While our state has been the only state foolish enough to pass the Companion Animal Protection Act in the last 4 years, once again we are in the legislative season and state like Maryland and Florida currently have similar legislation in the works.
The Unfunded Mandate
It was nice to see that Maryland at least is honest in their fiscal analysis of the bill, although given what Delaware has seen with the many fruitless complaints and investigations, I suspect Maryland's analysis is still very conservative.
If you recall, the Delaware legislature showed it's typical lack of transparency by not including a fiscal note for CAPA (SB280) when the bill was passed here. Many from the start said this would be an unfunded mandate, but denial in our legislature is all too common.
The State of Delaware passed CAPA in 2010, and it has been horrible legislation for the taxpayers and for the animals of our state. We are a small state that has a population of around 900,000 people, but this legislation still had a significant impact on our state. Here are just some of the highlights of the costs we've seen, and there is no denying that reality that CAPA is costly:
- A new office had to be created under public health to clean up the mess that was created by CAPA at a cost of $700,000.
- Per our public health agency, the cost of dog control contracts across the state have increased from $2.37 million to $3.2 million for a total increase of $830,000. And there may be millions more to come as that office looks at the state possibly taking over dog control to fix the mess that has been made with CAPA.
- At the same time as the costs increased, services have gone down. (Less hours. Shelters no longer handle other stray livestock issues, leaving residents handling sometimes dangerous situations on their own. Shelters no longer handle cruelty cases in many cases. Shelter intake of cats only occurs if a spot opens up, so cat intake rarely happens even if it is sickly or severely injured cat because of the "irremediably suffering" clause in CAPA that has cost shelters in personnel and attorney costs due to the continual complaints questioning the disposition of individual animals.)
- The Kent County SPCA shelter, now known as First State Animal Center, was handling dog control for all 3 of our counties when CAPA went into effect and faced a financial deficit of $450,000 the first year under CAPA.
- Due to the drama that was created under CAPA, my county of Kent awarded the dog control to a "No-Kill" shelter called Safe Haven that went bankrupt within 18 months and left a slew of businesses with debts in the process, not to mention some horrific conditions for the animals during their tenure.
- Another shelter, Delaware SPCA, which has been in operation for 140 years is also teetering due to the financial costs of CAPA and becoming "No-Kill".
Deficits since No-Kill Effort Began 2008
Losses going down by taking less animals each year.
2012 (4,782) *
*(this loss was lowered by the investment returns of $200-300,000 more than previous years, so the shelter was fortunate there was a booming stock market)
And above is just some of the monetary costs of CAPA. This doesn't even take into account the many citizens that have had to pay the price for the many cats dumped onto their properties as a result of the doors shutting at shelters when it comes to cats. CAPA is expensive and the costs keep coming.
Cats, Cats, & More Cats - A Public Health Nightmare
One bright spot in the first hearing of CAPA in Maryland was the testimony by Dr. Katherine A. Feldman, D.V.M., the Maryland State Public Health Veterinarian, who is clearly well qualified on zoonotic and infectious diseases.
The full public hearing can be watched at this link - SB0876. (Also note the run around when the fiscal note and TNR are discussed by supporters. 'Shall', 'may', 'the law doesn't require' - it sounds like the same nonsense here that we hear legislators use to get around fiscal disclosure requirement. Who writes a law if they don't intend for it to require something???) Whereas Dr. Feldman's information, was clear, direct, and straightforward.
Even if we were to ignore the cost burden that residents in Delaware have taken on as a result of CAPA and the many residents now dealing with large numbers of cats, there is also a public safety danger as well. Delaware's Public Health agency has clearly ignored that danger by not hiring a veterinarian trained in public health as we can see Maryland has. But even without a vet, Public Health in our state does handle bites to humans, and could clearly speak up if they chose to since they obviously have medical doctors trained in infectious disease. Unfortunately that agency in our state doesn't appear to have the same courage as Dr. Feldman to speak up on the issues even as we see continue to see hoarding issues and residents coming into contact with rabid cats.
