TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the agriculture and markets law, in relation to establishing standards for the care of abandoned, stray or seized animals and to require the release of a shelter animal to a rescue group upon request of the rescue group prior to euthanasia of the animal.
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: Sets reasonable minimum standards for the care of animals while in the possession of animal shelters in order to increase the number of animals saved. Mandates public-private partnerships and collaborative working relationships between municipal shelters and not-for-profit organizations in order to reduce taxpayer costs, increase revenues through adoption and reclaim of lost animals, and reduce the number of animals killed. For example, it requires an animal who is scheduled to be killed by a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, humane society, pound, or shelter, to be released instead to a not-for-profit animal rescue, animal adoption organization, or organization for the prevention of cruelty to animals if that organization agrees to assume care of the animal and any associated costs, with exceptions for animals who are physically suffering, exhibiting signs of rabies, or dogs declared dangerous.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: Section 1: -This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Companion Animal Protection Act" (CAPA).
Section 2: -Amends the agriculture and markets law by setting minimum standards for when animals can be euthanized, how impounded animals are to be cared for, to increase the number of lost animals reunited with their families, and to increase the adoption of animals who need new homes.
Section 3: -Sets effective date.
JUSTIFICATION: The Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) would require that a not-for-profit animal rescue or adoption organization be granted possession of an animal, on request, if a shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, humane society or pound plans to kill the animal. The provisions would not apply in cases where the animal is irremediably suffering, exhibiting signs of rabies, or is a dangerous dog. The bill also sets reasonable minimum standards for the care of animals while in the possession of animal shelters in order to increase the number of animals saved.
When animal welfare organizations work collectively to ensure that animals are not put to death where responsible alternatives exist, more lives are saved, wasteful taxpayer expenditures are reduced, revenues for municipal and private shelters increase, and economic and social benefits ensue to the community.
In California, for example, the California Animal Shelter Law of 1998 includes a provision, which this bill is modeled after, allowing not-for-profit animal rescue or animal adoption organizations to request possession of a dog or cat prior to its killing. In 2010, likewise, Delaware passed similar legislation that seeks to find sheltered animals homes, rather than kill them. And cities across the U.S. have passed similar bills, such as Austin, Texas, and Muncie, Indiana. All these bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. In California, the bill was approved by a vote of 96 to 12. In Delaware, the bill passed both houses of the legislature unanimously. Austin’s City Council approved the bill unanimously and Muncie approved it by an overwhelming margin.
In California alone, over 85,000 animals a year are being saved as a result of its passage. In Delaware, killing has been reduced statewide by over 90% for some animals. Both Muncie and Austin have placement rates of over 98%. The Delaware Office of Animal Welfare, the state agency that oversees Delaware’s shelters, writes that the law “has improved the quality of care animals receive in shelters and has saved thousands of animals that would have otherwise been euthanized due to outdated policies and practices. Prior to this law, healthy dogs and cats were euthanized very quickly, sometimes while their owners were looking for them.”
EXPECTED OPPOSITION: The ASPCA and underperforming shelters may oppose the legislation, as they have in other states, in a bid to prevent state regulation of shelter operations. This may confuse legislators who want to defer to the ASPCA’s pedigreed name. Despite what their name suggests, however, the ASPCA sometimes lobbies on behalf of their friends and colleagues in shelters who do not want limits upon their discretion or to be held accountable, rather than the animals in those shelters. In the past, they have claimed that passing such legislation is expensive, tantamount to handing the keys to the shelter over to hoarders, and impacts public safety; however, similar laws in other states have been an unqualified success and proved those fears to be unfounded.
Cost Savings / Economic Benefits: A University of Denver peer-reviewed study found that similar legislation passed in Austin yielded $157,452,503 in positive economic impact to the community — a return on investment of over 400%. The study concluded that, “The costs associated with implementing the Resolution appear to have been more than offset by a series of economic benefits to the community.” And study authors noted that they were relying on “the most conservative possible measure of the data.” In other words, the true economic benefit is likely to be higher.
A study of California’s 1998 Animal Shelter Law provision — similar to the one in the current bill — found that the number of animals saved, rather than killed, increased in California from 12,526 before the law went into effect to 99,783 in 2010 — a lifesaving increase of over 700%. That increase corresponds with an annual cost savings of $3,497,283 for killing and destruction of remains (these savings do not include additional savings related to cost of care).
