Pet health regulations: Don’t overburden shelters

New state regulations governing the adoption of cats and dogs are well-intentioned: They seek to protect animals and owners alike by guaranteeing that every pet is in proper health. But the rules also impose new costs on shelters and rescue groups that are already lacking in funds while heroically struggling to find homes for abandoned pets. The Division of Animal Health needs to implement the regulations with flexibility and sensitivity; otherwise, they could end up hurting more animals than they help.

The new regulations would ban the adoption of animals with contagious diseases or “serious” behavioral issues such as aggression. Plus, pets must receive a veterinary exam within 30 days of going to a new home. But animal advocates say the 30-day rule is arbitrary: Many pets receive veterinary exams upon their arrival at shelters, and can safely be adopted more than a month later. Requiring additional exams could cost some shelters thousands of dollars per year. Meanwhile, shelter operators say that allowing some pets with infectious conditions to be adopted and treated by new owners would be safer than keeping them in places where they could infect other animals.

State animal health director Mike Cahill said he is open to alternatives to the 30-day exam requirement. He also understands that some infectious animals may be more safely treated in foster homes. Hopefully, compromises can be found that protect cats and dogs without imposing undue burdens on those who do the hard work of caring for them.