The following letter by Becky Robinson was sent in response to legislation being considered by the Colorado Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on a bill that will create an unacceptable threshold for cats and dogs to be “euthanized,” i.e., killed, in Colorado’s animal shelters and pet animal rescues.
April 20, 2021
Sen. Kerry Donovan, Chair
Sen. Jessie Danielson, Vice Chair
Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee
200 E. Colfax
Denver, CO 80203
Dear Chairperson Donovan, Vice-Chair Danielson and Members of the Committee:
On behalf of Alley Cat Allies and our over 19,000 supporters in Colorado, I urge you to vote no on HB21-1160, Care of Dogs And Cats in Pet Animal Facilities, also known as the “Colorado Socially Conscious Sheltering Act.” If enacted into law as it is currently written, this bill will create an unacceptable threshold for cats and dogs to be “euthanized,” i.e., killed, in Colorado’s animal shelters and pet animal rescues.
Alley Cat Allies is the leading advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and improving the lives of all cats. We have promoted sound and compassionate policies for cats since our founding in 1990, and we regularly work with lawmakers, shelters, and the public to change attitudes and advance lifesaving laws and policies that best serve the interests of cats.
This bill would introduce subjective criteria for the killing of cats and dogs throughout Colorado, a significant mistake that would open the door to many more deaths in the state’s shelters and rescues. Cats are sentient creatures, each with their own innate value. Killing cats is never an acceptable approach in our compassionate society. In a 2017 Harris Poll, 84 percent of Americans said they prefer their community use tax dollars to adopt sterilization as its cat control policy instead of bringing cats outdoors into shelters to be killed.
Subjective Decisions to Kill
HB21-1160 includes language that is so imprecise that it would allow untold numbers of animals to be killed in shelters and rescues. The bill directs 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. Please see Section 35-80-106.6, Sections (2)(a) and (2)(b):
- “Healthy” means that a dog or cat exhibits no signs of illness or injury or exhibits signs of illness or injury for which there is a realistic prognosis for a good quality of life.
- “Safe” means that a dog or cat has not exhibited behavior that is likely to result in bodily injury or death to another animal or human being.
Including these definitions could be deadly for community cats, sometimes called feral cats. Section (2)(a), does not indicate how significant an “illness or injury” must be for a dog or cat to qualify for nonlethal care. Many community cats enter shelters with minor sniffles and scratches, and such imprecise language would allow shelters and rescues to arbitrarily decide to kill these animals. Similarly, while Section (2)(b) calls for an assessment of behavior to determine if a dog or cat is “safe,” the bill includes no objective criteria for such an assessment. All cats, especially feral or community cats, can become extraordinarily stressed when entering shelters or rescues, exhibiting behavior that is often misunderstood. Without objective measurements on what is “healthy” or “safe,” this bill would have the opposite effect from its stated intent, and place cats and dogs throughout Colorado at a major risk of being killed.
The bill’s attempt to exclude unsocialized cats is also inadequate. Please see section (7)(a):
(7) Nothing in this section (a) applies to a cat that was not socialized to people during its behavioral development and therefore does not allow itself to be handled.
Cats who are living in groups, or colonies, exhibit a wide range of socialization to humans. Shelter and rescue workers frequently lack the training to make an accurate determination of a cat’s level of socialization. As such, the state should not be giving them such discretion to determine which cats will be subject to the arbitrary and deadly decisions called for by this bill.
We agree with the sentiment of the bill to improve life-saving outcomes for ALL ANIMALS who enter shelters and rescues. However, the subjective decisions that the bill calls for could have the opposite effect, and lead to more animals being killed. For this reason, we urge you to vote no on HB21-1160 on behalf of your constituents, our supporters, and Colorado’s cats.
President & Founder, Alley Cat Allies
cc: Rep. Monica Duran
Rep. Matt Soper
Sen. Don Coram
Sen. Joann Ginal