Additionally, communities like Muncie, Indiana, which passed a similar law did not seek increases in budgetary allocations to animal services as a result of the mandates, as the vast majority of shelter costs are fixed and any increased costs are more than offset by savings associated with declines in killing and additional revenues from increased reclaims and adoptions.
Public Safety: CAPA would not change longstanding, existing state law regarding dangerous dogs and dogs who cause serious physical injury as already defined under Art. 7 § 123 et seq. of the Agriculture and Markets Law. Since these dogs, animals who are suspected of having rabies, and animals who are irremediably suffering are explicitly exempted from the notification and placement requirements of this act, there would be no negative impact on public safety.
Moreover, the University of Denver study of a similar law in Austin found that while the placement of dogs climbed from 69% to 98%, the percentage of dog bites deemed moderate or severe declined by 13% with the greatest decline in the number of bites classified as “severe,” which declined by 89%. Like CAPA, the Austin ordinance excludes dangerous dogs from any adoption obligations. The study concluded that the legislation was not only consistent with public safety, it improved it, noting positive impacts on “public health, social capital, and community engagement,” all of which have “important implications for Austin’s ability to promote and sustain the health and well-being of both its human and non-human animal residents.”
Animal Safety: When California passed similar legislation, not only did it result in a lifesaving increase of over 700%, but over 20 years of experience has yielded no evidence that animal (or public) safety has been compromised. A study of the law found that “there is no evidence that the problems predicted by some when the law was considered, such as hoarding or exposing the public to dangerous dogs, has ever materialized.” To the contrary, the law improved state and federal oversight of animal welfare organizations. Moreover, animal shelters are the leading cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the United States. The legislation would dramatically reduce the number of animals killed, while also increasing the care they receive while in the possession of both municipal and not-for-profit shelters.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: None.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: To be determined. However, as noted above, studies and experiences of similar laws in Texas, California, and Indiana found economic benefits and cost savings outweighed any implementation costs.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.
Section 1. Definitions
(a) ANIMAL SHELTER.—The term ‘animal shelter’ means a public or private facility that--
(1) Has a physical structure that provides temporary or permanent shelter to stray, abandoned, abused, or owner-surrendered animals; and,
(2) Is operated, owned, or maintained by a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, humane society, non-profit organization, pound, dog control officer, government entity, or contractor for a government entity.
(b) LICENSED VETERINARIAN.—The term ‘licensed veterinarian’ means a veterinarian licensed to practice veterinary medicine in this State.
(c) RESCUE ORGANIZATION.—The term ‘rescue organization’ means an organization that is--
(1) An organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and exempt from taxation under 501(a) of that Code; and,
(2) An animal rescue organization, animal adoption organization, or organization formed for the prevention of cruelty to animals; and,
(3) Does not have an officer, board member, staff member, or volunteer who has been convicted of a criminal offense having as its primary effect the prevention of animal neglect, animal cruelty, or dog fighting; and,
(4) Has been in existence for at least one year.
(5) For animals within the ambit of their license, an individual licensed to rehabilitate wildlife by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation pursuant to Environmental Conservation Law Sec. 11-0515(3) is also a rescue organization, except where release of a particular animal to the individual would violate a duly enacted Department of Environmental Conservation regulation.
(d) IRREMEDIABLE SUFFERING.—The term ‘irremediable suffering’ means an animal who has an objectively grave prognosis for being able to live without severe, unremitting physical pain even with prompt, necessary, and comprehensive veterinary care, as certified in writing by a licensed veterinarian.
(e) SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY.—The term ‘serious physical injury’ means a physical injury to a person from a dog bite which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious or protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.
(f) UNPROVOKED BITING.—The term ‘unprovoked biting’ means biting of a person that is not provoked. Biting is provoked if, among other things, it occurs because the dog was being taunted, or the dog was acting in defense of self, a person, another animal, or property, or the dog was acting from maternal instinct, or the dog was reacting to hunger, pain, or fear, or the dog bites accidentally, as when playing.
(g) UNPROVOKED REPEATED BITING.—The term ‘unprovoked repeated biting’ means two or more bites of a person or persons resulting in physical injuries that were not provoked in the prior 24 months documented by the agency charged with enforcing state and local animal laws prior to the current impound. Biting is provoked if, among other things, it occurs because the dog was being taunted, or the dog was acting in defense of self, a person, another animal, or property, or the dog was acting from maternal instinct, or the dog was reacting to hunger, pain, or fear, or the dog bites accidentally, as when playing.
