As reported in the Sentinel, NJ state Senator Linda Greenstein recently convened a meeting of “[a]nimal shelter directors, members of rescue organizations and public officials . . . to discuss potential legislation aimed at strengthening oversight and enforcement of animal shelters.”
Topics discussed during the meeting included:
- increasing shelter reporting requirements
- requiring operational plans
- reviewing the process of certifying non-veterinarians who perform euthanasia
While the state has comprehensive laws governing animal shelters, those laws should be expanded and more vigorously enforced.
For example, animal rescue organizations are currently permitted to register with the state. Instead, they should be required to register with the state.
Pursuant to Public Law 2011, Chapter 142, the New Jersey Department of Health shall establish a voluntary registry of animal rescue organizations and their facilities.
“Animal rescue organization” means an individual or group of individuals who, with or without salary or compensation house and care for homeless animals in the home of an individual or in other facilities, with the intent of placing the animals in responsible, more permanent homes as soon as possible.
“Animal rescue organization facility” means the home or other facility in which an animal rescue organization houses and cares for an animal.
In addition to reporting where their rescues come from, it is essential to record information about the background and final disposition of these animals. The same is true for animals in shelters. It is no longer enough to simply record the numbers of animals entering or leaving a shelter, or being euthanized. It is time to begin tracking the details of why and how animals enter and leave shelters and rescues, including their origin-whether owner-abandoned, local strays, or imported from other locations (and the identity of those locations).
With the increasing pressure on shelters not to euthanize animals, and the burgeoning feral and stray cat population, shelters may become overpopulated and unable to provide reasonable care to their resident animals. In other cases, dogs may be moved through rescue channels contributing to the trafficking of dogs, previously discussed. Therefore concerns about the care of animals in shelters and rescues is warranted.
Furthermore, allegations that the “overpopulation of animals at shelters” results from the sale of purebred dogs, are largely unproven. Recording and obtaining data about the animals in shelter/rescue channels is imperative to insure that laws will address any issues identified .
New Jersey regulations already require that shelters collect certain information:
(a) There shall be kept at each kennel, pet shop, shelter or pound a record of all animals received and/or disposed of. Such record shall state the date each animal was received, description of animal, license number, breed, age and sex; name and address of person from whom acquired; date euthanized and method, or name and address of person to whom sold or otherwise transferred.
(b) These records shall be kept at the premises for 12 months after the date the animal is euthanized or removed from the establishment and shall be available to any agent of the municipal government, the local health department or the State Department of Health and Senior Services.
These regulations should be amended to require more information, as described above, and expanded to include animal rescue organizations.
Finally, instead of simply requiring the records to be maintained, they should be collected and analyzed annually, where-after they should be publicly distributed.