Separating Myth From Fact (FL Animal Rescue Act)

November 15, 2011 by  

S.B. 818/H.B. 597, the Florida Animal Rescue Act (FARA), would make it illegal for “shelters” to kill animals if rescue groups are willing to save them. A statewide survey of Florida rescue groups found that 63% of non-profit animal rescue groups have had at least one Florida state shelter refuse to work collaboratively with them and then turn around and kill they very animals they were willing to save. The most common reason given was shelters either having a policy of not working with rescue groups or being openly hostile to doing so. And, not surprisingly, those “shelters” are trying to defeat the bill by thoroughly misrepresenting its provisions.

Florida animal lovers: NOW is the time to make your voices heard. Please contact your Senator and House Member and ask them to cosponsor and support Senate Bill 818/House Bill 597, the Florida Animal Rescue Act.

You can find out who your Florida State Senator is by clicking here.

You can find out who your Florida State House of Representatives member is by clicking here.

For a copy of the bill, click here.

Arguments in Favor:

FARA saves lives. A 2011 statewide survey of rescue groups in Florida State found that 63% of non-profit animal rescue groups have had at least one Florida state shelter refuse to work collaboratively with them and then turn around and kill they very animals they were willing to save. Studies in other states show that when these laws are passed, lifesaving goes up. In just one county in California, rescue transfers increased 4,000 a year when it passed a rescue access law.

FARA saves taxpayers money. FARA is modeled after a similar law which has been in effect in California since 1998. An analysis of that law found that sending animals to non-profit animal rescue organizations rather than killing them saved the City and County of San Francisco $486,480 in publicly funded animal control costs.

FARA provides whistleblower protections. The same statewide survey of rescue groups in Florida State also found that 45% of respondents are afraid to complain about inhumane conditions or practices at Florida State shelters because if they did complain, they would not be allowed to rescue animals, thus allowing those inhumane conditions to continue.

FARA reduces burdens on shelters. FARA reduces the number of animals they kill. It reduces costs for killing. It brings in revenue, through adoption fees. And it transfers costs from taxpayers to private organizations, funded through philanthropic dollars.

FARA protects public health and safety. FARA specifically excludes dangerous dogs, and animals who are irremediably suffering.

FARA levels the playing field. All non-profit organizations have identical rights and responsibilities before the law. FARA seeks to protect those rights by leveling the playing field between the large non-profits which have all the power and the small non-profits that are prevented from fulfilling their lifesaving mission when these larger organizations refuse to collaborate with them in order to save more lives.

FARA protects animals from harm. FARA specifically excludes organizations with a volunteer, staff member, director, and/or officer with a conviction for animal neglect, cruelty, and/or dog fighting, and suspends the organization while such charges are pending.

FARA puts Florida law on par with best practices. FARA is based on a law in California which was passed in 1998 with overwhelming bipartisan support (96-12), and passed in Delaware unanimously. Similar legislation is currently pending in Minnesota and New York.

Rebuttal to Opponents:

Claim: “The Bill Will Put a Burden on Non-Profit Rescue Organizations”

Fact: In order to defeat FARA, opponents are claiming that it will require rescue organizations to take animals, forcing them to spend money they do not have, and inundating them with animals they do not want. The bill does none of these things. In fact, doing so would be illegal and unconstitutional. FARA simply says that if non-profit rescue organizations choose to save the lives of animals in shelters, shelters cannot kill the very animals they are offering to save. A statewide survey of rescue groups in Florida found that 63% of them have been turned away by shelters after offering to save animals and those shelters then turned around and killed the very animals they offered to save. Taxpayers should not have their money spent on killing animals when private non-profit organizations are ready, willing, and able to save them. That is bad fiscal policy and it is inhumane. Moreover, these false claims show how desperate some shelters are to find something wrong with the bill in that they are willing to thoroughly misrepresent its provisions.

Claim: “The Bill Imposes Unreasonable Burdens on Cash-Strapped Shelters”

Fact: FARA reduces burdens on shelters. It reduces the number of animals they kill. It reduces costs for killing. It brings in revenue, through adoption fees. And it transfers costs from taxpayers to private organizations, funded through philanthropic dollars. For example, rather than kill an animal and dispose of his body, which costs money, the rescue organizations would take custody of the animal and find him a home, saving the municipality those costs. In addition, the bill specifically allows the shelter to charge the rescue group a fee, up to the standard adoption fee. In the end, shelters not only save money, they actually can raise additional revenue. An analysis of a similar provision of California law found cost-savings of over $400,000 to a municipality which sent animals to rescue groups rather than killed them: http://bit.ly/gZynkG. A separate analysis found that the number of animals saved, rather than killed, jumped by roughly 4,000 per year in just one of 58 California counties: http://bit.ly/fupNEK.

Claim: “The Bill Will Force Shelters to Release Animals to Hoarders or Other Compromised Situations”

Fact: FARA specifically excludes organizations with a volunteer, staff member, director, and/or officer with a conviction for animal neglect, cruelty, and/or dog fighting, and suspends the organization while such charges are pending. In addition, it requires the rescue organization to be a not-for-profit organization, recognized under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). As a result, they must register with the federal government, and with several Florida agencies, including the Department of State, Department of Revenue, and Department of Agriculture Division of Consumer Services, providing a number of oversight and checks and balances. In fact, a statewide survey found that 100% of survey respondents who rescued animals but were not 501(c)(3) organizations would become so if this law passes, effectively increasing oversight of rescue organizations in Florida. Moreover, FARA specifically allows shelters to charge an adoption fee for animals they send to rescue organizations, which would further protect animals from being placed in hoarding situations. Finally, nothing in FARA requires shelters to work with specific rescue groups. They are free to work with other rescue organizations if they choose and they are also free to adopt the animals themselves. What they cannot do, what they should not be permitted to do, is to kill animals when those animals have a place to go.

Claim: “The Bill Will Cause More Problems than it Solves”

Fact: The opposition is simply fear mongering, hoping to confuse legislators about the intent and scope of FARA. They have misrepresented its tenets and are hoping to frighten legislators into doing nothing. FARA is based on a law in California which was passed in 1998 with overwhelming bipartisan support (96-12). The same arguments made against the Florida bill were made in California, but 11 years of experience have shown that the alleged “concerns” did not materialize. In fact, an analysis of the bill found it to be an unqualified success, saving both lives and money, and creating a robust non-profit sector in partnership with shelters across the state: http://bit.ly/fupNEK. Similar arguments in opposition were also unimpressive to Delaware legislators who passed a similar provision unanimously in 2010.

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