"More than 50 cats in and around a woman's house in Bear, Del. are being killed after one of her kittens tested positive for rabies, public health officials said late Thursday." - USA Today, November 14, 2014So advocates can play with words, and attempt to say that the same thing won't happen in Maryland, but placing unfunded mandates on communities will result in exactly the same thing as Maryland shelter doors start to shut to avoid the never ending complaints and investigations.
MD's CAPA Even More Toxic Than Delaware's - Releasing Dangerous Animals
While dangerous dogs have clearly been an issue in Delaware, it will be an even worse issue under Maryland's CAPA legislation. Here is the verbage that takes away the ability to use temperament testing in making euthanasia decisions. A shelter should not be required to place employees and volunteers in danger by waiting for someone to be hurt, maimed, or killed by a dog, nor should the public who is adopting be placed in danger. So it is ludicrous to take away the only tool in the arsenal for establishing whether a dog is a "clear and present danger", especially without defining what would constitute proof under number 3 of "clear and present danger".
(II) ANIMAL BEHAVIOR TESTING MAY BE THE SOLE REASON TO DETERMINE THAT A DOG MAY BE EUTHANIZED IF:
1. THE DOG HAS BEEN DEEMED “DANGEROUS” UNDER STATE OR LOCAL LAW AND ALL APPEALS HAVE BEEN EXHAUSTED;
2. THE DOG HAS A DOCUMENTED HISTORY OF UNPROVOKED BITING BEFORE THE CURRENT IMPOUNDMENT THAT HAS RESULTED IN SEVERE INJURY TO A HUMAN BEING OR ANOTHER ANIMAL; OR
3. THE DOG IS A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER"But then again, as I've said before, CAPA's ridiculous language and logic is a lawyer's best friend.
Another section that is clearly a public health concern for dangerous dogs is the section that exempts shelters from liability for releasing dangerous dogs:
"(C) UNLESS AN ANIMAL SHELTER IS GROSSLY NEGLIGENT, THE ANIMAL SHELTER SHALL BE IMMUNE FROM ANY CLAIM FOR PERSONAL INJURY OR PROPERTY DAMAGE ARISING FROM AN ADOPTION, A TRANSFER, OR THE FOSTERING OF AN ANIMAL IN THE ANIMAL SHELTER’S CUSTODY, INCLUDING A CLAIM BROUGHT BY A THIRD PARTY.The idea of protecting shelters from liability may sound noble, but while many shelters are responsible and do their best to make sure adopters acquire a safe friendly pet, lawmakers in Maryland need to consider the fact that SOME shelters do hold and adopt out dangerous dogs, and without the ability to use temperament testing you will essentially be making every shelter make similarly poor decisions.
Case in point is the recent dog offered for adoption at one of our shelters who was declared "potentially dangerous" by a dangerous dog panel put in place by our state Office of Animal Welfare. As you can see in this dangerous dog hearing transcript, this is not a dog that most of us would consider to be kid and dog friendly, but that is exactly how he is being marketed, despite the fact that he severely injured 2 dogs who eventually died.
It's bad enough that some shelters choose to market in this manner, but I hope that Maryland legislators don't pass a bill like CAPA that will force all of your shelters into making foolish choices like this, by no longer allowing them to use temperament tests so they can do their best to make sure a dog they hold and adopt out will not harm your children or your pets. And if CAPA is passed in MD and a tragedy occurs, I certainly hope that residents hold the feet of any legislator that supported CAPA to the fire when a shelter dog hurts or kills someone's child, because supporting a bill that takes away a shelter's only means to ensure the safety of their staff and the safety of your residents would clearly be reckless on the part of the lawmaker that supports CAPA, not to mention taking away an adopters legal rights to seek compensation for the harm done to them.
CAPA is costly, it results in more cruelty by leaving animals on the streets to suffer, and it will affect the quality of life for your residents and their pets. Maryland CAPA (HB0876) will become a weapon of mass harassment as we saw occur in Delaware, and as such will cost even more than the fiscal note attached has estimated. So I encourage lawmakers in Maryland to vote NO on this bill so that you don't end up with the same mess that has occurred in Delaware. Your residents deserve laws that protect animals like (HB0153) which prevents dogs from being left out in extreme weather, not laws like CAPA (HB0876) that place your residents and pets in danger, and will result in more animals being left on the streets.