Rescue Road Trips, inc. (the Rescue), as previously described, transports dogs from the south to the northeastern states for sale/adoption.  The Rescue states that

No exchange of payment may occur within the boarders [sic] of the State of Connecticut.

Connecticut, in an attempt to protect consumers and pets, requires animal importers to register with the Commissioner of Agriculture, which the Rescue has done. Connecticut also requires:

“[a]ny animal importer who intends to offer for sale, adoption or transfer any dog or cat at a venue or location that is open to the public or at an outdoor location, including, but not limited to, a parking lot or shopping center, shall provide notice to the Department of Agriculture and the municipal zoning enforcement officer of the town where any such sale, adoption or transfer will occur, not later than ten days prior to such event. Such notice shall state the date for such sale, adoption or transfer event, the exact location of such event and the anticipated number of animals for sale, adoption or transfer at such event. Any person who fails to provide notice as required pursuant to this subdivision shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars per animal that is offered for sale, adoption or transfer at such event.” CT. ST. §22-344(e)(2)

The statute defines “animal importer” as a person who brings any dog or cat into this state from any other sovereign entity for the purpose of offering such dog or cat to any person for sale, adoption or transfer in exchange for any fee, sale, voluntary contribution, service or any other consideration.” CT. ST. §22-344(e)(3).

Is the Rescue attempted to avoid these requirements by arranging for the sale to occur before entering Connecticut?

The Rescue seems to be relying on a fact sheet written by CT Votes for Animals, dated 7/1/2015, titled CT Importation Law Fact Sheet (the Factsheet).

That Factsheet states:

An adopter who intends to keep a cat or dog as a personal companion is not an animal importer if the adopter owns the cat or dog at the time the animal is brought into Connecticut (e.g., the cat or dog is offered on Petfinder and adopted prior to arriving in Connecticut).

It is not clear whether the Rescue, assuming that notification to the State of Connecticut is not required if the transfer of ownership occurs online, before the Rescue enters the State.

But, if the sale/adoption occurs through Petfinder, before entry into the State, that transfer should be considered a non-face-to-face sale by USDA, in which case the Rescue would have to apply for and be approved as a licensee under the Animal Welfare Act. Currently, they describe themselves as an USDA Class T registrant, not as a licensee.

The Factsheet also appears to have other inaccuracies.

For example, it describes importation laws for dogs or cats pursuant to CT. ST. §22-354(a) as “Prior law.” However, currently, CT. ST. §22-354(a) remains in effect.

In addition to these importation provision, CT. ST. §22-344(f), “Veterinary examination of cat or dog imported into state by animal importer,” also requires:

“Any animal importer, as defined in section 22-344, shall, not later than forty-eight hours after importing any dog or cat into this state and prior to the sale, adoption or transfer of such dog or cat to any person, provide for the examination of such dog or cat by a veterinarian licensed under chapter 384. Thereafter, such animal importer shall provide for the examination of such dog or cat by a veterinarian licensed under chapter 384 every ninety days until such dog or cat is sold, adopted or transferred, provided no such dog or cat shall be sold, adopted or transferred to another person by an animal importer unless (1) such dog or cat was examined by a veterinarian licensed under chapter 384 not more than fifteen days prior to the sale, adoption or transfer of such dog or cat, and (2) such veterinarian provides such animal importer with a written certificate stating that such dog or cat is free of any symptoms of any illness, infectious, contagious or communicable disease. Such certificate shall list the name, address and contact information of such animal importer. Any animal importer who violates the provisions of this subsection shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars for each animal that is the subject of such violation.”

The Factsheet, however, replacing the term “provide” with “arrange” states that “the examination itself may occur after the 48 hour period [or] . . . after the 90 day period,” respectively.

That does not appear to be consistent with the statutory language or the legislative history.

The purpose of this provision, adopted in 2011, as summarized in the legislative history, was to, in relevant part, “(1) require a veterinarian to examine a cat or dog within 48 hours of the animal being imported and within 15 days before the sale, adoption, or transfer of the animal.” (emphasis added).

