Colorado lawmakers address pet overcrowding with new bill possible

By Brian Michel on February 2, 2024

Per report from CBS Denver, rights groups in Colorado are collaborating to address the issue of overcrowded animal shelters by proposing limitations on the sale of puppies and kittens. State lawmakers are now assisting in this effort by considering a bill to strengthen sterilization laws.

In the past, CBS News Colorado has highlighted the fact that certain rescue organizations are bypassing the existing law. These “retail rescues” or puppy flippers bring in thousands of puppies from out of state each year. Due to a legal loophole, they are able to sell these animals immediately upon arrival, without having them spayed or neutered.

While the current law prohibits shelters and rescues from selling or releasing unsterilized dogs and cats, there are exceptions. The Commissioner of Agriculture can waive sterilization requirements in areas with a shortage of veterinarians, and veterinarians themselves can grant exemptions if they believe it could negatively affect the animal’s health or endanger its life.

Animal rights activists argue that some unscrupulous rescues, with the collusion of veterinarians, are exploiting the “health” exemption. Elizabeth Coalson from the National Canine Rescue Group testified in support of a bill that would only allow exemptions if a veterinarian provides written confirmation that the animal’s life is truly at risk.

Under the proposed bill, facilities that import unsterilized dogs or cats would no longer be eligible for any exemptions. Coalson revealed that Colorado’s three largest rescues have brought in a staggering 25,000 puppies over the past six years. Coalson also stated, “there are estimates that for every one dog that is not spade… there are 67,000 that are born. So for the three rescues that we’re talking about, if you do the math for 2022, if only 2% of them are not sterilized that puts one to three million dogs into Colorado’s pet population.”

The Denver Dumb Friends League, having experienced a surge in unsterilized animals and unprecedented shelter occupancy, testified in favor of the bill.

Despite the absence of opposition, the bill’s future remains uncertain. Senator Larry Liston, the bill’s sponsor, informed the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that Governor Jared Polis had issued a veto threat unless the health exemption for animals of unknown origin was reinstated.

The committee’s democratic chair suggested that if the governor had concerns about the bill, he should present his testimony. Ultimately, the committee unanimously passed the bill without any amendments.

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