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Hillsborough County commissioners today voted 5-to-2 in favor of a groundbreaking ordinance that regulates the dog training industry in the county. This bill is the first of its kind in the nation and one that, supporters hope, will pave the way for other counties and even states to enact similar laws.
Dubbed the “Truth-in-Training” bill, and better known as Sarge’s Law, the new ordinance regulates the dog training industry in the county by imposing several licensing and regulatory requirements on dog trainers in an effort to help pet owners make better informed decisions regarding their dog’s care and training.
Sarge was a happy, healthy Shih Tzu/Pekingese puppy whose loving parents sent him to doggy day care each day as part of their efforts to give him the best life possible. Sarge’s owner, Lorie Childers, opted to use the day care’s training services to teach her little dog to walk nicely on a leash. During that session, the trainer clamped his hand over Sarge’s mouth while grabbing the 8-pound puppy’s neck with his other hand. Sarge died in his owner’s arms immediately following the incident.
At Childers’ urging, Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham began looking into the dog training industry and was shocked at the lack of oversight.
“I’ve learned through process of research when this came to my attention that there are no minimum standards or proper oversight for dog trainers,” he said.
In a Wednesday morning commissioner meeting, 61 members of the public spoke for 2-minutes each – both in support and in opposition of the proposed ordinance which sets forth regulations for dog trainers that includes requiring dog trainers to be licensed and carry liability insurance of at least $100,000. Trainers must undergo federal and local background checks and those found to have been convicted of animal cruelty will be barred from training within Hillsborough County.
Those speaking in opposition of the bill seemed to have misunderstood the scope of the proposed law, with many self-proclaimed trainers saying they sometimes need to use force- and fear-based training to rehabilitate or train certain dogs.
The bill, however, does NOT regulate the specifics of training, which methods are acceptable, or which tools and techniques can be used in training. What it DOES do, is require dog trainers to clearly discuss with potential clients how they intend to train a dog with a written training plan signed by both the trainer and client.
As written, the training plan is defined as a “written plan that clearly outlines the name of the dog, the dog’s age, the dog’s breed, the individuals who will be responsible for the training and care of the dog, and the specific behaviors or obedience training needs to be addressed. The Training Plan shall also include the specific methods and/or techniques, the equipment that would be used in Dog Training, a description of any potential physical corrections or Dog Training techniques that may be used in the correction process, any deprivation techniques that may be used, and any risks involved, if any. In addition, the Training Plan shall provide a written cost estimate of all fees and costs (including care and boarding fees, where applicable) associated with the Training Plan and the level of involvement required by the Consumer. If the Consumer provides special health or feeding instructions for the dog, those instructions shall be attached to the Training Plan and become incorporated into the Training Plan.”
Further, the law requires that incidents of injury or death must be reported to the regulating department within 24 hours with those reports made available to the public in order to make an informed decision in choosing a dog trainer.
Would you support similar laws in your own county or state? Why or why not? Weigh in with a comment below!