As further described:

“Veterinarian Services and Records Required

The bill requires an animal importer, within 48 hours of importing a cat or dog into Connecticut and before offering it for sale, adoption, or transfer, and every 90 days until the sale, adoption, or transfer is complete, to have a state-licensed veterinarian examine the animal. Each animal must be examined by a state-licensed veterinarian within 15 days before a sale, adoption, or transfer and the veterinarian must provide the animal importer a written health certificate for the animal. An animal importer who violates these provisions is subject to a find of up to $500 for each unexamined or uncertified animal.”

Since the laws in Connecticut were passed to protect human and animal health, at least in part, it is critical that dog sales and/or adoptions are conducted as these provisions require.

 

 

 

Retail rescue organizations like Rescue Road Trips, inc. (the Rescue) who purport to provide “loving, humane road trips to homeless, unwanted, and unloved dogs from Southern Kill Shelters . . . deliver[ed] to Loving ‘Forever Homes’ in New England and surrounding areas,” do nothing to decrease the number of dogs being irresponsibly bred.  They actually do the opposite by facilitating the irresponsible, non-purposeful breeding of dogs.

And, while preventing a dog from unnecessary death is laudable, this operation, like other rescues and some shelters that have largely replaced pet stores and professional breeders as the source of pets in the U.S., this Rescue appears to be quite profitable.

As reported on their website, they have saved over 55,000 dogs to date.  These are dogs moved from southern states to the northeast, where the supply of dogs for sale/adoption does not meet demand, despite statements by HSUS, ASPCA and others claiming that pet store sourcing bans are needed because of the local overpopulation of dogs purportedly caused by pet store sales.

Notably, the justification of a bill recently passed in New York related to regulation of rescues and shelters described the current state of the supply of pets, noting

The number of animals euthanized in U.S. shelters has seen a precipitous decline in the past four decades, from around 15 million annually in the 1970’s to around 3 million currently . . . there are literally hundreds of unregulated entities importing dogs into New York each year . . . [through] the almost 500 incorporated animal groups currently registered with the Office of the Attorney General’s . . . Charities Bureau . . .

The Rescue, reportedly charging $185 per dog per transport―plus another unreported adoption fee per dog―has earned over $10,000,000 in revenues to date.  While there are costs related to transport, the Rescue reports that volunteers pay for the dogs pulled from shelters, and for their medical care, and assists them with canine care along the way, all for no charge to the Rescue.

Think about how that much money could be used to educate dog owners in the south about responsible breeding and provide voluntary spay/neuter programs that have been so effective in many parts of the country, including the northeast.

According to the Rescue’s IRS 990, available on ProPublica’s website, it was formed in 2015, and for that year, revenues totaled $230,000 and the officers reported no working hours or expenses.  Does that mean that they have transported 55,000 dogs since 2016?

To its credit, the Rescue’s “Requirements to Board Transport,” are generally consistent with interstate animal health requirements and sound veterinary medicine, but there may be other concerns about their conduct, particularly in the State of Connecticut, to be discussed further.

New York recently amended laws governing pet dealers by:

(1) exempting incorporated animal shelters, rescue organizations or other non-profit entities that transport or offer animals for adoption (a/k/a “sale”) from the statutory definition of “pet dealer,” and (2) requiring those entities to register with the Department of Agriculture and Markets and provide certain information on an annual basis.  See S5599.

The information that must be reported to the State includes:

The number of animal taken in, adopted, placed into permanent or temporary homes, or otherwise transferred into, out of, or within the state by the applicant during the prior calendar year. S5599 at S. 408 (G).

