Shelters Contemplate Breeding Pets During COVID-19 Animal Import Dry Spell in Vermont
Vermont’s Loophole: In 2016, the Vermont Legislature enacted a “housekeeping” measure, Act No. 149, that increased annual license fees charged to agricultural businesses in the state, such as operating a plant nursery or a small farm. The increases were to cover administrative expenses of operating the agency, but the Act also eliminated the requirement that animal shelter and rescue organizations have a certificate of registration to operate. The certificates had been issued at no cost by the Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets. As intended, this decreased the agency’s administrative workload, but it also had the unintended effect of allowing diseased animals to enter the state for distribution through its shelters and rescues. This also increased the risk of disease exposure for other animals and people. The problem continues to exist today. For example, reports of animals being routinely transferred at highway service area parking lots are common; and according to news reports, dogs enter Vermont in truckloads through online sales, some run by for-profit animal shelters.
A Legislative Delay: For the 2020 legislative session, the Vermont Animal Cruelty Investigation Advisory Board issued recommendations on how to improve the oversight and execution of animal welfare responsibilities. Two objectives were highlighted: (1) establishing a mechanism for identifying those engaged in animal rescue work by re-establishing a system for identification and oversight, and (2) redefining the training requirements for and responsibilities of animal humane officers. In March, the Vermont House Agricultural Committee began drafting legislative solutions, but was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly changed lawmakers’ priorities.
As a result of the pandemic, Governors across the country issued emergency executive orders to protect public health. In many states, including Vermont, non-essential travel across state lines stopped.
Shelters Discuss Ways to Increase Supply: The COVID-19 travel restrictions have made adoptable dogs harder to find, at a time when many people working from home have decided this is an ideal time to get a pet. In May, with demand exceeding supply, a group of Vermont shelters asked Vermont Governor Scott to authorize the resumption of interstate pet transports to supply them with the hundreds of dogs sourced annually from outside the state, regardless of the threats to the public health those activities may pose.
Part of the conversation among these groups even included a New England initiative aimed at encouraging the breeding of family-friendly, affordable dogs and cats at shelters!
These issues impact the entire New England region. In fact, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources recently implemented new, detailed regulations for animal rescue and shelter organizations that expressly ban the intentional breeding of animals. This success happened after Governor Baker received emails from kennel club members from across the state.
Call to Action: The Vermont Federation of Dog Clubs and the American Kennel Club Government Relations Department (AKC GR) have written Governor Scott requesting he not lift the ban on animal imports without first requiring registration and minimum animal quarantine periods for animals imported by rescue organizations. The breeding of animals for sale by shelters and rescues is inconsistent with their charitable mission as understood by the public and should be prohibited. Shelters and rescues should focus on the rehoming of adoptable, unowned animals. If shelters or rescues wish to enter the breeding business, they should simply be required to drop their charitable status and be subject to the same existing regulations as other commercial pet breeders, distributors, and pet shops.
Please join us in the effort to protect responsibly-bred purebred dogs and the public health. AKC GR works hard to monitor legislation around the country that impacts dog ownership and the wellbeing of dogs. We provide resources and legislative alerts so you can get the information you need to protect your rights. Together, we can succeed in making important change. When you see an AKC GR alert about your state or community, join us by taking action and sharing that information so we can protect our rights and the future of our dogs.