(h) BUSINESS DAY.—The term ‘business day’ means a day the animal shelter is open to the public for adoption and redemption for a continuous period of at least four (4) hours.
Section 2. Holding Periods
(a) No animal shall be euthanized at an animal shelter prior to the expiration of five full business days from impoundment of the animal, not including the date of impoundment, except as follows:
(1) Subsection (a) does not apply to an animal who is irremediably suffering.
(b) An animal impounded as a stray with identification or whose owner has been identified shall not be euthanized prior to the expiration of nine full business days from impoundment, not including the date of impoundment, and shall be made available for owner reclamation for a period of no less than five business days, not including the date of impoundment.
(c) An animal impounded as a stray without identification and whose owner has not been identified shall be made available for owner reclamation for a period of three business days, not including the date of impoundment.
(d) At any time, an animal impounded as a stray may be placed in foster care or transferred to an animal rescue organization or other shelter, subject to the following:
(1) An animal transferred under this subsection remains subject to reclamation by its owner pursuant to Subsection (b) and (c).
(2) Documentation of an animal transferred under this subsection, including a photograph of the animal and relevant information pertaining to the animal’s impoundment and transfer, shall be maintained in physical form at the animal shelter and in electronic form on a website so that it is reviewable by the public during the time period relevant under Subsection (b) and (c).
(3) An owner that satisfies an animal shelter’s reclaim requirements during the time period relevant under Subsection (b) and (c) is entitled to reclaim the animal even if the animal has been transferred pursuant to Subsection (d) and is no longer physically in the animal shelter’s custody. At the owner’s discretion, the owner has the right to physically redeem the animal at the animal shelter.
(e) An animal who is impounded upon being surrendered by the animal’s owner shall be subject to reclaim by that person, upon having a change of heart, for a period of three business days, not including the date of impoundment, so long as the animal has not been adopted or transferred and there is no evidence of neglect or abuse as determined in writing by a licensed veterinarian.
(f) The holding periods mandated by this Section do not apply to an animal who is impounded solely for the purpose of sterilization.
(g) Not less than two business days before the euthanasia of any animal, the animal shelter shall:
(1) Notify or make a reasonable attempt to notify by verifiable written or electronic communication any rescue organization that has previously requested to be notified before animals are euthanized;
(2) Unless there is evidence of neglect or animal cruelty as certified in writing by a licensed veterinarian, notify or make a reasonable attempt to notify by telephone or verifiable written or electronic communication the owner who surrendered the animal and inform that person that the animal is scheduled to be killed;
(3) Notify or make a reasonable attempt to notify by telephone or verifiable written or electronic communication the finder who surrendered the stray animal and inform that person that the animal is scheduled to be killed;
(4) Give those notified under Subsections (g)(1), (2), and (3) possession of the animal to avoid the animal’s death if they request it.
(5) Those notified under Subsections (g)(1), (2), and (3) must take possession of the animal within 48 hours of notifying the shelter of their intent to do so.
(h) No animal shelter may euthanize any animal without meeting the requirements of this Subsection, except as follows:
(1) an animal who is irremediably suffering.
(2) a dog adjudicated to be dangerous pursuant to Art. 7 of Ag. & Mkts. Law Sec. 123, and ordered to be euthanized by the court.
(3) a dog with a documented history of unprovoked biting that has resulted in serious physical injury to a person. Documentation must consist of medical reports made at or around the time the prior bite incident occurred which describe the circumstances of the bite, the nature and severity of the injury, and treatments given for the injury.
(4) a dog with a documented history of unprovoked repeated biting that resulted in physical injury of a person or persons. Documentation must consist of medical reports made at or around the time the prior bite incidents occurred which describe the circumstances of the bites, the nature and severity of the injuries, and treatments given for the injuries.
(5) an animal which has bitten a person and is suspected to carry and exhibiting signs of rabies, as determined by a licensed veterinarian.
(i) Upon taking possession of an animal pursuant to this Subsection, the rescue organization shall assume all liability for the animal while the animal is in the custody and control of the organization and shall maintain liability insurance for that purpose; provided that the organization shall not be deemed responsible for harm caused to or by the animal that:
(1) occurred prior to the time the organization assumed possession of the animal; or,
(2) is due to the acts or omissions of a person not associated with the organization.
