Monday, April 29, 2013

Texas HB 2981 - Delaware Is The Horrid Example

Now that the hustle and bustle of tax season is over, it's yet again legislation season and time to discuss some of the issues that have plagued our state due to the CAPA (Companion Animal Protection Act) which is also referred to by our state officials as the "Shelter Standards".  CAPA and it's derivatives have been introduced in these various states so far (Texas, Minnesota, Rhode Island, West Virginia).  The only one to move through committee to date is Texas.

Committee Public Hearing

To watch the Texas House committee hearing for the no-kill shelter access bill (aka the "Tax Saving Pet Adoption, Sterilization, and Transfer Act of 2013"), here's the link. Discussion of the bill (HB 2981) starts at 1:36:50 and ends at approximately 2:14:00.

If you watch the hearing, you'll see Ryan Clinton, a Texas no-kill advocate make claims that this bill is going to save taxpayer dollars and that the Hayden bill saved taxpayer dollars in California.  We know that California was in fact using $23 million in state tax dollars each year to pay for the mandate that the state was placing on the community shelters.

In Delaware, state leaders are not required to pay for the unfunded mandates that they place on counties and municipalities.  So that cost has been absorbed by the shelters.  The primary cost drivers of CAPA are the additional hold time since a shelter is required to hold an animal 5 days instead of 3 if the animal is not redeemed by it's owner, or a rescue does not step forward.  The second largest cost would be the administrative burden of more beaurocracy in the form of never ending investigations from multiple state and county officials that require personnel time to copy material for multiple agencies, and litigation costs.

The subject of costs was discussed at great length during Delaware's Animal Welfare Task Force meeting in November.
"Ms. Cavanaugh stated that she didn’t think shelter standards was the cost driver; she felt the cost driver was holding animals for extended periods of time, sometimes years. The cost of caring for an animal is around $10 a day."
While Ms. Cavanaugh seemed to think that cost driver only related to keeping an animal for extended times, the logic makes no sense.  If a shelter is taking in thousands more animals and has to keep those animals 2 days longer, then that $20 per animal adds up quickly.  In fact, part of how Ms. Cavanaugh was bringing down the deficits at her shelter since the shelter chose to become no-kill is to take in less animals.

Delaware SPCA
Deficits since No-Kill Effort Began 2008
Losses going down by taking less animals each year.
2008 (814,100)
2009 (573,154)
2010 (361,163)

2009  -  4,091
2010  -  3,495
2011  -  3,425
2012  -  2,989

2009  -  2,415
2010  -  2,109
2011  -  1,862
2012  -  1,641

As a private shelter, that was her choice, and she has every right to do what is best for her shelter.  And unlike the no-kill advocates, I will always encourage residents to donate to whatever shelter in our state that they choose because the animals are what's important.  But this does show that CAPA requirements on an shelter handling larger numbers of animals is without a doubt a major cost driver.  The fact that Kent County SPCA faced a $450,000 deficit the first year under CAPA is also relevant, as 15,000 animals would amount to $300,000 just based on the additional hold time.
"Ms. Ranji stated that government would not be able to pay for all of this, and non-profits are subject to regulation in many different areas. When entering the business as a non-profit, it is understood that raising funds and contracting would be required to meet requirements to operate."
This statement shows the very attitude of those that wrote and enacted CAPA in our state.  It's ironic that a state that managed to entice an overabundance of banks into the state with less regulation, yet is so willing to place an unfunded mandate on nonprofits who are already struggling in a stagnant economy.  If we were talking about regulations about conditions in a shelter like ensuring animals had proper care and sanitation, it would be understandable, buut CAPA was about using a law that the No-Kill Advocacy wrote to make life more difficult for any shelter that performs euthanasia due to lack of space, nothing more.

So Texas should look at the fact that nearly every Delaware shelter is faced with deficits, the counties are now getting less services for the same dollar, and the state is now proposing the setup of a new Animal Welfare Office that they estimate will cost $500,000 which will no doubt fail to fix our mess anyway.  So I find it amazing that Ryan Clinton would claim that  the Texas bill will save taxpayer dollars, and that Laura Handzel, legislative lawyer and programming and policy analyst for Best Friends would also make such a ludicrous claim.  The fiscal note attached to this bill is equally ridiculous.

Will Legislators Listen To Shelter Professionals or the No-Kill Hate Group

On the other hand, the committee hearing in TX also included various shelter professionals that testified that HB 2981 would in fact be an unfunded mandate on communities and shelters.  And that even with the additional protections regarding background checks in their bill that cities and counties would bear the cost of investigating rescues far and wide, that animals would end up released to poorly run rescues, and the many issues that come with releasing an animal to rescues during a hold period.

The evidence to legislators is clear. CAPA is costly to shelters and communities, harmful to animals, and as you can see from Delaware and the fact that a Task Force had to be created - state legislators and local officials will be inundated with complaints and drama in the name of no-kill.

The answer seems simple, but we can only wait and see if legislators in Texas listen to the shelter professionals that have detailed the costs and reasons HB 2981 is harmful, or will they listen  to advocates of a movement that spends the majority of their energy creating negative campaigns against everyone from the large organizations like PETA, HSUS, and ASPCA to small businesses.

In fact, this is the same no-kill movement that has recently encouraged a group known for hacktivism to go after another animal welfare organization, and also used that same group to discourage dissenting opinions by claiming Anonymous sent them an email that the group would be watching and telling dissenters to "take heed".  Clearly I choose to listen to the facts, and the facts presented by the shelter professionals are backed up by data. And I can't imagine why any legislator would give credence to a movement that feels such a needs to threaten and intimidate, and who's actions more closely resemble Westboro Baptist than an animal advocacy group.  Let's hope Texas legislators have more sense than those in Delaware.