The Governor of Delaware just signed the most sweeping, progressive companion animal protection legislation in the United States. The law was modeled on the No Kill Advocacy Center's Companion Animal Protection Act and spearheaded by the non-profit No Kill shelter Faithful Friends, in Wilmington, Delaware, and involved groups like Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary.
Like Oreo’s Law sought to do, the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act mandates collaboration between shelters and rescue groups. A shelter cannot kill an animal if a rescue group is willing to save that animal's life. But that is just the beginning. It also makes convenience killing illegal—shelters can no longer kill an animal when there are available cages or the animals can share a cage or kennel with another one.
What amazed me most watching this story unfold, was that when I first read this story on the No Kill Delaware website, I was also outraged as I saw the picture of Neo and how beautiful and healthy he was when he was transferred to Canine Nation.
But as the first Craiglist postings began to appear after the state report was allegedly completed, I saw the picture of the dog that No Kill Delaware now also shows on their website (screenshot below). I'm now shocked to find that this group who claims to be advocates for the No Kill movement in Delaware actually think a dog in the condition show should have been returned to it's owner. In one Craiglist posting someone actually claimed that this dog's condition was the result of being on the streets for under a week. I've had dogs that were ill for a short period and they were never in the condition that this poor dog was in. While the No Kill Delaware website notes that the dog has wounds on its face, the news story mentions bite wounds over his whole body. Was this the reason for the faceshot?
After further research, I found that she is on the Board of Directors for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary of Sussex County. Below is a screenshot from the Safe Haven site listing the board of directors.
I had noticed on their Facebook page that there were many positive posts about Safe Haven and Faithful Friends, while there had been negative posts about Kent County SPCA and Delaware SPCA, but I didn't realize that there was a direct connection to Safe Haven. I don't know whether the Safe Haven organization would also advocate for an animal in the condition pictured to be returned to the person or organization that placed his life in jeopardy, but the fact that they sit by and watch one of their board of directors act in this manner for months makes me suspect that may be the case.
As I recall, Safe Haven has stated in past news articles that once their shelter is completed that they would like take over animal control for Sussex County. If their viewpoint of animal welfare is in line with their Board Secretary, I have great concern about that. I also have concern about the fact that my taxpayer dollars, through the USDA and DNREC, are going to support such an organization.
If CAPA was really about collaboration, it has failed miserably. If there was collaboration, why aren't other shelters standing by Kent County SPCA for not returning this dog Neo to what appears to be an extremely cruel situation? Why does Safe Haven have someone on their board that would send this dog back to that situation? I don't know the reason Neo was euthanized, but I believe that the picture provides sufficient proof that the care he was receiving before he was picked up in Wilmington was at the very least negligent, and I don't think he should have been returned to that situation.
I hope other states consider this case as they look at similar legislation. Laws like CAPA (Companion Animal Protection Act) say that a shelter has to transfer dogs to a 501c3 non-profit willing to take the animal. In essence, they take away the shelter's ability to make sound judgment in such transfers. Legislators have opened the door of animal shelters in their state to animal resellers, dog fight rings, and other unscrupulous players by allowing them to acquire animals free of charge and possibly subjecting them to fates similar to Neo's. Are our lawmakers really so naive that they believe that non-profits can't be setup easily or can't have malevolent intentions?
Because of my state's experience to date, I totally disagree with Nathan Winogad's statement that Delaware's passage of CAPA was a victory for our state. Unfortunately, the Neo case shows that there can be a worse fate than death, and supporters of these laws need to take responsibility for these cases when their laws take away a shelter's ability to use sound judgment that is in the best interest of the animal.