Friday, June 17, 2011

Bill Aims to Save Shelter Animals by Stephen Geffon - Queens Chronicle

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Queens organizations have thrown support behind state legislation that would permit rescue groups to recover animals that are scheduled to be killed at shelters, saying it would help to save many adoptable pets set to be euthanized in the borough and throughout the state.

State Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan) recently proposed the Companion Animal Access and Rescue Act, an identical version of which is being sponsored by state Sen. Joseph Robach (R-Rochester), which he said would allow groups to find homes for animals set to be killed. Current law only allows individuals, not groups, to save the animals.

“We wholeheartedly support Assemblyman Kellner’s bill,” said Nancy Fahnestock, treasurer of CSM Stray Foundation, a Kew Gardens-based animal protection group. “This would save so many adoptable animals that are now being euthanized. In addition it would put a checks and balance system to assure that shelters are humanely treating animals by allowing rescue groups open access in visitations to select animals for adoption. This is a great step in the right direction,”

Kellner said there are now tens of thousands of animals in shelters statewide, many of which are healthy and well behaved.

“Unfortunately, shelters oftentimes don’t have the room or resources to care for these or other animals,” Kellner said. “Even worse, current law does not protect or grant access to the qualified rescue groups that are working to save these loving and loyal animals.”

A statewide survey found that 71 percent of all New York rescue groups have been turned away by a shelter, which then killed the animals they offered to save.

“When a humane organization volunteers to take these animals, they should not be denied,” Kellner said.

The act also sets qualifications and guidelines for both shelters and rescue groups.

“Outlining the responsibilities of those who work directly with the animals will help ensure that the animals receive the proper care,” said Kellner. “These provisions ensure that animals are given fresh food and water on a daily basis, exercise and socialization with other animals, clean living environments and prompt veterinary care.”

To ensure compliance, routine inspections of the facilities would be mandated.

Kellner’s bill was named in memory of Oreo, a pit bull mix, who, in June, 2009 survived being thrown off a six-story building in Brooklyn, from which she suffered two broken legs, a cracked rib and severe internal injuries. Her owner was arrested on cruelty charges, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took her in and brought her back to good physical health.

But that November, the ASPCA announced that Oreo was untreatably aggressive and that she would be euthanized. A nonprofit animal rescue group, Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary, offered to take her in, but the request was refused and Oreo was put down. The ASPCA and the Humane Society have not taken a stance on this bill.

CAARA is supported by a number of animal welfare groups, including Best Friends Animal Society, Alley Cat Allies, the No-Kill Advocacy Center and the League of Humane Voters of New York.