ALBANY — The fur is flying at the statehouse over a proposal that would force operators of pet shelters to keep detailed records indicating whether dogs or cats in their custody had to be euthanized as well as the reasoning for such decisions.
Libby Post, executive director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation, an umbrella group for the shelters, urged state lawmakers Thursday to reject the measure, saying it promotes "negative perceptions" of non-profit facilities that have been compassionate with the animals they take in.
The debate over the measure pits "no kill" activists who oppose euthanasia against the shelters that have been a sanctuary for tens of thousands of dogs and cats awaiting adoption.
THE DATA AND WHY
Post, also an activist on behalf of lesbian and gay rights, said she has been personally targeted with "threatening homophoic and misogynistic posts" on social media sites and was this week labeled a "disgusting monster" by a critic of shelters.
Post was addressing a bill introduced by state Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Long Island), that would require animal shelters to file annual reports on the intake and disposition of animals and provide data on the number of animals turned away by the facilities.
It would also require the shelters to provide reasons why animals were refused as well as collect data on adoptions and transfer of pets to other locations.
NATURE OF THE WORK
Advocates for the measure argue it would increase public transparency over the shelters so that the public will be able to determine if they have humane policies that improve the lives of animals in their care.
But Post said the data-keeping requirements would be an unnecessary burden on the shelters while allowing their critics to distort the work that the facilities accomplish.
"They will have to spend more time defending their work against anti-shelter animal activists and others who do not understand the nature of animal welfare work," she said.
JUST ONE INVESTIGATOR
Post also urged lawmakers to provide $2.5 million in funding so the state Department of Agriculture and Markets can set up an animal welfare unit to investigate citizen complaints concerning puppy mills and other matters relating to the alleged abuse of animals.
She noted the state agency now has just one investigator responding to puppy mill complaints.
Post's comments came at a hearing of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, led by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Broome County.)
Lupardo later told CNHI Post made "a compelling argument that the Department of Agriculture and Markets needs additional resources for issues concerning companion animals."
The Animal Protection Federation's 2020 legislative agenda also includes a proposed ban on the practice of transporting dogs in the beds of pickup trucks and a requirement that veterinarians report suspected animal cruelty to police or local humane societies.
Post said the group is requesting legislation that would set statewide standards for training, data collection, sanitary conditions and veterinary care at shelters.
The Federation leader also called for an end to "insurance discrimination in pet ownership," noting some insurance firms won't authorize coverage for homes whose occupants include pit bulls.
Such discrimination, she said, "reinforces the negative stereotypes about pit bulls and keeps more of them in shelters rather than in loving homes."
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI Newspapers and websites. Reach him at email@example.com