Lawmakers go to bat for abandoned, seized pets

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ALBANY — Abandoned and abused dogs and cats will see improved conditions at shelters and rescue organizations because of legislation approved at the statehouse, according to advocates for the humane treatment of animals.

“This is going to raise the standards for shelters and rescue across the board,” said Libby Post, executive director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation. The organization advocates for animal shelters across the state.

Supporters of the measure say it is designed to ensure that animals most in need get the best care while waiting to be adopted.

It will require shelters and rescues to ensure they provide safe and humane conditions, with proper nourishment, veterinary care and cleaning.

“This is one of the most consequential pieces of legislation for animal shelters and rescues,” said Stacie Haynes, federation president and director of the Susquehanna SPCA near Cooperstown.

The legislation was overwhelmingly approved in both the state Senate and Assembly in the final days of the 2022 legislative session.

“What this does is create a level playing field for everybody to meet a set of standards developed by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians,” Post said.

The Federation’s Companion Animal Capital Fund, which has attracted some $28 million in state funding in recent years, is expected to help shelters and rescue organizations reach the new standards when they take effect in three years.

Post said the implementation timetable for the standards will leave the organizations sufficient time to make whatever alterations and improvements may be necessary to pass upcoming state inspections.

The Federation’s education fund has received $147,000 from the state to assist shelters and rescues understand the standards called for in the legislation.

“We’re not leaving folks out in the cold,” Post said. “We’ll be with them every step of the way to help them provide the best care for homeless companion animals.”

Advocates began pushing for the new standards more than a decade ago.

Given the strong backing the measure received from lawmakers, Post said she is optimistic it will be signed into law once reviewed by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The legislation would require all shelters to be licensed and overseen by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. Inspections would be carried out by the agency’s division of animal industry.

The state bureaucracy is already involved in regulating dog licensing and setting the standards for the humane care of seized companion animals, as well as the inspection of municipal shelters.

While that state agency would likely need to hire additional inspectors, Post said the department will see one mission — inspecting the conditions of companion animals at pet shops — reduced as the result of passage this year of a measure that prohibits the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits at those retail outlets.

She said her organization will seek to convince lawmakers next year to ensure Agriculture and Markets gets adequate funding in the state budget.

The lead sponsors of the measure are Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Westchester County, and Sen. Joseph Addabbo, D-Queens.

“So many of our homes and families have been blessed by the companionship of a loving animal,” Paulin said. “It’s wonderful to now be one step closer to ensuring that they’ll receive the high degree of care they deserve.”

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