Our Town, March 18, 1998
TAKE ANIMALS SERIOUSLY
As any animal lover will tell you, a pet is much more than a piece of property; it's part of the family, a friend and a companion. So, when a pet goes missing or is taken, it is a heart-wrenching experience. It is also a mind-numbing journey through city red tape and nightmarish visits to city animal shelters where more than 45,000 animals are killed every year. According to animal advocates, the Center for Animal Care and Control (CACC) is a mess and in need of an overhaul. Last year, animal welfare groups united under the Shelter Reform Action Committee and submitted 75,000 signatures to the city in an effort to get an initiative on the 1997 November ballot. The initiative proposed a new city department on animal affairs to take over the job from the Depart ment of Health. Unfortunately, a judge refused to put the plan on the ballot and let voters make their own choice.
Someone who is looking for a missing pet is in a race against time. Under the law, the CACC can euthanize a pet 48 hours after it enters the shelter.
To compound the dismal situation facing homeless or lost animals, pet theft is often not taken seriously. Animal advocates and some legislators say that many pets are stolen and sold to research facilities for grisly experiments.
Currently, the penalty for stealing someone else's pet, if it is valued at more than $1,000, is punishable with a maximum one-year prison sentence. It is a misdemeanor which is often not enforced. A bill, which has passed by the state senate but rejected by the state assembly, has floundered in the legislature for more than 10 years. The bill would criminalize pet theft and make it a felony. And while it is impossible to put a dollar value on a pet, the bill would make pet stealing a more serious offense. Hopefully, it will pass this year.