On July 23, Governor Jack Markel signed Senate Bill 280, thereby establishing Delaware as a national model for the compassionate treatment of homeless companion animals.
Modeled on the No Kill Advocacy Center’s Companion Animal Protection Act, Senate Bill 280 amends Chapter 80 of the Delaware Code by specifying how animal shelters must handle unclaimed animals. The new language includes the following mandates regarding euthanasia and outcomes transparency.
§8004. Euthanasia in Animal Shelters.
(b) Animal shelters shall ensure that the following conditions are met before an animal is euthanized:
(i) The holding period for the animal required by this chapter is expired;
(ii) There are no empty cages, kennels, or other living environments in the shelter that are suitable for the animal;
(iii) The animal cannot share a cage or kennel with appropriately sized primary living space with another animal;
(iv) A foster home is not available;
(v) Organizations on the registry developed pursuant to §8003(d) are not willing to accept the animal; and
(vi) The animal care/control manager certifies that the above conditions are met and that he/she has no other reasonable alternative.
§8007. Record Keeping and Reporting.
Animal shelters shall maintain records regarding the following information:
(a) Intake rate;
(b) Euthanasia rate including age, by animal;
(c) Number of adoptions;
(d) Number reclaimed by owner;
(e) Number transferred to other agencies for adoption;
(f) Number of spay/neuters;
(g) Number of animals in shelter;
(h) Records showing the number of animals that died or were lost/stolen;
(i) Records showing compliance with vaccination requirements; and
(j) Records regarding medical treatment provided.
The information in subsections (a) through (g) shall be posted to the shelter’s website on a quarterly basis. The information in subsections (h), (i),and (j) shall be made available upon request by appropriate authorities.
For reasons explained in our posts on Oreo’s Law and outcomes transparency, this legislation changes everything. By prohibiting open-admission shelters in Delaware from killing homeless cats and dogs simply because that’s the easiest thing to do, and because that’s what they’ve always done, the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act will save thousands of animals every year. The new legislation will energize Delaware’s animal-rescue organizations by making them indispensable to fulfilling the requirements of the law, and by highlighting Delaware as the model for other states.
As Delaware demonstrates during the next few years that the foot-draggers are wrong — and that sometimes euthanasia is the most humane choice is a false and self-absolving platitude when shelters kill healthy cats and dogs despite empty cages and foster homes — more legislation like Delaware’s CAPA is inevitable.
It will reach Arlington too, the sooner the better. AWLA should recognize that the future is not far away (in this case, only about 100 miles), and that within a few years its current practices will be both unthinkable and illegal. As AWLA searches for a new leader, it should insist on someone who will get in front of this wave rather than keep trying to resist it.