By Elisa Black-Taylor
New Florida State Bills could improve animal shelter accountability. There are two new state bills. One has passed and the other is still in the works. These bills are definitely a step in the right direction in putting the spotlight on shelters and other animal intake places by making them publicly accountable for about everything that goes on regarding the animals they take in.
FLORIDA SB674 PASSED
The Florida State Senate Agriculture Committee passed SB674 by unanimous vote this week, and the new law will go into effect July 1, 2013. This bill deals with making shelters accountable for the more than 250,000 dogs and cats that enter their shelters this year who are euthanized. Under current law, shelters still have a veil of secrecy hanging over them as to statistics they release to the public. We have to assume the number reported is accurate and true. These include how many animals are euthanized each year and under what circumstances.
SB674 states “that each public or private animal shelter, humane organization, or animal control agency operated by a humane society, county, municipality or other incorporated political subdivision that accepts taxpayer money must prepare and maintain specified records.”
It’s estimated that up to half of all cats and dogs turned into Florida shelters are euthanized.
WHAT SB674 WILL DO
The bill has several key benefits including:
- Total number of dogs and cats taken in divided into species and categorized by (a) surrendered by owner, (b) stray (c) impounded, (d) confiscated and (e) brought into the state. Feral cats will be recorded as a separate category
- Disposition of all animals by (a) adoption, (b) reclaimed by owner, (c) death in kennel, (d) destruction at owner’s request, (e) transfer to other public or private shelter that accepts taxpayer dollars, (f) euthanasia
These records must be made available to the public on request at a charge not exceeding $1 per one-sided page.
FLORIDA SB872 INTRODUCED
There is also a second bill introduced by Senator Joe Abruzzo called Transparency in Animal Shelters Act. This bill, SB872, would require monthly statistics as to the number of animals taken in and how many are euthanized. It will affect shelters, pounds, humane societies, any society against cruelty to animals and also the dog control officer in each respective county. This means more paperwork for the above, but the executive director of each animal intake would have to sign off that the statistics are accurate. Then this information would have to be posted on each organizations website so the public can see what’s happening.
THESE SB’S NEED TO BECOME FEDERAL
I LOVE the idea of these bills, not just for Florida, but as a consideration for other states to follow suit. I wish they could become a federal law all at once instead of the slow process of state by state, should any other states decide to follow Florida’s example. Of course, I also realize that would never happen. I can imagine how much more paperwork will be required for everyone affected.
A lot of people have asked me whether or not people realize taking a pet to the shelter means that pet may be euthanized. I believe anyone with even an ounce of common sense knows the risk and do it anyway. The horrible truth is that owner turn-in’s are usually exempt for a holding period and may be euthanized immediately. I’m grateful there are many shelters out there who go above and beyond what is expected of them in finding homes for the animals. The shelter we rescued from in Greenville, SC was one that fought very hard not to euthanize an animal.
WOULD ANIMAL SHELTER’S TRY HARDER?
Perhaps a bill such as SB872 would encourage local shelters to try harder to find a home for these animals, knowing their community is keeping tabs on their website. Cat and dog lovers don’t like the shelters in this country that have a high kill reputation, even though it may not be the shelters fault in most of these cases. In some cases, the shelter is to blame. For example, cases where rescues have spoken up to pull an animal and the animal is killed anyway. I feel those shelters who kill more than average would lose donations and taxpayer money, while those who work hard through community events and social media to find a home for the abandoned will see more monetary support.
What do the readers here think? Your comments are welcome.