At first glance, these amendments start the long-needed steps to regulate sales of pets through the largely unregulated retail rescue channels, but the following are some concerns about the law (some of which may have been preexisting):

THE COMMISSIONER MAY DENY ANY APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION AS SET FORTH IN SUBDIVISIONS ONE AND TWO OF THIS SECTION OR REVOKE ANY REGISTRATION ALREADY GRANTED, AFTER WRITTEN NOTICE TO THE APPLICANT OR REGISTRANT AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD, WHEN:

THE APPLICANT OR REGISTRANT, OR AN OFFICER OR DIRECTOR HAS BEEN CONVICTED OF A MISDEMEANOR OR FELONY ANIMAL CRUELTY OFFENSE BY A COURT OF THE UNITED STATES OR ANY STATE OR TERRITORY THEREOF, WITHOUT SUBSEQUENT PARDON BY THE GOVERNOR OR OTHER APPROPRIATE AUTHORITY OF THE STATE OR JURISDICTION IN WHICH SUCH CONVICTION OCCURRED, OR RECEIPT OF A CERTIFICATE OF RELIEF FROM DISABILITIES OR A CERTIFICATE OF GOOD CONDUCT PURSUANT TO ARTICLE TWENTY-THREE OF THE CORRECTION LAW  Section 4 (C).

Similar to animal abuse registries, this section bans individuals from working with animals forever, for potentially minor infractions.  More thought should be placed on the type of conduct for which this type of lifetime punishment is warranted.  As I have discussed before, historically, many accused of animal cruelty offenses, even if innocent, have opted to plead guilty to minor offenses since the cost of defense far outweighs the fines.  It is unclear, whether this law is retrospective or prospective regarding such convictions.

Another area of concern is the exclusion of shelters and rescues from warranties pet stores must provide when selling pets to provide owners recourse if the pet develops clinical signs of infectious diseases within 14 days of sale.  Since animals sold through shelter and rescue channels have a greater likelihood of exposure to infectious diseases, veterinarians should be required to examine, treat and inform new owners about the results of those examinations at the time of adoption/sale.  The state should consider requiring pets sold through these channels to be held for a reasonable period of time before sale to increase the chance that clinical signs of infectious disease can be diagnosed before sale.  Owners should be informed about any congenital defects that are evident to the veterinarian before sale.  Notifying new owners about infectious disease and congenital defects is critical to ensure the pet will be placed in a home where owners can afford to treat these often expensive conditions to treat.

Another concern is based on a comment from the sponsor, Senator Boyle, in his press release―the purpose of the bill is to eliminate the:

Pet Dealer License exemption, which has sometimes been exploited by former pet dealers and animal resellers who realized they could successfully avoid state oversight by obtaining a not-for-profit status.

Hopefully this comment is not directed toward pet stores that have been bullied into ceasing sales of professionally-bred dogs and are instead providing pets obtained from shelters and rescue organizations.  These stores should be able to register as non-profits, like the other entities providing similar pets.

Of course a huge obstacle to such pet stores trying to convert to the “humane model” espoused by animal rights organizations (despite the lack of evidence that this model actually works) is the requirement in New York for any animal non-profit to be approved by the ASPCA, one of the most profitable non-profit animal rights organizations in the country.

It would seem that there is an inherent conflict if the ASPCA with a decades-old campaign against pet stores that sell puppies, is in a position to approve or deny the non-profit application of a pet store converting to non-profit status.

Hopefully, the NY State Department of Agriculture & Markets can address some of these concerns in regulations.

 

Horses in New Jersey are highly regarded.  When designating the horse as New Jersey’s state animal in 1977 Governor Bryne said: “The founding fathers of our state thought so highly of the horse that they included it in our state seal.”

In New Jersey, as specified in the Humane Standards, equine rescue operations must provide care “consistent with the “AAEP Care Guidelines for Equine Rescue and Retirement Facilities” or “Equine Rescue and Facility Guidelines, UC Davis.”  N.J.A.C. §2:8-3.6.

Both resources provide comprehensive

guidelines to help ensure that horses maintained within equine sanctuaries and rescue farms receive adequate and proper care.  The guidelines . . . address all issues related to sanctuary management and operations.  They provide information on proper facility design construction and maintenance, suggestions for management and financial organization and instructions on the proper husbandry practices and health care necessary to ensure the successful operations of all types of sanctuary and rescue facilities.

