There are additional concerns about the impact of this bill to animal shelters and NJ taxpayers. And, it is inexplicable why S3019 exempts animal rescue organizations from provisions governing shelters since these unregulated organizations are becoming the primary way people are obtaining pets—through retail rescue channels. See The Phenomenon called “Retail Rescue.”
Animal shelters are under increasing pressure from the no-kill movement to decrease or eliminate the number of animals they euthanize. This creates a near impossibility for those shelters that provide for the euthanasia of pets as a service to pet owners who rely on shelters for that very purpose. Additionally, some animals are unfortunately not suitable for adoption because of behavioral or medical disorders. For these animals and the people who may unwittingly adopt them, euthanasia may be the best option.
Animal rescue organizations do not have to comply with any provisions that would govern shelters if S3019 becomes law. They simply have to register with the Department of Health. Certainly animals housed in any facility should be provided with proper care, but with the draconian and costly provisions in S3019, it is not clear why any private brick and mortar shelter would continue to exist.
Unlike “regulated animal facilities,” animal rescue organizations would not have to: (1) employ a State-certified director, (2) comply with strict feeding, housing, exercise, and medical care requirements, (3) maintain records of any sort, or (4) be subject to a civil action in Superior or municipal court brought by any person for failure to comply with this law.
Other concerns about the bill include, but are not limited to:
- The Department of Health would have to draft regulations regarding the recognition of cat and dog breeds by shelter staff. However, studies have proven that “regardless of profession, visual identification of the breeds of dogs with unknown heritage is poor.” See K.C. Croy, et al., What kind or dog is that? Accuracy of dog breed assessment by canine stakeholders. Published by College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville. Hopefully, DOH’s proposed regulations, if drafted, will include the deficiencies related to the visual identification of randomly-sourced pets.
- The cost of enforcing this bill will be significant.
- The law would require at least three inspections of regulated animal facilities by specially trained inspectors each year. While training is certainly a welcome and important advance, the cost would be considerable.
- The bill would require the Board of Veterinary Medicine, the Department of Health and Rutgers to develop certain training and certification programs that would be costly to develop and implement.
- The law would limit euthanasia of animals to veterinarians or a veterinary technician with specific training and certification in euthanasia. The law would require that the Board of Veterinary Medicine, in consultation with the Department of Health, establish training and certification, but it is unclear how this can proceed without requiring the licensure of veterinary technicians, something the legislature has not provided for.
- The law would encourage shelters to provide for “temporary” housing, even with other animals, instead of performing euthanasia. While decreasing euthanasia is laudable, shelters should not be encouraged to violate DOH’s sanitary regulations adopted to decrease disease spread and behavioral incompatibilities that prohibit such housing.
S3019, in addition to its well-meaning intent, would have some positive effects, such as increased tracking and reporting of the movement of animals into and between regulated animal facilities. Of course, this data should include movement through animal rescue organizations.
The provisions of S3019 that would help ensure that any adoptable animals are not unnecessarily euthanized is clearly laudable. However, unless the State prohibits the unregulated importation of animals from other states and countries to rescues and shelters through retail rescue channels, animals that are unsuitable as pets will continue to reside in shelters and some will be euthanized.