The City Council in Pueblo, Colorado, took a strong stand on Monday against the euthanasia of animals at its city-funded animal shelters. The council passed the Pueblo Animal Protection Act (PAPA), which requires that Pueblo Animal Services maintain a save rate above 90 percent, meaning that over 90 percent of animals entering the shelter must leave alive. The ordinance goes into effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Alley Cat Allies wrote a letter of support in December 2017 for the proposal, which also bans the shelter from killing healthy community, or feral, cats. We thank the Pueblo City Council for recognizing that shelters are capable of protecting all of the animals in their care and should be held to the highest standards.

The ordinance created a set of protocols that must be followed before an animal is euthanized. An animal must be held for a five-day period, and only if there is no alternative can staff perform euthanasia. In each case, the shelter director must explain why no alternative existed. The legislation also requires that standards set forth by the American Veterinary Medical Association are applied to shelters. These standards state that only a veterinarian or a trained veterinary technician under the supervision of a veterinarian can euthanize an animal.

These standards are intended to press shelter staff to find the best and most humane ways to get animals out of the shelter and into suitable homes—indoors or outdoors. In the case of community cats, who are not socialized and not suitable for adoption, that means supporting Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), the quickest and most effective method to get unadoptable cats out of the shelter and safely back to their outdoor homes.

The PAPA prohibits shelters from killing “a healthy community cat which can be sterilized and then released,” which further supports TNR efforts in the city. In a nation where 70 percent of all cats, and virtually 100 percent of community cats, are killed in animal shelters, this is a vital change. The new ordinance requires all tax-funded animal shelters to “use all currently available methods of identification, including microchips, identification tags, and licenses to identify the animal and its owner” and be proactive in notifying owners and caregivers if their animal is identified. These measures will help more cats return to where they belong, whether in community cat colonies or indoors with people.

All city-funded animal shelters will be required to provide monthly reports of their functions and outcomes of their animals to the city council under the new ordinance. These reports will help the city ensure shelters are following the Act’s lifesaving protocols and identify if any changes need to be made. The reports will also be available to the public, so citizens can learn how their shelters operate. People want to support shelters they know are doing everything possible to save animals’ lives. This transparency will likely help shelters increase adoptions, attract volunteers, and rally the support of the community.

The standards for animal welfare are improving around the nation, and this new ordinance propels the City of Pueblo to the forefront of that movement. Alley Cat Allies encourages communities across the United States to adopt similar legislation and use the PAPA as a model to protect and improve all shelter animals’ lives.