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Norwich Bulletin - 5/6/2007

A New Law?

Raised Bill No. 7194 – An act concerning the expansion of the animal population control program. This proposed law would allow the Commissioner of Agriculture to create a program for the sterilization and vaccination of feral cats, and a program for the sterilization and vaccination of dogs and cats owned by low-income individuals, as well as other recommendations of the study of the expansion of the animal control program.

Last September, Helping Paws was one of the 501c3 charitable rescue organizations chosen to receive twenty-five state vouchers to sterilize Connecticut feral cats. We were able to stop 25 cats from continuing to have kittens, year after year, thanks to the State of Connecticut and their grant to the program.

It was wonderful to be able to do this, but it was also frustrating because there were a lot of low income families that could not make use of the vouchers as their cats were friendly strays they were caring for, but could not afford to do the medical care.

The new law would encompass two separate, but similar programs. There would be vouchers, which would be non transferable documents provided by the commissioner and issued by a pound (or rescue) to an eligible owner authorizing payment of a predetermined amount from the animal population control account to a participating veterinarian, given for both feral cat sterilization or the altering of a dog or cat belonging to low income families.

A feral cat is explained as a cat that is unowned by any human and exists in a wild or untamed state or has returned to an untamed state from domestication, and whose behavior is suggestive of a wild animal. These were the cats that Helping Paws was able to help last year thanks to the animal population control programs. Now, the passage of this law would broaden the possibilities by including low income families and their pets.

A low income person would be anyone living on public assistance programs, such as the food stamp program, the Medicaid program, the HUSKY Medicaid Plan Part A program, the state medical or cash assistance components of the state-administered general assistance program, the state supplement program or any other public assistance program that the commissioner determines to qualify a person as low income.

Remember what the animal population programs are? This new law amends it to help Connecticut animals even more. There are two main sources of monies put aside to help control overpopulation. The first comes from dog licensure. Two dollars from each license fee collected for a neutered or spayed dog is to be deposited in an “animal population control account.”

There is also Connecticut’s Pet Plate program in which the extra money paid for the special pet license plate also goes into the account. Ten per cent of the funds of this account could be used for the sterilization and vaccination of feral cats program and ten per cent could be used for the sterilization and vaccination of dogs and cats owned by a low-income person.

Also included would be forty thousand dollars set aside by the commissioner for each fiscal year for the purpose of providing assistance to charitable programs for the sterilization and vaccination of feral cats, as well as establishing a program to assist registered nonprofit rescue groups with the sterilization and vaccination of feral cats and establish a program to sterilize and vaccinate dogs and cats owned by low income families.

The new law would allow two hundred twenty-five thousand dollars to be spent on the program every year! Doled out correctly, that would be a tremendous help in stopping the influx of puppies and kittens that come our way every year.

The Department of Agriculture is tired of seeing animals die because there are no homes available to them. They have worked long and hard and already decreased the amount of euthanasia that goes on every year in State pounds. Even though it feels as if the State does not recognize the problems faced by animal overpopulation, it really does – but just like with any bureaucracy, change comes hard and it takes a long time to initiate. Ideas are born, but it takes a lot of red tape to make things happen.

Frank Ribaudo, who started the Animal Population Control Program, has worked hard to make changes every year that will continue to help Connecticut dogs and cats live longer and healthier lives.

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