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Information on HB 5368 on Rescued Animal Importation

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

(To download a printer-friendly pdf version of this information, click here.)


For the past four years CT Votes for Animals (CVA) has been a leader in advocating on behalf of animal rescue organizations while negotiating the terms of Connecticut’s inevitable rescued animal importation bill.

In 2009 CVA held an educational forum at Quinnipiac University called Precious Cargo that brought together a diverse group of people holding different perspectives to explore ways to effectively regulate importation while ensuring the well-being and safety of the animals and the community.

Since 2007, CT Votes for Animals has been integral in blocking the passage of bills that were unreasonably onerous and impractical and would potentially drive animal importation to a halt and encourage rescuers to operate outside the law. Further, the proposed bills would have allowed the Department of Agriculture to inspect the homes of foster volunteers without a warrant, a provision that was unacceptable to the rescue community.

This year, with new leadership at the Department of Agriculture, we have made great progress and, in conjunction with the ASPCA, negotiated a bill (HB 5368) that accomplishes our goals and yet satisfies the department, legislators, and other interest groups represented in Hartford (e.g., CT Veterinary Medical Association, pet stores).  Click here to read CVA’s testimony detailing our position on fair and humane regulations.

Please note that CVA did not introduce or lobby in support of this bill. The bill was introduced, and CVA and the ASPCA worked on behalf of animals and the rescue community to obtain a more balanced bill with respect to the importation of rescued animals into Connecticut. 

While CVA and the ASPCA didn’t get all we had hoped for, we did negotiate the best possible bill over the course of the session.  The law applies to importers whether they rescue 5 dogs or 500. We tried very hard to build in an exemption for the smaller importation operations but were not able to get the political support for this exemption. Many rescuers are already exploring ways to create cost efficiencies for the new expenses relating to this law, i.e., joining with each other to pool resources, strategically timing the arrival of pets in the state so that they can consolidate vet visits, etc. While this law will create new requirements, the terms are not nearly as burdensome as they were when the first version of this bill was introduced four years ago.  Furthermore, this bill provides much-needed protections for both rescuers and also the unknown number of animals that are being imported into our state including:

1)      Protections for the health and welfare of animals being imported into our state.

2)      A requirement that a CT individual or organization be on record as a responsible party for the animals once they are brought into CT.

3)      Express protection of animal importers’ constitutional rights – specifically, an explicit prohibition on warrantless searches of importers’ homes.

 4)   An exemption for volunteers (including foster homes) that assist animal importers in their rescue efforts. 

Below is the CT legislature’s Office of Legislative Research summary of HB 5368.  CVA and the ASPCA are also working with the CT Department of Agriculture to provide as many educational opportunities regarding this legislation as possible, including a fact sheet, and in the fall, an informational forum intended to give all those who are importing rescued animals the chance to fully understand their rights and obligations. It will also allow rescuers to establish a relationship with the Department of Agriculture so further questions can be directly addressed by the regulating agency.

We will be in touch with an announcement of the forum date and additional educational materials on this subject.

Thank you for all you do for the animals.


EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2011

AN ACT EXTENDING CERTAIN PET SHOP LICENSEE REQUIREMENTS TO PERSONS AND ORGANIZATIONS THAT IMPORT ANIMALS FOR ADOPTION.

SUMMARY:

This bill makes several changes affecting animal importers. Among other things, it requires animal importers to (1) register with the agriculture commissioner; (2) have the imported animals examined by a state-licensed veterinarian; and (3) notify the Department of Agriculture (DOA) and local zoning officials before offering the animals for sale, adoption, or transfer. 

ANIMAL IMPORTER

The bill defines “animal importer” as a person who brings any dog or cat into Connecticut from another sovereign entity to offer it for sale, adoption, or transfer or give it to anyone in exchange for a fee, sale, voluntary contribution, service, or other consideration. An animal importer includes a commercial or nonprofit animal rescue or adoption, humane relocation, or delivery organization that is not required to be licensed under state law. (By law, commercial kennels, pet shops, grooming facilities, and training facilities must be licensed by the agriculture commissioner.)

REGISTRATION

The bill prohibits an animal importer from importing a dog or cat into Connecticut until he or she registers with the agriculture commissioner and pays a $100 registration fee. The registration must be on a form the commissioner prescribes and include the (1) registrant's name, mailing and business addresses, telephone number, and Internet address and (2) number of animals imported in the prior year and the state or country of their origin. If the registrant is domiciled out-of-state, the registration also must include the name, Connecticut address, and telephone number of a local agent for service of process.

A registration is valid until the following December 31. An importer must renew the registration annually, if the commissioner determines the importer complies with any applicable regulation relating to the health, safety, and humane treatment of animals.

Violators of the registration requirement are subject to a fine of up to $500.

Registration is not required by an employee or volunteer of a registered animal importer or person holding a commercial kennel, pet shop, grooming facility, or training facility license if the employee, volunteer, or person is not otherwise an animal importer.

Event Notification

The bill requires any animal importer who intends to offer a dog or cat for sale, adoption, or transfer at a public or outdoor location to notify the DOA and the appropriate municipal zoning officer at least 10 days before the event. The notice must include the event date, exact location, and expected number of animals involved. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $100 per animal.

Pet Shop Exception

The bill's registration and notice provisions do not apply to an animal importer who offers a dog or cat for sale to a licensed pet shop, if the animal is delivered directly to the pet shop.

Agriculture Commissioner Inspection Authority

The bill authorizes the agriculture commissioner to inspect an animal importer's imported animals or required records. But this inspection authority does not give the commissioner permission to enter an animal importer's residence.

Veterinarian Services and Records Required

The bill requires an animal importer, within 48 hours of importing a cat or dog into Connecticut and before offering it for sale, adoption, or transfer, and every 90 days until the sale, adoption, or transfer is complete, to have a state-licensed veterinarian examine the animal. Each animal must be examined by a state-licensed veterinarian within 15 days before a sale, adoption, or transfer and the veterinarian must provide the animal importer a written health certificate for the animal. An animal importer who violates these provisions is subject to a fine of up to $500 for each unexamined or uncertified animal.

The importer must maintain records of the veterinarian services for three years after they were rendered. Violators are subject to a $500 fine.

Very Young Animals

By law, a person, firm, or corporation may not import or export for sale a dog or cat under eight weeks old without its mother. It also prohibits the sale of a dog or cat that is under eight weeks old. Under current law, violators are subject to a fine of up to $100, imprisonment for up to 30 days, or both.

The bill extends the prohibitions to the adoption or transfer of dogs or cats under eight weeks old. It increases the maximum fine for sales from $100 to $500 and applies the fine and imprisonment to adoptions and transfers. The maximum term of imprisonment remains the same.

Fine for Lack of Health Certificate

By law, a dog or cat imported into the state must be accompanied by a health certificate issued within 30 days before the importation by a licensed graduate veterinarian. The certificate must state that the animal is not diseased and, if over three months old, is currently vaccinated for rabies. A dog or cat from a rabies quarantine area must have the state veterinarian's permission before importation. Under current law, violators are subject to a fine of up to $100, imprisonment for up to 30 days, or both. The bill increases the fine to up to $500.


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