Rescue Dogs in Danger

rescue dogWanna guess how this pup feels about HB 1445? (Photo via iStockphoto.)

Today is Humane Lobby Day at the Massachusetts State House, and pet owners have their hackles raised over a bill that may thwart — and can potentially end — the efforts of rescue groups across the state. The bill, HB 1445, is fairly innocuous on its first read, as it essentially provides the Department of Agriculture with unfettered control over rescue and shelter organizations. But several area rescue groups are concerned that such unlimited oversight will limit the degree to which volunteers can take in and foster dogs, cats, and other animals in their homes while they help to arrange adoptions.

Draft legislation, which is currently under consideration and which could potentially be implemented if HB 1445 passes, could create such tough restrictions that “it would effectively shut down rescue groups from functioning,” says Samantha Krasner, a volunteer with PAWS New England who is also an attorney in Boston. Some of the proposed restrictions include ensuring that foster homes are carpet-free and would need to have special washing facilities installed to bathe animals. It could also call for rescue groups, many of which operate as nonprofit volunteer networks out of homes, to have a physical space where people can pick up their pets. Additional veterinary visits could also be required if an animal was brought in from another state — a costly, and largely unnecessary measure, says Krasner, as dogs and other rescue animals are required by federal law to be examined and certified by vets before they can enter a foster system. What’s more, such unchecked oversight could potentially mean that Department of Agriculture representatives could drop in on foster homes at any time, which raises privacy concerns for anyone who is part of a foster network.

Krasner says that PAWS and other rescue organizations support some oversight, but they worry that the proposed restrictions that could take effect under HB 1445 will make the process of rescuing an animal so difficult and cost-prohibitive that it would effectively end the work of foster groups throughout the state. And that wouldn’t just make it harder for residents here to adopt rescue animals, she says, but it could potentially throw off an entire system. Animals who arrive at high-kill shelters throughout the country often get sent here to be adopted, and she and others worry that should this law go into effect, it would potentially put a lot more animals on death row.

Rescue groups are lobbying their representatives today at the State House, have a petition circulating, and there’s a forum scheduled on May 1 from 1-5 p.m. to discuss the bill. Let’s hope that these rescue groups and animal rights organizations do their part to ensure that potential rescue pets in Massachusetts can find safe homes, and that legislators come to their senses.