Denver CO

Why are there Opponents to a Ballot to Save Colorado Shelter Pets ?

On Thursday April 17, there were presentations by Juliet Piccone (Saving Colorado Shelter Pets) and Lisa Pedersen (Colorado Federation of Animal Welfare ) presenting opposing views to the Saving Colorado Shelter Pets Act .

I think there is some misunderstanding on what it is being asked: a reasonable ballot proposal called the Saving Colorado Shelter Pets Act.  I worked with the lawyers that submitted it and the opposition is either misled or has not read the suggested provisions of the proposed act.

Coloradans care about their pets.  Coloradans also care about homeless pets.  When they think of a shelter, they think of a safe haven for homeless pets, a place an animal is secure until it can find its way to a loving home.  And that is what shelters should be.

The act attempts to clarify the difference between euthanasia and killing homeless pets.  Euthanasia should be used as the dictionary definition:

“the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.”

Let’s be clear about what happens in shelters in Colorado.

Shelters currently have a very broad latitude to simply kill homeless pets.  Some Colorado shelters don’t use this right, but euthanize only unhealthy/untreatable animals.  Specifically they reserve this awful choice for irredeemably hostile dogs and homeless pets that are suffering from incurable, untreatable maladies and are suffering.  Under these irredeemable more untreatable condition, euthanasia would be a correct use of the act of putting an animal to death.

But many others do not stop here.

Some shelters kill because it lowers the amount of work they need to do.  Some shelters kill in anticipation of getting more homeless pets tomorrow or next week, others kill because they simply consider something as mundane as kennel cough or shyness unhealthy/untreatable.  Some because it is easier than taking care of a pet.  We cannot define every reason a shelter kills a healthy/treatable dog or cat, but there is nothing stopping them from doing so.  The ballot aims to save homeless pets that should have the opportunity to find a loving family.

The major lifesaving policies that resonate with most Coloradans are:

  1. Shelters cannot KILL a healthy, treatable homeless pet
  2. If a PACFA registered 501c3 rescue is willing to pull a homeless pet our, the shelter must allow them to so.
  3. Purchase of pets through commercial entities (pet shops, puppy mills, breeders, etc.) will have a 15% fee attached to the sale price.

These provisions require no additional build out of the shelters.  It requires a shelter use every existing cage/kennel at their disposal to save lives.  This is what Coloradans expect shelters to do and many people assume they do this already.  Some shelters do, others don’t, and the act would require all shelters to do it.

Opposition:  the penalty for killing an animal could cause a lawsuit with a penalty of $1000.  This will cause unnecessary lawsuits on organizations that cannot afford to defend themselves.

Our reply: If shelters find a homeless pet irredeemably sick (per a veterinarian) or irredeemably hostile (per a trainer/behaviorist) they can euthanize an animal.  The law protects them if they use a professional to make the determination.  This is stated in the provision.  The provision simply disallows a laymen to make the decision that a homeless pet should be killed for reasons other than health or temperament.

Any state registered (PACFA) rescue with a 501c3 federal designation should never be turned away from a shelter if trying to save a life.  Again, some shelters welcome rescues and actively search out rescues to help pull homeless pets before they are killed.  They release, often via email, a “euth list” that goes out to an email list of organizations to ask them to pull.  But shelters should be required to release this list, with ample time for other organizations to step up,  and shelters should not be allowed to turn away ANY accredited PACFA registered 501c3 that comes forward.

This provision would not preclude ANY rescue that a shelter would like to work with, even if they are not registered.  As long as they can legally give the homeless pet to other organizations they approve, they can include additional rescues which they would like to work.  So they should let in EVERY registered rescue and any others legally permissible through existing law.  There is no down side to this.

Opposition:   All rescues are not equal, some are better than others.

Our reply:  If a rescue is not acting legally or ethically, they should be reported to PACFA and/or the IRS if they are not complying with the current regulations they are beholden.

Neither of these policy changes will cost more money or ask the shelter to do what they already do.  In the case of other shelters what Coloradans believe they SHOULD be doing.    When asked, more than 70% of people believe that shelters should not be able to kill an animal that is healthy or treatable.  And I would argue that is higher in Colorado.

Giving a homeless pet to rescues LOWERS costs as the shelter spends money to kill and dispose of these pets.  If they give them to a rescue, they have transferred any ongoing costs of feeding, treating and general care of an animal to the rescue.  If they adopt out, they generate revenue.

“We are already doing what this group is seeking with the initiative,” said Kristin Snow in a Denver Post article (  If that is the case, shelters already doing this have nothing to worry about, they already comply and should support this.  It’s for shelters that are NOT practicing lifesaving methods.  And they unfortunately exist in Colorado.

If a shelter has 20 kennels, shouldn’t it use all those kennels?  Should it kill a homeless dog for the simple reason that another dog MIGHT come in later today?  Should it kill 5 because they may get several dogs in?  Is there any reason to kill a healthy treatable pet if there is a kennel available?  If each kennel is used, the shelter has more pets to adopt out, can concentrate on improving adoption programs, and can generate MORE revenue through additional adoption fees.

This ballot has no negative effects for homeless pets, taxpayer or any shelter that is in the business of saving lives.  The only animal welfare organizations who will oppose do not take the time to understand the proposal or regressive directors that are not interested in saving more lives.

In order to achieve this goal, more than $6 million dollars in revenue would be generated through the sale of pets through commercial enterprises.  This provides relief if any of these provisions will cost more money as the opposition states, although the simply spoke with a few shelter employees and did no formal study.  IN fact, $6 million dollars would equal $300 per pet if we save 20,000.  Most rescues would be very happy to have access to 4300 per homeless pet and can do it on a lot less.

There will likely be opposition from commercial vendors that sell pets saying the tax creates market stress to their business.

Our reply:  We are comfortable with putting a premium on purchasing a pet when Colorado has tens of thousands killed in shelters each year.  Let’s give homeless pets better marketability and a chance at life with a loving family.

According to PACFA reports 82,577 homeless cats and dogs were adopted in 2012.  There are 5.19 million people in Colorado.  This means only about 1.6% of people adopted in 2012PACFA also reported that 21,298 homeless cats and dogs were killed.  So less then .5 percent of the population needs to be talked into adopting.  1 in 200 people. And Colorado would be a the most compassionate state in regard to homeless pets, just like its citizens already are.

Coloradoans want this.  Coloradans can do this. Our Colorado shelters and rescues can do this.


Bark Away!