The first section of the UC Davis Guidelines is titled “Operation Business and Financial Plan” emphasizing the importance proper planning and financial support, noting:

The failure rate among animal sanctuaries of all types within the United States is known to be very high, with an average lifespan estimated to be around 3 years and a failure rate in excess of 70% for those facilities that do not own the land being utilized for their operation.  Most of these failures can be attributed to one of two causes; the financial collapse of the entity due to poor business planning and/or practices, or the lack of a defined plan of succession for key management personnel.

AAEP’s Guidelines include the following chapters:

Chapter I: Basic Health Management

Chapter II: Nutrition

Chapter III: Basic Hoof Care

Chapter IV: Caring for the Geriatric Horse

Chapter V: Shelter, Stalls & Horse Facilities

Chapter VI: Pastures, Paddocks & Fencing

Chapter VII: Euthanasia

Chapter VIII: The Bottom Line: Welfare of the Horse.

The importance of caring for new horses entering a rescue facility should include a complete physical examination, a method of identification, the establishment of a medical record, proper nutritional assessments and preventive medical care.  Special attention to the nutritional needs of previously starving horses is critical, and recommendations include oversight by veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists to ensure that the appropriate type, amount and frequency of feeding is provided.

If horses are provided too much feed too quickly after starvation, death can ensue.  According to UC Davis “[t]he ‘refeeding syndrome’ has been reported in horses with abrupt refeeding of concentrated calories causing death in 3 days.”

Despite these requirements, there is no indication that there is sufficient oversight in New Jersey over equine rescue facilities.

The State permits but does not require registration of animal rescue organizations and facilities.

4:19-15.33  Registry of animal rescue organizations, facilities
a. The Department of Health shall establish a registry of animal rescue organizations and their facilities in the State.  Any animal rescue organization may voluntarily participate in the registry.

b.The department, pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), may adopt any rules and regulations determined necessary to implement the voluntary registry and coordinate its use with the provisions of P.L.2011, c.142 (C.4:19-15.30 et al.) and section 16 of P.L.1941, c.151 (C.4:19-15.16).

Of the 74 registered rescues as of March 16, 2017, none appear to be equine rescue facilities.

Historically, when large numbers of horses in the state have been the subject of animal cruelty investigations, their care has been improperly supervised.

Recent events reveal that nothing has changed.

It is time that the State, with its depth of talented, experienced equine practitioners, animal scientists and veterinary nutritionists at Rutgers University and Centenary College, and the Certified Livestock Inspectors at the NJDA-Division of Animal Health, take a hard look at the current state of affairs for horses in need of care in the Garden State.

California AB485 will criminalize what has been considered lawful interstate commerce since at least 1966, when Congress first passed the Animal Welfare Act, 7. U.S.C. §2131 et seq.

“The Congress finds that animals and activities which are regulated under this chapter are either in interstate or foreign commerce or substantially affect such commerce or the free flow thereof, and that regulation of animals and activities as provided in this chapter is necessary to prevent and eliminate burdens upon such commerce and to effectively regulate such commerce, in order – (1) to insure that animals intended . . . for use as pets are provided humane care and treatment . . .”  7 U.S.C. §2131 (Congressional statement of policy).

Pet stores in California will no longer be able to purchase and sell pets from USDA licensed and exempts breeders and dealers of dogs, cats and rabbits if AB485 becomes law.  Instead, pet store would only be able to source from the highly unregulated animal shelters and rescue organizations that distribute pets from random sources, often imported from overseas, and often infected or infested with diseases or pests that unwitting consumers have to contend with and pay for.

Pet stores that have provided a historic and lawful service matching up pet-seeking owners with professionally and purposely-bred pets with the physical and behavioral characteristics perspective owners desire, would be considered criminals under the new California law, upon adoption.

Unfortunately, this is no longer a novel attempt by nonprofit animal rights organizations’ decades-long campaign to eliminate professional, purposeful dog breeding, along with animal ownership (replaced with guardianship) and a host of other animal rights’ agenda.

