HARTFORD- Wednesday, the House unanimously passed House Bill 6334, which was introduced by House Republican Leader Themis Klarides and State Representatives Brenda Kupchick, J.P. Sredzinski, and Nicole Klarides-Ditria. The bill aims to improve conditions at brick and mortar private nonprofit animal shelters by requiring them to register with the Department of Agriculture (DoAg) and to comply with local zoning requirements.
House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-114) said, “For years, Fred Acker and others got away with abusing and neglecting animals at their private shelters and were able to continue to operate an animal shelter after being convicted of animal abuse. I found this out after visiting a shelter to adopt a cat for myself. I was sick and angry that as a state we let this happen. Passing this legislation today will help prevent sick and disturbed individuals from operating an animal shelter. I want to thank all my colleagues for passing this legislation, which will help prevent animals from being neglected and abused.”
“The majority of private non-profit animal shelters in Connecticut are well run and staffed by dedicated professionals and a core of selfless volunteers. However, well-meaning shelters sometimes get overwhelmed and are unable to provide a safe environment. Unfortunately, we’ve witnessed a few high profile cases where animals were subjected to inhumane conditions. Without standards of care and proper oversight there is no ability to intervene until the situations reach tragic conditions warranting animal cruelty charges.” said State Rep. Brenda Kupchick (R-132), former co-chair of the Puppy Mill Task Force.
Under the bill, DoAg must issue a registration to an applicant upon application and payment of a $50 fee if the applicant complies with applicable state regulations and, for an initial registration, municipal zoning requirements. A registration is effective until the second December 31 following issuance, may be renewed biennially by December 31, and may be transferred to another premise with the commissioner’s approval.
State Rep. JP Sredzinski (R-112) said, “I am glad to see the state respond by taking a step to add this important oversight ability. We have to make sure we maintain good moral standards for animal shelters that treat them in a way we can be proud of.”
“We have to make sure we maintain good moral standards for animal shelters and treat them in a way we can be proud of,” State Rep. Klarides-Ditria (R-105) said, “Themis and I experienced the worst of the worst last year when we walked into Fred Acker’s animal shelter to adopt a cat. I can’t imagine how sick an individual must be to abuse an animal. This legislation is a true victory that will help protect animals throughout the state from animal abusers.”
The bill authorizes the commissioner, or his agent, to inspect an animal shelter at any time. If, in his judgement, the shelter is not being maintained in a sanitary and humane manner that protects public safety, or if he finds that contagious, infectious, or communicable disease or other unsatisfactory conditions exist, he may fine the shelter up to $500 for each affected animal, issue orders necessary to correct the conditions, and quarantine the premises and animals. In addition, if a shelter fails to comply with the commissioner’s regulations or orders or any state law relating to animals, the commissioner may revoke or suspend its registration. Anyone aggrieved by a commissioner’s order may appeal to Superior Court. Anyone operating a shelter without a valid registration is subject to a fine of up to $200.
The legislation that passed on Wednesday stems from years of work by State Rep. Brenda Kupchick, who brought this legislation forward in 2012 after a number of animals tragically died at a private animal facility, which was run by a repeat animal abuser Fred Acker. Last year, the Klarides sisters saw first-hand the need for legislation to regulate private animal shelters after walking into a Monroe-based animal shelter run by Acker to adopt a cat. The sisters found the animals sick due to the deplorable conditions at the facility. The bill is supported by CT Votes for animals, ASPCA, the US and CT Humane Societies and Our Companions Animal Rescue.
House Bill 6334 now heads to the Senate, where it will need to be voted on by midnight on June 7th.