Rocky’s Law, S3551 and its companion A5040, would require the mandatory registration of animal rescue organizations, as opposed to the current laws providing for voluntary registration. They would also would require all animal rescue organizations, pet shops, shelters and pounds to conduct and provide test results about the animal’s medical status and behavioral history to people purchasing* pets.
The expansion of existing pet shop requirements to animal rescue organizations and shelters is laudable, but some of the proposed requirements are medically unsound as written and others would result in unintended consequences. Also, some of the requirements for pet shops would still exceed those required for rescues and shelters, even though the potential risks are indistinguishable. Finally, penalties for behavioral conditions in pets that result in human harm, including death, do not recognize the owner’s responsibility and influence over the pet’s behavioral abnormalities that occur after purchase. Accordingly, some of the penalties for conditions resulting from the owner’s oversight of the animal and not the sellers are misplaced.
Some of these issues are identified herein—others will be discussed in subsequent blogs.
The bill, if passed, would require an animal rescue organization facility, shelter and pound to “document the health, behavioral, and medical history of an animal prior to offering the animal for adoption.”
However, these requirements exclude animal rescue organizations and instead only apply to animal rescue organization facilities. While both entities sell pets to owners in the State, only those with a facility in the State would have to comply with the expanded requirements. Since risks from animal rescue organizations meet or exceed those with facilities in the State, the provisions should apply to all.
The bill would also exempt animal rescue organization facilities, shelters and pounds from providing certain information by stating the information should be provided “to the extent possible.” For example, the bill would require “[t]o the extent possible, an animal rescue organization facility, shelter, or pound shall determine and maintain records of the:
(1) date and place of birth of each animal placed in its care, and the actual or approximate age as established by a veterinarian, or the animal; [there is no reason a veterinarian cannot provide an approximate age, so this should be a requirement]
(2) sex, color markings, and other identifying information of the animal, including any tag, tattoo, collar number, or microchip information; [there is no reason why this information should not be required for every animal sold]
(3) name and address if the veterinarian last attending to the animal before the animal was placed in the animal rescue organization facility, shelter, or pound and any health, behavioral, or medical records that may be available from the veterinarian: [with the increasing incidence of the importation of highly contagious, infectious diseases through animal rescue organizations, this information should be required]
(4) name and address of the veterinarian attending to the animal while the animal is in the custody of the animal rescue organization facility, shelter, or pound, and the dates of the initial and any subsequent examinations of the animal; [there is no reason this information would not be available, and therefore it should always be provided]”
The bills would require a veterinarian to certify that the animal is “free” of parasites, but it would be more reasonable for a veterinarian to certify that she has performed an examination for internal and external parasites, and has treated the animal, if needed, based on the results of that examination.
The American Animal Hospital Association notes that every dog and cat “should receive year-round parasite control to prevent against heartworms, intestinal parasites, fleas, and when appropriate, ticks. Even if your pet spends most of his time indoors, he can still pick up diseases from these sneaky pests that can fly, crawl, or hitchhike on you to get inside your house. These bugs spread serious (even fatal, in the case of heartworms) diseases that are easily preventable with monthly medications.”
Statements requiring a veterinarian to certify that the animal is free from “contagious hair loss” and “does not have feces free of disease, infection, and parasites” should be amended. For example, feces do not have diseases. Notably, there can be existing but subclinical infections that would not be evident during a physical examination even if certain testing were performed.
Also, feces contain germs, including bacteria that will be reported if cultured. As written, a veterinarian may be inclined to prescribe an antibiotic upon receipt of a positive culture, even in the absence of clinical signs of disease. The presence of bacteria in feces does not necessarily mean that the animal is diseased or infected. Such treatment is inconsistent with federal, state and medical policies to minimize unnecessary treatment with antibiotics that leads to antibiotic resistance. Further, the time required for bacterial and viral testing would unnecessarily delay sale or adoption.
Instead of trying to proscribe how veterinarians should perform examinations and diagnose illness, the sponsors should consider extending the warranty required for pet shops to animal rescue organizations, animal rescue organization facilities, and shelters.
Additional issues will be addressed in a subsequent blog.
*Purchasing and purchase should be considered the same as adopting and adoption.