Very recently, the State of Connecticut passed a law that effectively kills rescue in Connecticut for any rescue that brings in dogs from other states. Under the guise of protecting the public, Connecticut has gutted the ability of rescues to do what we do which is rescue dogs. First, the bill which you can read in its entirety here. Distilled to its essence, this is what the law now requires:
1. All rescues which import dogs into the state must register and pay $100 a year. This is not a big deal.
2. All rescues and transports must provide 10 days' notice to the state that they intend to have a public event (Petsmart Adoption day) or a transport pick up when dogs are taken off transport by their foster families. (Not OK). The state wants to know when and where and how many animals. They don't do this to any other group, just rescues. Why?
3. All animals brought into the state (it does not matter from where - Alabama, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio are all the same) must see a Connecticut vet within 48 hours of arrival for a full exam. This will cost rescues on average around $100. It is irrelevant that reputable rescues have already had their dogs fully vetted and seen by a vet just prior to arrival in order to obtain a USDA health certificate for travel. Why?
4. All animals brought into the state must see the vet again within 15 days before they go to their homes and a new health certificate issued. This will cost another $100 minimum. If the dog is in foster for more than 90 days, they are required to see a vet for a full exam every 90 days regardless of illness or condition and even if they are sitting in a private home.
Why is this bad?
Several reasons, but the most nefarious is that it effectively ends the ability of private citizens to get their own dog from wherever they want to. If you see a dog you wish to adopt in Texas and can arrange for transport, this law requires the transport company (airline or ground transport) to announce that they are delivering a dog for pick up and schedule it with the state. Failure to do this results in a fine of $500 per dog for the transport company. This law does not apply to private citizens who wish to adopt an out of state dog, but it makes it impossible to get the dog shipped to Connecticut. This means Connecticut residents who want a golden retriever are essentially going to have to buy from a breeder or a pet store, because no local shelter rescuing strictly local dogs is going to have a golden available for rescue. If this means a bonanza for Connecticut's pit bulls who populate the shelters in droves, that's wonderful and we support their adoption 100%, but sadly, we know there will be no sharp rise in pit bull adoptions from Connecticut shelters. The people who adopt from us will simply go to a breeder to get what they want and that's a reality. Dogs will continue to die in shelters all across the country, Connecticut included, and breeders and pet stores and puppy mills will make a killing.
The rest of the problem with this law is simply the cost. All reputable rescues provide the following minimum care before they place a dog:
1. The dog is spayed/neutered.
2. The dog has its distemper/parvo, rabies and bordetella shots.
3. The dog is cleared for heartworms and other parasites.
4. The dog is groomed, provided frontline and heartgard and a collar.
5. The dog is microchipped and registered.
6. The dog is checked by a vet again just before transport and a health certificate is obtained.
The average total cost for this for a rescue is just shy of $310. Add to that the cost of transport which averages $150 and you can see the reason for an adoption fee in excess of $400. The rest of this has to be made up through relentless fundraising.
Now, with the new regulations, we have to take the dog specifically to a Connecticut vet (no other vet will do). We must pay for a complete exam again within 48 hours even though if there is a disease, the odds of seeing it that soon after transport is next to zero as diseases generally take 5-7 days to show symptoms. That exam costs about $100. Then we must again take the dog to a Connecticut vet no more than 15 days before adoption for another exam and a health certificate at a cost of another $100.
Do the math. If we are all already spending $450+ just to vet the dog and transport it, even at a loss, then the addition of $200 in required vet visits raises the adoption fee to over $650. Very very few people can afford that, which causes rescue to die away and the breeders and pet stores win, as do the vets who presumably will get a boom in business.
What is it that Connecticut hopes to achieve?
If the goal of the law was to protect public health, we'd support this law or at least a version of it. However, this does nothing but cost rescues a lot of money to the explicit benefit of breeders and pet stores who are not required to do anything to their dogs at all but provide a shot and a deworming. Breeders and pet stores loathe rescue because it's competition. A look at who supported this bill is enlightening: the breeders association (Connecticut Federation of Dogs) and the vets. Who gets more money as the result of this? You can guess.
A better solution would have been to require that all rescues who import dogs adhere to a standard of care:
1. All dogs must be spayed/neutered.
2. All dogs must have distemper/parvo, rabies and bordetella shots.
3. All dogs must be cleared for heartworms and other parasites.
4. All dogs must be chipped and registered in the name of the rescue who adopted the dog.
All reputable rescues are already doing this, and those rescues that aren't reputable are going to ignore the laws anyway. All this does is punish the good rescues and make rescue in Connecticut impossible. Is this what Connecticut really wants, or was it what the breeders and pet stores wanted?