misrepresentation of a service animal under the Delaware Equal Accommodations Law and misrepresentation of an assistance animal under the Delaware Fair Housing Act.

A first violation would be a civil penalty in the amount of $500 and each subsequent offense is an unclassified misdemeanor.

The bill defines a person guilty of misrepresentation as anyone that: 

  • Misrepresents that the person has a disability for which the animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for.
  • Misrepresents an animal as a service animal by fitting an animal that is not a service animal with an item that states that it is a service animal, such as a harness, collar, vest or sign.

Senate Bill 198 – animal fighting 

Sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, the bill makes anyone who knowingly possess, own, buy, sell, transfer or manufacture animal fighting paraphernalia with the intent to engage in, promote or facilitate fighting as guilty of a class E felony. 

Animal fighting paraphernalia is defined as “equipment, products, implements, and materials of any kind that are used, intended for use, or designed for use in the training, preparation, conditioning or furtherance of animal fighting, and includes, but is not limited to, the following: breaking sticks, cat mills, treadmills, slat mills, isolation huts, fighting pits, spring poles, unprescribed anabolic steroids, unprescribed anti-inflammatory steroids, unprescribed antibiotics, treatment supplies or gaffs, slashers, heels, or any other sharp implement designed to be attached in place of the natural spur of a cock or game fowl.”

In Delaware, a class E felony includes a maximum prison sentence of five years. 

In a statement, the Brandywine Valley SPCA took note of SB 198 and HB 190.

“The Members of the General Assembly took note of many critical issues within the animal welfare sector,” the group stated. “We thank and applaud the bill sponsors and supporters of such a diverse list of bills, especially given the host of issues the State was debating simultaneously.”
The statement said the BVSPCA supports and worked extensively on House Bill 190 and Senate Bill 198.
“HB190 ensures critical funding for spay/neuter surgeries is accessible to Delawareans across the State,” it stated. “In 2023, the BVSPCA conducted over 16,000 spay/neuter surgeries – more than any other animal welfare nonprofit – which provided critical population control downstream and overall sound animal health for those owned animals.”
SB198, which BVSPCA testified on, ensures animal fighting paraphernalia is now included in the prosecution and investigation of animal fighting.
“The BVSPCA worked tirelessly alongside the Office of Animal Welfare and saw firsthand the use of paraphernalia in dog-fighting cases within Delaware,” the organization stated.

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