DENVER — A bipartisan group of Colorado lawmakers has introduced a bill to stop the euthanasia of healthy, well-behaved dogs and cats in pet shelters.
House bill 21-1160 specifies that no healthy animal would be allowed to be killed based solely on the amount of time they have been held at the rescue or due to overcrowding in the shelter.
As a state, over the past decade Colorado has been able to significantly reduce the number of animals euthanized in shelters by establishing a collaborative transfer program so that shelters that cannot accommodate an animal’s unique health or behavioral needs can be moved to ones that can.
“Over the last couple years what we have seen take place in a really major way is a lot more collaboration among shelters so that smaller shelters and less resource shelters are able to really access and draw on the resources that larger shelters have,” said Anna Stout, the co-chair of the Animal Welfare Association of Colorado advocacy committee.
This transfer program can also help with situations of overcrowding. Statewide, Colorado has a more than 90 percent live release rate.
Currently, Colorado law specifies that an animal must be held for at least five days so that their owner has a chance to claim them. The animal is then able to be adopted out or, depending on the circumstance, euthanized.
“I can tell you as the director of a shelter no one in this industry takes any pleasure in having to make that decision to euthanize. It’s one of the hardest parts of our job. It’s something that makes it hard to sleep at night,” Stout said.
Stout supports the bill because she says it will set a floor of minimum standards for shelters to follow while not prohibiting shelters from taking additional measures to protect cats and dogs. She believes the legislation could set a national standard for animal welfare moving forward.
However, the bill is not without its critics. Some worry that rural shelters will become overrun with animals, that it will create a financial strain for shelters or that will create overcrowding.
Others don’t believe that this bill goes far enough in protecting animals.
‘I wouldn’t even say it’s a good first step. Yes, it sets a bar that doesn’t exist currently in Colorado as far as what animals are protected from euthanasia, but if we’re going to create a bill why not include healthy and treatable animals not just healthy and safe,” said Kathy Gaines, the assistant executive director of the Max Fund Animal Adoption Center.
The Max Fund is a no-kill shelter that takes in animals that have been abused or neglected.
Gaines would like the bill’s language to be modified to include animals who have a health condition that can be treated. She would like that same protection to be extended to dogs and cats that have a behavioral issue or are aggressive that could be treated through therapy to make them an adoptable pet.
“Our argument is it’s a confusing bill. It’s a vague bill. We want to sit down with the other side and have our voices be heard and have some say in the language in an effort to keep marginalized animals from potentially being euthanized,” Gaines said.
Nevertheless, supporters say this bill is a good first step to set the minimum requirements for animal welfare in the state.
The bill faced its first committee test Monday.