New Jersey bills S3551 and A5040 would require a vaccination schedule that is inconsistent with veterinary recommendations.

For example, the bills would require that “if the animal is a dog, [it] has received its first parvo and distemper vaccines and at least one booster, and the dog’s rabies inoculations are up to date.”

According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and consistent with existing state laws “A single dose of rabies vaccine [should be administered] NOT EARLIER THAN 3 MO OF AGE.”  Earlier vaccination may be ineffective because of maternal immunity passed to the puppies.

AAHA also recommends vaccination against parvovirus and distemper virus beginning as early as 6 weeks of age, but booster shots should be administered at an interval of 2 to 4 wk until at least 16 wk of age.”  The bills would delay placement of an animal by requiring that it receive a booster before sale or adoption.   Since exposure to infectious diseases increases with the time each puppy or dog remains at a shelter or rescue facility, such a delay could increase, not decrease, the risk to animal health.

Rocky’s law would also require behavioral testing and reporting of historical behavioral abnormalities of animals before sale or adoption.  An animal’s behavior is an important factor for an owner  to consider and certainly any history of behavioral abnormalities, including aggression, should be recorded and reported.  Pets are often relinquished to a shelter or another home because of behavioral issues.  Equally important is the prevalence of dog bites in this country as reported by the AVMA.

Dog bites pose a serious health risk to our communities and society. More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, and more than 800,000 receive medical attention for dog bites, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). At least half of those bitten are children. Here are more dog bite facts:

Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention.

Children are by far the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured.

Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.

Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims.

Any dog can bite: big or small, male or female, young or old. Even the cuddliest, fuzziest, sweetest pet can bite if provoked. Remember, it is not a dog’s breed that determines whether it will bite, but rather the dog’s individual history and behavior.

There are several resources available for the evaluation of a dog’s temperament.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), describes the importance of socialization of puppies by owners:

‘Puppies go through a sensitive period of socialization when they are uniquely prepared to benefit from exposure to social opportunities. From the time the owner adopts the puppy until 3 to 4 months of age, it is critical that the owner get the puppy out to meet other animals and people, and experience many different kinds of environments,’ said [former] AAVSAB president, Dr. E. Kathryn Meyer.

Unsocialized puppies may also fail to develop coping mechanisms and grow up into dogs that are unable to adapt to new situations. This can severely inhibit the dog’s quality of life as well as the owner’s enjoyment of the pet,

The American Kennel Club and the American Temperament Test Society, Inc. also have programs for testing dog behavior.

Once the pet leaves the pet shop, rescue or shelter, any subsequent behavior may have nothing to do with its care at these facilities.  Behavioral abnormalities, including aggression may have resulted from the care (or lack thereof) the animal had received from its owner.  The pet shop, rescue or shelter should not be liable for such subsequent behavior if there was no indication that the pet was predisposed to or had no history of such behavior.

These bills have promise, but require considerable amendments to protect animal health and welfare and the people and business who buy and sell them.

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.

A set of bills introduced in the New Jersey legislature would dilute funds from the decades-long spay neuter program overseen by the Department of Health, to the detriment of pets and their owners.

New Jersey bill S883 and sister bill A 2197 would authorize the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission “to issue special Humane State license plates . . . [and] [a]fter the deduction of the cost of designing, producing, issuing, renewing, and publicizing the plates and of any computer programming changes that are necessary to implement the license plate program, in an amount not to exceed $150,000, the additional fees will be deposited into a special non-lapsing fund known as the ‘Humane State License Plate Fund”’ that will be appropriately annually to the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey (AWFNJ).  http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/S1000/883_S2.HTM

The funds are mandated “to be used to provide grants to county societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals for the shelter and care of animals.”

While the bill was reported from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, Senator Sarlo, Chair of that committee voted no, saying that he is opposed to this bill, like all others establishing a special license plate, because they all cost the taxpayers money.

Here, there is additional concern because New Jersey has a pre-existing special license described above, established during the Florio administration.  I remember attending the bill signing at Drumthwacket, the official residence of the governor of the State of New Jersey.  The “Animal Friendly” license plate, which debuted in 1994, helps fund “the animal population control program. . . [which] provides low cost spaying and neutering for thousands of pets and encourages the adoption of thousands more each year in New Jersey.”

If enacted into law, this new special plate will dilute the existing animal population program, which had, as of 2012, aided in the spaying and neutering of more than 192,000 cats and dogs, according to then Commissioner of Health, Mary E. O’Dowd.

The funds raised through the [program] support[s] the spay or neutering of dogs and cats adopted from New Jersey shelters, pounds and rescue groups, as well as those owned by persons on public assistance programs.

This fund has been historically popular but runs out of money quickly-many needy families are unable to benefit from the program.

An added benefit of the spay-neuter program, is that it introduces new pet owners to their local veterinarian (who performs the surgery at a greatly reduced fee) and establishes a veterinarian-client-patient relationship that serves as a basis for lifelong veterinary care.

If the State is interested in providing additional funding for animal welfare concerns, this pre-existing program could benefit from additional funds, or perhaps be expanded to assist pet owners without sufficient means provide veterinary care to their pets throughout their lives.

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.

 

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.