The question is, when will consumers realize that their choices in pet purchases have been supplanted by activists who believe that pet breeding (and the intentional breeding of any species) is immoral and should be outlawed.

The public, clamoring for the 9,000,000 dogs needed each year for pet-owners seeking new pets, will soon have their choices severely limited.

What a sad state of affairs for pets and people alike and as we have repeatedly alleged, unconstitutional.

I previously described concerns about S3019’s impact to veterinarians.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The cost of enforcing this bill will be significant.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Senator Linda R. Greenstein introduced S3019 on Feb. 27, 2017, a bill that would establish “additional requirements for operation and oversight of animal shelters, pounds, kennels operating as shelters or pounds, and veterinary holding facilities.”

The bill creates liabilities for veterinarians who provide certain critical services to municipalities.  If enacted, it is unclear why veterinarians would expose themselves to such liability.  Therefore, critical services currently provided by these veterinarians to communities could place both people and animals at unnecessary risk.

The following provisions are of greatest concern:

The bill defines “veterinary holding facilities” as “any facility owned or operated by a veterinarian, veterinary hospital, clinic, veterinary boarding facility, or similar facility that houses stray, surrendered, or otherwise impounded animals as a boarding agent or holding facility for an animal control provider, the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or any of its humane law enforcement officers or agents, a county society for the prevention of cruelty to animals or any of its humane law enforcement officers or agents, or local law enforcement.”

If an animal control officer, an agent of the NJSPCA or a country SPCA, or a professional law enforcement officer brings an animal in need of veterinary medical care to a veterinarian for emergency care, that veterinarian is required to provide such care.  See N.J.A.C. 13:44-4.7.  If part of that care requires short or long-term housing for that animal, the veterinarian could be defined as a “veterinary holding facility” which then qualifies that facility as an “animal holding facility.”  S3019 would require each animal holding facility, including a veterinary holding facility to:

  1. provide specific vaccinations to each animal in the facility;*
  2. apply for a pound license from the municipality in which it operates;
  3. employ a properly trained and certified director of the facility; and
  4. establish specific hours of operation during which time they must be open to the public.

This bill would expose veterinarians to liability for serving their communities by providing care to abandoned, injured, and rescued animals they treat on an emergent basis.  Many of these provisions are not appropriate and are unnecessary for veterinary facilities which are governed by statutes and regulations enforced by the State Board of Veterinary Medicine Examiners which “supervise[s] the practice of veterinary medicine, surgery and dentistry; ensure[s] that veterinary medicine is performed in a manner consistent with acceptable medical and ethical standards; and adjudicate[s] consumer complaints against licensees.”

These provisions of S3019, while well-meaning, should be amended.

*While vaccination generally should be required in animal facilities, it is unwise to require specific vaccines in statutes or regulations, since recommendations change over time, as informed by advances in veterinary medicine.  Instead, laws should incorporate by reference recommendations from appropriate veterinary associations such as the American Animal Hospital Association.

New Jersey Bill S2848 does far more than described in the official bill statement which states that the bill requires:

1) all cats and dogs brought into the State from other jurisdictions to have an animal history and health certificate certified by a licensed veterinarian providing the information about the cat or dog specified in subsection a. of section 1 of the bill; and

2) animal rescue organizations, shelters, and pounds to accept the return of a cat or dog received from the facility for up to one year 10 after the receipt of the animal from the facility.

The bill authorizes shelters, pounds, and animal rescue organizations to charge a fee of up to $100 for such a return.