Section 3. Animal Care
(a) An animal shelter shall provide all animals during the entirety of their shelter stay with fresh, nutritious, species and age appropriate food, access to fresh, clean water at all times, and environmental enrichment to promote their psychological well-being such as socialization, toys and treats, and exercise as needed, but not less than twice daily; except as follows:
(1) Dogs exhibiting vicious behavior towards people or adjudged to be dangerous by a court of competent jurisdiction may but are not required to be exercised during the holding period.
(b) Notwithstanding Subsection (a), an animal shelter shall work with a licensed veterinarian to develop and follow a care protocol for animals with special needs such as, but not limited to, nursing mothers, unweaned animals, sick or injured animals, extremely frightened animals, geriatric animals, or animals needing therapeutic exercise.
(c) During the entirety of their shelter stay, animals shall be provided prompt and necessary cleaning of their litter boxes, cages, kennels, and other living environments no less than two times per day, to ensure environments that are welcoming to the public, hygienic for both the public and animals, and to prevent disease. This cleaning shall be conducted in accordance with a protocol developed in coordination with a licensed veterinarian, and shall require that animals not be exposed to water from hoses or sprays, cleaning solutions, detergents, solvents, and/or chemicals.
(d) During the entirety of their shelter stay, all animals shall be provided with prompt and necessary veterinary care, sufficient to alleviate any pain caused by disease or injury, to prevent a condition from worsening, and to allow them to leave the shelter in reasonable condition including but not limited to preventative vaccinations, cage rest, fluid therapy, pain management, and/or antibiotics.
Section 4. General Provisions
(a) Every animal shelter shall take appropriate action to ensure that all animals are checked as soon as possible, but no more than 24 hours, after impoundment for all currently available methods of identification, including microchips, identification tags, and licenses.
(b) Every animal shelter shall maintain continuously updated lists of animals reported lost and found, and shall regularly, but no less than once daily, check these lists and animals in the shelter for matches, and shall also post a photograph of and information on each stray animal impounded by the shelter on the internet with sufficient detail to allow the animal to be recognized and claimed by its owner.
(c) If a possible owner is identified, the animal shelter shall undertake due diligence to notify the owner or caretaker of the whereabouts of the animal and any procedures available for the lawful recovery of the animal. These efforts shall include, but are not limited to, notifying the possible owner by telephone, mail, and personal service to the last known address.
(d) No animal shelter shall ban, bar, limit or otherwise obstruct the adoption or transfer of any animal based on the animal’s breed, breed mix, species, age, color, appearance, or size.
(e) Every animal shelter shall make available online to the public a monthly and annual summary that includes the following information:
(1) The number of animals impounded;
(2) The number of animals who were killed by the animal shelter, at the animal shelter’s direction, with the animal shelter’s permission, and/or by a representative of the animal shelter;
(3) The number of animals who died, were lost, or were stolen while in the direct or constructive care;
(4) The number of animals who were returned to their owners;
(5) The number of animals who were adopted;
(6) The number of animals who were transferred to other organizations;
(7) The number of animals who were sterilized and then released
Section 5. Euthanasia
(a) No animal shelter shall euthanize any animal simply because the holding periods required by Section 2 have expired. Before an animal is euthanized, all of the following conditions must be met:
(1) There are no empty cages, kennels, or other living environments in the shelter;
(2) The animal cannot share a cage or kennel with another animal;
(3) The shelter has made a plea to foster homes and a foster home is not available;
(4) The notifications required in Section 2 have been made and neither a rescue group, the former owner, or the finder is willing to accept the animal;
(5) The animal cannot be transferred to another shelter with room to house the animal;
(6) The animal is not a healthy community cat (healthy community cats shall be sterilized and returned to their habitats in lieu of killing);
(7) The animal has been determined to be medically untreatable by a licensed veterinarian or a dog is determined to be vicious to people and the prognosis for rehabilitation is determined to be poor to grave by a behaviorist;
(8) All mandates, programs and services of this Act have been met; and,
(9) The director of the animal shelter certifies that he or she has no other alternative and the reasons no alternatives exist.
(b) The determination that all conditions of subsection (a) have been met shall be made in writing, signed by the director of the animal shelter, and be made available for free public inspection for no less than three years.