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Vt. Lawmakers Set To Consider Bill
On Animal Shelters

Saturday, November 28, 2015
Montpelier — Legislation on proper shelter for domestic animals might be expected to have breeders and animal welfare activists fighting like cats and dogs.

But members of a special working group set up to prepare a bill for lawmakers to consider when they reconvene in January say they’ve been able to do the work without rancor.

Representatives of the Vermont Federation of Dog Clubs, the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society of the United States participated in a series of conference call meetings during the summer and fall with the aim of modernizing and clarifying Vermont’s animal shelter law and providing clearer guidelines to local animal control officers, police and other investigators on what constitutes a violation.

“We want to take the guesswork out of it and try to find a balance of having it not be so prescriptive that it doesn’t work, but also have strong and solid guidelines that would be easier for a humane agent to apply and interpret in the field,” said Joanne Bourbeau, Northeast director for the Humane Society of the United States, who participated in the working group.

Rep. Carolyn Partridge, D-Windham, and chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee, said she asked the group to meet and draft a proposed bill so any possible disputes between the interest groups could be resolved before her committee takes up the measure.

“I said I want all the stakeholders to basically participate in a process where you guys come up with a solution,” Partridge said.

The group came up with a standard that said an animal should have room to stand and turn around in its shelter; the formula in the bill for the size of a dog shelter is the distance from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail plus 6 inches, squared.

A draft of the bill says the shelter must “provide adequate protection from cold and heat, including protection from the direct rays of the sun and the direct effect of wind, rain, or snow. Shivering due to cold is evidence of inadequate shelter for any dog.”

Shelters for cats are required to be at least 2 feet high and, for cats over 2 months old, have floor space of at least 9 square feet.

One challenge was to write legislation applicable to all breeds, said Steve McLeod of the Vermont Traditions Coalition, which represents hunters, among others. McLeod was not on the task force but has followed its work.

“Hound dogs are different from poodles, and Alaskan huskies are different from hound dogs,” in both cold tolerance and the size of enclosure they need, he said.

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