The provisions in S2848 that miss the mark include the following:

  1. A shelter, pound, or animal rescue organization must accept the return of any cat or dog adopted and may charge the person returning the cat or dog a fee of up to $100.00, but a pet store is required to accept the return of a cat or dog for any reason within one year of the date of purchase without the ability to charge the person returning that animal any fee. These provisions clearly unreasonably favor shelters and rescues and importantly do not place the appropriate responsibility on the adopter or pet owner before deciding to bring a pet into a home.  While there should be provisions for returns under certain conditions, the bill as proposed does not include reasonable provisions.
  2. The bill unrealistically and unreasonably extends the pet purchase time frame for returns to pet stores for pets diagnosed with infectious, contagious diseases from 14 days to 1 year after sale, and for pets diagnosed with congenital, hereditary conditions or a sickness [or death] brought on by a congenital or hereditary cause or condition from 180 days to 1 year after sale. These provisions ignore sound science.  The provisions limiting returns resulting from infectious diseases to those diagnosed within 14 days after sale were based on typical incubation periods for such diseases.  Infectious diseases that occur outside of those time periods are typically unrelated to the care provided by the pet store or their sources, who should not remain liable for situations outside of their control.  Similar concerns arise from the extension of pet store liability for congenital or hereditary conditions that are influenced by the pet’s environment, and not the responsibility of the pet store or its sources.
  3. The bill properly mandates registration of animal rescue organizations and requires reporting of some important information about the number of adopted animals. However, information about the source of animals, whether from other states or countries, should also be required.  The myth of the local overpopulation of dogs in New Jersey can only be exposed when the numbers of dogs imported into the State for adoption is required to be reported.

This bill appears to be an attempt to require reporting of certain information about the source of pets provided to the public, but it requires significant amendments to ensure that the law actually provides for the health of pets, consumer protection, and the sustainability of properly run pet stores, animal shelters and animal rescue organizations.

New Jersey Senate Bill No. 2847,  introduced on December 12, 2016 would make some important beneficial changes to the laws governing animal rescue organizations and shelters in New Jersey, but would also require the unnecessary and harmful premature spay and neuter of cats and dogs before sale from pet shops, kennels, shelters, pounds, and animal rescue organizations.

Considering the positive amendments first, the bill would require registration of all animal rescue organizations with the State Department of Health.  Registration is currently voluntary.

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.

As of November 3, 2016 there were 70 in-state and out-of-state animal rescue organizations voluntarily registered in New Jersey, as listed on the DOH website.

Registration and oversight of animal rescue organizations is sorely needed.

Another positive amendment in S2847 is the ability of shelters or pounds to euthanize an animal surrendered by its owner before the current seven-day waiting period, and the ability to euthanize a stray or an animal surrendered by someone other its owner if a veterinarian determines “that the animal is in extreme pain and cannot recover from the illness or condition that is causing the pain.”

A veterinarian should make this determination for animals surrendered by their owners or other individuals for at least 2 reasons: (1) proper animal ownership can be difficult to determine; and (2) the irreversible decision whether or not to euthanize an owned pet should be decided by a veterinarian, trained and licensed to make such determinations.

As for the requirement to spay or neuter a dog or cat before sale, so long as the animal is merely two months old, for reasons previously discussed, this premature, unnecessary elective surgery at so young an age exposes each animal to short and long-term injury and harm.  Increasingly, scientific evidence proves that the early removal of endocrine glands, such as testes and ovaries, increases the incidence of certain metabolic disorders, including some forms of cancer, and can decrease the lifespan of certain pets.  The decision about when to spay or neuter an individual pet should be determined by the owner in consultation with their veterinarian, after learning about the risks and benefits of such procedures.  Veterinarians are increasingly advising dog owners to wait until at least after the pet’s first reproductive cycle to sterilize their dog.  The requirement remains with each owner to ensure that their pet is not irresponsibly bred until it is spayed or neutered.

Finally, the requirement for shelters and pounds to pay owners up to $250.00 for any pet released before it is spayed or neutered could have a devastating impact on these organizations who are already struggling to compete with animal rescue organizations.

If amended to address these concerns, S2847 could be supportable.

 

Pet stores used to be the primary source for puppies in the U.S.  That role has drastically changed-rescues and shelters are now the dominant providers of pets, replacing pet stores.  In fact, thousands of puppies are imported into the Northeast to supply the increasing demand for “rescued” pets, as promoted with million-dollar campaigns from nonprofit animal rights organizations’ intent on eliminating commercial dog breeding, hobby breeding, and sales from pet stores.

