Colorado Reignites Socially Conscious Animal Sheltering Debate

March 23, 2021 by Sara Wilkerson

DENVER – A bill that would establish standards of care for every dog and cat housed in an animal shelter or rescue facility in the state passed a crucial test in the Colorado legislature this week.

HB1160, known as the Colorado Socially Conscious Sheltering Act, passed the House Agriculture, Livestock and Water Committee by a bipartisan vote of 10-1. 

The bill will now move on to the House floor.

Prior to the committee vote, State Rep. Monica Duran, one of the primary sponsors of the legislation, hosted a press conference to talk about it.

“I’m really excited to be carrying this bill,” Duran said. “I think it … sets the floor as to how we can best serve our cats and dogs and animals in rescues. 

“It starts out with making sure we’re taking care of their medical needs, behavioral needs, making sure we’re getting them in the best possible place to be able to find their forever homes.” 

Duran, a Democrat, said Colorado has always been a leader in animal welfare and said if passed by the full legislature, HB1160 would make Colorado the first state in the country to adopt such progressive sheltering principles.

Joining Duran were representatives from multiple animal welfare groups, including Dumb Friends League, one of the largest animal shelters in Colorado.

In a statement to The Well News, the Dumb Friends League said that the nonprofit organization is excited to support HB1160 and that the legislation, “will lead the nation in creating the best, safest and most humane outcomes for animals across Colorado.” 

According to the text of the bill, animal shelters would be required to provide veterinary and behavioral care for all healthy and safe cats and dogs in their custody in order to, “address and prevent unnecessary or unjustifiable pain and suffering.” 

Additionally, the bill requires animal shelters to release animals in their custody only if they meet certain criteria — if an animal is being adopted, or returned to their owner, or if they are being transferred to another animal shelter.

But the bill also has some very vocal opponents.

In a statement on their website, No Kill Colorado, a nonprofit organization, expressed concerns about the “unintended consequences” of HB1160.

“First, we don’t know what the purpose, or result, of passing the first part of the bill would be,” stated the organization. “Currently, the major passage to the bill pertains to adopting out ‘healthy, safe and social cats and dogs.’ This is not an issue in Colorado.” 

The statement went on to say, “If we are passing a bill that is to increase the lives we save in Colorado, we think we should be looking at how to save marginalized homeless pets, not the ones we are already saving (Healthy and Safe).

“We believe the bill codified that marginalized homeless pets’ lives are forfeit if a shelter deems them unhealthy, reactive, or cats living in colonies without a traditional home.” 

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