Some animal rescue groups are growling about a new law that aims to clamp down on parking lot pet exchanges.
Starting Oct. 1 animal importers must register with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and local zoning officers about any sale, adoption, or transfer of animals. They must also pay a $100 registration fee. Anyone violating the law faces a $500 fine.
Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steve Reviczky supports the bill.
During public hearing testimony Reviczky told the environment committee his department receives numerous complaints from the public about animals coming into the state with significant health issues, including respiratory problems and parasite infections. However, some rescue groups say it will discourage rescues.
The Federation of Responsible Rescues opposes the new law.
The groups said the law "effectively ends the ability of legitimate rescues to offer dogs for adoption in the state of Connecticut by making the cost so prohibitive that adoption is not feasible for the vast majority of adopters."
According to the legislation, an animal importer is “a person who brings any dog or cat into this state for purpose of selling the animal, adopting, or transfer for any fee, sale voluntary contribution, service or any other consideration.”
Yet, legislators who supported the bill said many of these animals were adopted out of shipping containers in parking lots, without required current health certificates and showing signs of disease.
But until the governor signed the law the agriculture department had little oversight.
“As I understand it HB 5368 was supported by the Agriculture department because currently they have no authority to regulate importing animals,” said state Rep. Laura Hoydick, a Republican representing Stratford in the 120th House District. “Their purview is limited to licensing and health vaccinations such as rabies.”
The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association called the law “a necessary and measured approach to addressing the growing problem of unregulated transport of animals into Connecticut.”
According to the association, an informal, unregulated industry to move pets into the state developed in recent years, particularly after Hurricane Katrina, in 2005.
In addition the law says no person, firm, or corporation can import or export for sale a dog or cat under 8-weeks old without its mother. It also prohibits the sale of dogs or cats under 8-weeks old
Animal importers who offer dogs or cats for sale to licensed pet shops are exempt from the bill’s registration and notice provisions if the animal is delivered directly to the shop.
“The current situation poses significant risk to the state’s human population through the potential introduction of zoonotic diseases and also threatens the state’s companion animal population,” Reviczky said in testimony.
Under the new law a health certificate must accompany any animal imported into the state. The animal importer must also get a veterinary exam and new health certificate for the animal within 48 hours of entering Connecticut. And a licensed veterinarian must examine the animal every 90 days until the animal is sold, transferred or adopted. Importers must keep the records for up to three years.
“I view this law as a public service to help protect our citizens and their domestic pets from unintentionally coming into contact with animals that have contagious disease or parasites that are brought into the state without going through the proper channels of a licensed pet store or breeder,” Hoydick said.
State Sen. Gayle Slossberg, a Democrat representing New Haven, Orange, and Milford in the 16th Senate District, was a co-sponsor of the bill.
Editor's note: This article was modified from its original version. The paragraph referencing the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was removed. The organization has made no statement in regard to this new law in Connecticut.