A bill has been introduced into the Wisconsin State Legislature that seeks to reduce the required stray hold for found animals from the current seven days to only four days. The main intent of this bill (Assembly Bill 487 and the Senate companion bill SB450) is to improve the outcome for seized dogs (often called Court Case dogs) in Wisconsin, which of course is a very good thing! Unfortunately, Wisconsin Humane Society and the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) who helped draft the bill have also included a paragraph that reduces the stray hold for all animals (dogs AND cats).
- A discussion on stray hold for lost pets has absolutely nothing to do with legislation concerning Court Case Dogs. They are entirely separate issues.
- There are many dysfunctional portions of Wisconsin’s current lost pet and animal control systems including:
- There is no centralized database being used by shelters in Wisconsin for reporting lost and found pets. (There is a database available, free to use, but stray holding facilities are not making use of it). Stray holding facilities can include large shelters, vet clinics, boarding kennels, police departments, town offices, individual contractors who may hold the dogs in their garage on their property. These facilities do not cross-communicate making it very difficult for an owner to locate their lost pet. Unlike car keys, that usually stay where you lose them – dogs and cats can easily wander and cross jurisdictional borders ending up in a stray holding facility many miles from where they went missing.
- Many Wisconsin stray holding facilities do not post photos of found animals on line, which requires the owner to visit the facility in person to check. This is often time consuming and costly, and many owners do not even know all of the places they should check. Many dogs do not end up in shelters until they have been missing for a few weeks or a few months. It becomes logistically and financially impossible for an owner to keep checking in person every place that their lost pet may end up.
- Some Wisconsin stray holding facilities have outdated microchip scanners or no microchip scanners at all.
- Many Wisconsin stray holding facilities do not proactively look for owners of missing pets by doing things such as: tracing deadend microchips, posting signs where lost pets were picked up, posting photos online and on Facebook, and searching Craigslist and other lost pet listings.
- Many Wisconsin stray holding facilities do not have extended hours to make it convenient for owners that may work long hours or two jobs to pick up their lost pet in the required time.
- Many Wisconsin stray holding facilities have exhorbitant fees and fines to reclaim a lost pet. Owners often need a few more days to come up with the money to reclaim their pet. It is not uncommon for reclaim fees to be in excess of $200.
- Many Wisconsin stray holding facilities have not embraced the changing demographics of our state and do not offer bilingual assistance to owners who have lost their pets.
- Many Wisconsin stray holding facilities do not take into consideration barriers that prevent people from reclaiming their pets – including lack of transportation, lack of cell phone or internet service and owners with mental or phsyical disabilities.
- Many Good Samaritans that pick up a lost dog on a roadway may be passing through the area and take the dog to a shelter at their destination rather than taking it to the correct stray holding facility where the dog was found. The owner may be checking local shelters but their dog was never taken to the local shelter. Good Samaritans take dogs to shelters that they know or like, not necessarily the “correct” shelter.
- Right now, it is too easy for a stray holding facility to proclaim that “the owner wasn’t looking for their pet” and put it down or adopt it out immediately after the stray hold period has lapsed, instead of proactively being part of the solution.
- Wisconsin shelters and rescues are not required to submit intake and euthanasia data to the Department of Agriculture (as is required in Illinois, Michigan and many other states). Government oversight and transparency are needed to make sure that stray animals are not needlessly being put down in our shelters. Tax dollars pay for animal control and stray holding facilities are compensated with those tax dollars to care for lost pets.
Until these items are addressed, we cannot support a reduced stray hold period in Wisconsin. We support legislating minimum standards that stray holding facilities need to take to proactively reunite lost pets with their families.
We are asking each and everyone of you, our Facebook fans, to contact your state legislators and ask them to NOT co-author or support AB487/SB450 until the portion concerning the reduction in stray hold is removed.
Find out who your state legislators are by clicking here and entering your address. Your Wisconsin State Senator and Representative’s contact information will pop up.
Here is a link to the text of the bill: http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2015/related/proposals/ab487
Here is a link to the fiscal estimate: http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2015/related/fe/ab487
Here is an important excerpt from the fiscal estimate: “This bill would reduce the amount of time abandoned or stray animals would have to be held in order to be claimed by their owners from 7 days to 4. Any cost savings to local government related to eliminating 3 days of custody of a stray animal are indeterminate. It is unknown how many local governments would choose to euthanize or release a stray animal after 4 days as these entities may hold stray animals as long as they choose. However, if a local government chooses to euthanize or release a stray animal after the 4 day waiting period, there may be additional costs related to owner interactions including phone calls, emails, and visits by distraught animal owners whose pet went missing and was euthanized or given away after only 4 days.”
Thank you! Together we can help more lost pets get home safely!
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