Chairman Eldridge, Chairman Donato and members of the Committee, I would like to offer testimony in support of my bill H. 3704, An Act Relative to the Regulation of Animal Shelters.This bill would allow regulations to ensure the health and safety of animals in shelters and rescue organizations within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
While there are many animal shelters and rescue organizations that are well run in Massachusetts, there is an increasing problem among new organizations that have no concept of how to safely operate a shelter or rescue. More of these start-up organizations were operating in an unacceptable manner. These organizations were importing animals from out of state, and some were meeting adopters on highways, in hotels or even abandoned parking lots. These animals were off loaded directly to the adopters, often with no Interstate Health Certificates issues and little or no records kept. Some of the issues with these animals involved wounds of unknown origin, various serious contagious diseases and behavioral problems. In some instances there were no veterinarians examining these animals.
When a contagious, potentially fatal disease manifests, it is necessary to track where an animal went after delivery. Most of these starting shelters and rescues had no records of where all the animals went, making it impossible to trace them. Records of where they came from were also frequently non-existent. These infected animals could contaminate previously owned pets or any other animals they contacted, with a potentially fatal contagious disease.
Adequate record keeping appeared to be an issue for some in state rescues and shelters as well. There was no central registry for potential adopters to know who the responsible shelters or rescues were, and some organizations operating under these titles were actually “for profit” businesses. Start-up organizations had no concept on how to safely operate a shelter or rescue.
On May 26, 2005, the Department of Agricultural Resources (Department) issued an Emergency Order requiring all rescues and shelters to register with the Department. These organizations were ordered to: obtain proof of being a non-profit; to keep certain records, including a description and ID of each animal, and the name, address and phone numbers of where each animal originated and where each went; and to complete veterinary records including mortality when applicable. Additional requirements for imported animals required a minimum of 48 hours of isolation in an approved facility, and an examination by a Massachusetts veterinarian.
Since the 2005 Emergency Order, the number of animals that need assistance has increased, as has the number of start-up rescues and shelters. It has become apparent that the provisions of the Emergency Order are necessary on a permanent basis. H. 3704 would authorize the Department to promulgate regulations to better protect animal health in Massachusetts. These rules and regulations would involve issues of importation, transportation, housing, and medical treatment. The regulatory process would address the needs of the various interested parties, and the animals they intend to assist. Additionally, its flexibility would permit changes to be made more easily when necessary.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter. I strongly encourage the Committee to adopt a favorable report for H. 3704 as expeditiously as possible.