Governor Glenn Youngkin and Senator Bill Stanley visit with a beagle after signing legislation prohibiting the sale of dogs or cats for experimental purposes in front of the Governor's Executive Mansion. Official Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed into law Monday a series of animal welfare bills, most of them authored by state Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, who has a long history of supporting animal bills.

These bills prohibit the sale of dogs or cats for experimental purposes and penalize animal cruelty.

A dozen rescue beagle joined the ceremony outside the governor’s mansion.

 “Today’s remarkable achievement brought every single Republican and Democrat together to protect our four-legged constituents,” Youngkin said in a statement. “This historic package of bills I signed today clarifies that dogs and cats bred and sold for experimental purposes are protected by Virginia’s cruelty-to-animals law, will help ensure welfare standards and save lives, and will give Virginia the authority to take action when welfare violations occur.”

In a statement, Stanley said: ““Today was a long time coming for the Commonwealth of Virginia and for our four-legged companions as we put all breeders on notice to ensure protocols for the humane treatment of dogs and cats are adhered to each and every day. My Father taught me at an early age that our Creator put dogs on this good Earth to teach mankind what perfect love, perfect loyalty and perfect forgiveness truly is. It is for these reasons that they deserve the utmost of care throughout every aspect of their lives and it is therefore both our duty and responsibility to ensure that these obligations that we have to man’s best friend are never compromised.”

Here are the official descriptions of the bills that Youngkin signed. All were sponsored by Stanley with the exception of HB 1350, sponsored by Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle County.

HB 1350 & SB 87: Dealers; prohibits sale of dogs or cats for experimental purposes.Amends the Comprehensive Animal Care Law (Va. Code § 3.2-6500 et seq.) to include cats and breeders of cats. The current code language only specifically lists dogs and dog breeders. The bill also clarifies that a “dealer,” “commercial dog breeder,” or “cat breeder” includes ANY person or entity that breeds dogs or cats regulated under federal law as research animals. This is intended to close a loophole that applies to breeders and “dealers” to prohibit the importation or sale of dogs or cats bred by anyone with certain federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations.  Currently, you cannot be a dealer or a commercial dog breeder in the Commonwealth if you have received a certain number of AWA citations from the USDA. The language “including sale for experimental purposes” was also added to close the loophole on breeders and dealers who sell dogs and cats for experimental purposes.  The bill includes an enactment clause to outline that these updates to the Comprehensive Animal Care Law would not apply to citations received before July 1, 2023. 

SB 88: Breeders of cats and dogs; records of animals sold or transferred to animal testing facility.Requires breeders of dogs and cats for experimental purposes to keep records on each animal for two years from the date of sale and transfer. The bill also requires a quarterly summary of these records to be provided to the State Veterinarian and be made available for Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, animal control officers, and law enforcement, upon request 

SB 90: Breeders of dogs and cats for animal testing facilities; adoption of dogs and cats.Adds breeders to those included in the Comprehensive Animal Care section of the code that are required to offer dogs and cats for sale or transfer to an animal testing facility that no longer has a need for a dog or cat in its possession to offer the animal for adoption prior to euthanizing it. Currently, only animal testing facilities are subject to this requirement.

SB 604: Animal cruelty; companion animals, penalty.Amends the definition of companion animal in the Comprehensive Animal Care Law section of the code to replace the current language that exempts all animals regulated under federal law as a “research animal” with more specific language that exempts only those animals that are actively involved in bona fide scientific or medical experimentation. The intention of this bill is to clarify that dogs and cats in the possession of breeders that sell animals for experimental purposes are protected by Virginia’s cruelty-to-animals laws.