I received a call yesterday from an elderly woman who basically begged me to help her. She had six feral cats left in her yard when her neighbors moved away, and none of them were altered. One of the cats looks obviously pregnant and she can’t get near her. She is on social security and although she would like to do the right thing for these abandoned felines, she cannot afford it.
She was calling me to see if I could help her with trapping them and providing her with spay/neuter vouchers. I told her that I would have loved to help her except for one thing. The treasured vouchers from the state did not come to any of the rescues who have been part of the pet population reduction program for the last few years. And the reason they didn’t come is because our Governor and the law makers, “appropriated” the funds earmarked by statute for this program, and put them into the General Fund.
I get that Connecticut, in general, is not all that animal oriented. In fact, that’s why the Department of Agriculture came up with the Customized Pet Plates. We pay an extra $15 for the privilege of having that dog and cat picture on our plates and $10 of that extra money is deposited into the Animal Population Control Account. There are other monies earmarked for this account too. The extra dog licensing fee for unaltered dogs, goes into this account as well as any private donations made for the specific purpose of spaying and neutering our animals.
The statute also spells out that the Commissioner of Agriculture shall establish a program to assist registered nonprofit rescue groups (like Helping Paws) with the sterilization and vaccination of feral cats, and to establish a program to sterilize and vaccinate dogs and cats owned by low income families. So what happened?
In May of this year, Governor Rell, gave an administrative order that took $530,777.00 from the Animal Population (and Save the Sound) fund, and put it into the General Fund to be used for other things. That means every person who paid extra for the Save the Sound or Pet plate, because they wanted to contribute to these causes, had their money go to unknown sources. And then on November 13, 2009, our legislature voted in Bill #6802; “Notwithstanding the provisions of section 22-3809 of the General Statutes, the sum of $500,000 shall be transferred from the Animal Population Control Account and credited to the results of the General Fund…”
Over a million dollars – money that the people of Connecticut believed was going to a specific cause, was fraudulently taken from the Animal Population Control Account for other programs. And there went the vouchers; the vouchers that groups like Helping Paws gave out every year to try and keep the kitten count down.
Am I being harsh when I call these appropriations fraud? I don’t think so – in fact, I don’t think the powers that be really read the statute very carefully. Connecticut General Statutes Section 22-380g(c) states, Any revenue collected…shall be deposited into the animal population control account. All money in the account shall be used by the commissioner exclusively for the implementation and promotion of the program …”
Two other sections speak to the licenses issued for unsprayed and unneutered dogs. The statutes state that the town clerk shall collect a surcharge of six dollars (and another section adds two more dollars to total eight), which shall be deposited into the animal population account.
In our statutes, there are two very important words that give the exact meaning to each particular section. The word shall means that it must be done. If the word was may, it would mean maybe. The word exclusively is self explanatory. And so the money that was taken by the Governor and the legislature needs to be given back. And even though the Attorney General of our State instructed the Governor to give back the Pet Plate money, she has been in no hurry to do so. In fact, it was after she was told to return the money, that our legislature blatantly took more.
Trust me here – this next kitten season will be horrendous. Between the economy and the lack of funds for sterilization, there will be cats and kittens all over the state, starving, dying of cold and they will be in your yards – not the Governor’s yard and not the yards of our legislatures. They will not have to worry about the six cats in your yard that have been abandoned. They will not have to make the decision to let these cats die by not feeding them. They won’t have to watch kittens with frostbite, losing their toes or ears. No, they won’t be watching any of this. But you will.
So please, the New Years Resolution I ask you to make will take a half hour. On New Years Day, sit down at the computer (or take out pad and pen), and email the Governor, the Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and your state Congressmen and Senators, and tell them they need to give back the money that people donated to the specific cause of sterilization programs for dogs and cats. Tell them that without the vouchers, the people of Connecticut will have to take on the burden of these strays since the towns don’t help either. Groups like Helping Paws will be forced to continue saying no to those calls asking for help.
Go to www.cga.ct.gov and click on Contact Us. This will give you the lists of your state representatives and senators as well as the Governor. Or you can call the Legislative offices at 860-240-0100. Don’t wait until you are affected by these decisions – it will be too late.
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