At the same time, shelters, condemned by the public for euthanizing animals are now transferring animals to other shelters and rescues to improve their euthanasia statistics.

The overpopulation of dogs in many municipalities and towns is often used as the reason that pet store sourcing bans are necessary.  However, this is a false premise.  The overpopulation of purposely-bred pets sold by pet stores has been effectively controlled for years.  For years states, particularly in the Northeast, have adopted programs to encourage responsible pet owners to spay and neuter their pets.  Most of these programs, largely focused on subsidizing these surgeries, have been effective in reducing the number of unwanted puppies in this part of the country.  Maine has had a spay/neuter program for many years called Help Fix ME, run through the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Welfare Program and intended for income-eligible individuals.  The program provides funds to reimburse veterinarians to spay/neuter cats and some breeds of dogs.  Over the years that it has been in existence this program has enabled thousands of individuals to adopt pets, have them neutered at a low cost (for a nominal co-pay), and enjoy the companionship that pet ownership can provide.

New York has a similar program―Animal Population Control Program―run for the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Division of Animal Industry by the ASPCA.  Similar to Maine’s program, the New York State program underwrites the cost of neutering cats and dogs for income-eligible individuals.  Interestingly, eligibility requirements state that animals must not have been imported from outside the State of New York.

As spay/neuter programs succeeded, at least in the Northeast, the numbers of readily adoptable dogs at shelters, and those requiring euthanasia, was in rapid decline.  In the City, there appears to have been a similar decline, based on reports from the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, demonstrating a remarkable decline in the euthanasia of unowned dogs and cats in the Shelter.  Animal Care & Control in NYC has had a significant decrease in the number of dogs housed in the shelter and an 81% decrease in the number of dogs euthanized since 2003.  According to Risa Weinstock of the Animal Care & Control Program in the City, pit bulls (which are not sold by pet stores) are the most prevalent breed in Shelters.  Weinstock testified that much of the overpopulation problem at Shelters comes from irresponsible pet ownership and breeding for profit, particularly of pit bulls which sell for over $1000 dollars per puppy adding that “[t]he majority of the dogs that we take in and the majority of our population are pit bulls and pit bull mixes . . .”

According to Tufts’ Gary Patronek – the Director of Tufts’ Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tuft’s School of Veterinary Medicine – U.S. shelters may be a victim of their own successes.  “The drive to have dogs spayed and neutered in the USA has cut down on unwanted litters.  And adoption campaigns have helped empty dog pounds . . . people who want to adopt dogs increasingly find aged dogs or undesirable breeds like pit bulls at shelters . . . In the last seven years, one organization in Puerto Rico has shipped more than 14,000 strays to the states for adoption.”

A recent study of 18 U.S. animal shelters to identify “the types of dogs present in today’s animal shelters,” confirms that the population of dogs in shelters are not purebred dogs from the pet stores.  The National Animal Interest Alliance found:

According to this study, the number of purebreds in U.S. animal shelters is closer to 5% (5.04%) than to the 25% so commonly cited by national animal organizations and quoted by the media.  It is interesting to observe that the number of purebreds in shelters would be 3.3% were it not for two breeds that are overrepresented, Chihuahuas and dogs described as Pit Bulls. Together, these two breeds account for 35% of all purebreds listed by shelters in this study. The public seems to be aware that dogs described as Pit Bulls are overrepresented in American shelters. What is not well known is that Chihuahuas are the single most numerous purebred found in shelters today. Because Chihuahuas are small, attractive to adopters and highly adoptable, their numbers are especially high in shelters that import dogs for adoption.

It is clear that blaming pet stores on the overpopulation of unowned, stray dogs is yet another example of the intentional misrepresentation of facts used by retail rescue organizations and law makers to support pet store sourcing bans.  If cities like New York are concerned about the number of dogs in its shelters, they should ban the importation of the thousands of dogs imported through retail rescue channels that are most likely to end up in animal shelters.