UPDATE – April 23, 2021: The Senate committee voted to approve HB21-1160, but only after making significant changes to it. We are analyzing the amendments. If you live in Colorado, stay tuned for further actions to take.
ORIGINAL POST – April 21, 2021:
On Thursday, April 23, the Colorado Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee will consider Colorado bill HB21-1160, also known as the “Colorado Socially Conscious Sheltering Act.” Though the name of the bill sounds promising, it would in fact weaken protections and allow Colorado’s shelters to kill more cats.
Alley Cat Allies President and Founder Becky Robinson sent a letter to the Senate Committee urging members to vote against the bill, and we are rallying our supporters in Colorado to speak out for cats and kittens.
When it comes to animal laws, even well-intentioned legislation can wind up doing more harm than good if language is not clear, careful, and precise. Such is the case for HB21-1160.
The bill does direct that “healthy” and “safe” dogs and cats should be adopted out, returned to their owners or transferred to another animal shelter or pet animal rescue. However, its definitions of “healthy” and “safe” are highly subjective and leave too much room for shelters to misuse or misinterpret them and choose to kill cats.
The bill says a “healthy” cat “exhibits no signs of illness or injury or exhibits signs of illness of injury for which there is a realistic prognosis for a good quality of life.” But with these vague parameters, a community cat entering a shelter with the sniffles or a scratch on her leg could be deemed not “safe” or “healthy.” The bill has no objective criteria to explicitly prevent this interpretation.
As such, the shelter would not be obligated to find a lifesaving outcome for the cat and could kill her instead.
Similarly, the bill says a “safe” cat “has not exhibited behavior that is likely to result in bodily injury or death to another human being.” This language could also be deadly. A feral cat, and ANY cat, can become extraordinarily stressed in a shelter environment. Under this stress, they can exhibit behavior that is often misunderstood and causes them to be labeled as “dangerous.”
The bill’s attempt to exempt community cats would not go far enough to save their lives, because it relies on a determination of the cat’s level of socialization, or friendliness and adoptable potential, to humans. Shelter and rescue workers frequently lack the training to make this accurate determination of a cat’s level of socialization, so they can make the wrong one.
A cat’s life should not be left to a flawed “judgment call” that could differ between shelters, staff members, or even change by the day.