Colorado law designed to ensure high standard, ‘socially conscious’ animal shelters

Colorado House chambers at the state Capitol
Colorado House chambers at the state Capitol. Photo: Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

I like this law which is currently going through the Colorado legislature. Not everyone does who is involved in debating it but it appeals to me. I particularly like the concept of setting standards which create “socially conscious shelters”. I interpret that as a step higher in the scale of quality from “no-kill” shelters.

It is Colorado Senate Bill 20-164 and the summary of the bill explains what it’s all about:

The bill specifies the standard of care that each animal shelter and pet animal rescue is required to provide each dog and cat held in its custody. The bill also requires each animal shelter and pet animal rescue to adopt out each dog and cat in its custody, return the animal to its owner, or transfer it to another animal shelter or pet animal rescue if the dog or cat:

  • Exhibits no signs of illness or injury or exhibit signs of illness or injury for which there is a realistic prognosis for a good quality of life;
  • Demonstrates a willingness to interact socially with humans; and
  • Has not exhibited behaviour that is likely to result in bodily injury or death to another animal or human being.

Comment: the use of the word ‘pet’ could have been ‘companion animal’ which is a more respectful term. And referring to animals as ‘it’ is not clever nowadays. The word ‘them’ could have been used instead in this instance. Other than that it is nice.

The Colorado Sun newspaper described it as a bill which stops dogs and cats from being euthanized in shelters for lack of space. It’s almost certain to become a statute in Colorado and its impact will be small but that’s a good thing because the standard of care for dogs and cats at shelters in this state is already high, it seems to me. This statute really is a method of setting a standard and trying to maintain it but, as I understand it, there are no penalties or sanctions for shelters who fail to reach the standards.

This bill creates a standard of care, which most shelters already operate under, but we are making it very clear in our statute that we want to protect animals that find themselves in shelters.-Sen Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat who is championing the bill.

Chris Nelson, director of animal services for the La Plata County Humane Society had some concerns about whether the bill might create challenges for shelters that struggle with overcrowding.

It is interesting too that one reason why the La Plata County Humane Society shelter has a 2 to 3% euthanise rate i.e. very low, is because of the success of TNR in the area.

Jennifer Crouse, the shelter supervisor for the City of Cortez’s animal shelter, said that her facility had at one time struggled with overcrowding but by significantly increasing the transportation of cats and dogs to other shelters over the past few years overcrowding had disappearing. Her shelter’s euthanasia rate has gone down by about 60%, she said.

Some Republicans objected to the bill, one of whom is Sen Bob Gardner, a Colorado Springs Republican who said that it was “feel-good legislation” and no more. He disagreed that it set a standard of care because the standard of care already exists. And the bill does not help the cat or dog who has been improperly euthanised. Further, the bill does not protect animals other than cats and dogs, as I understand it.

Comment: I see value in the legislation because although the shelters in Colorado are working to a good standard that might not always be the case. Therefore it is always useful to have standards set in legislation which can be referred to at all times as a reminder and as a guide. It is about changing mindsets and attitudes which will ensure that going forward standards continue to improve.



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