Animal welfare advocates, legislators and shelter animals flanked Gov. Jack Markell as he signed four animal protection bills recently at the Delaware Humane Association in Wilmington. The new laws establish oversight and training programs for animal shelters and animal control officers and prohibit shelters from using gas chambers. In addition, trained personnel must evaluate animals seized in criminal activity, cruelty, and animal fighting for adoptability, instead of automatic euthanasia.
“These new policies further protect animals and people who are vulnerable in our community,” Markell said. “It is a tremendous step forward for Delaware, thanks to collaboration among the Delaware General Assembly, pet owners, shelter officials, animal welfare advocates, enforcement personnel, and government officials.”
“The Office of Animal Welfare became part of the Department of Health and Social Services a year ago, and often in my work I see how important animals are to people,” said DHSS Cabinet Secretary Rita Landgraf. “From pet therapy dogs and cats in nursing homes and hospitals, to guide dogs for people with disabilities, to the everyday family pets looking for homes, across the spectrum, animals truly deserve our respect and protection.”
• Senate Bill 201 tasks the Department of Health and Social Services, through the Office of Animal Welfare, with the management of the Shelter Standards Law, state Spay/Neuter Program and Fund, and Companion Animal License Plate fund, as well as clarifies the authority of the Department of Agriculture over poultry and livestock species and zoonotic disease prevention, eradication and mitigation.
• House Bill 311 ensures all Animal Control Officers and Animal Cruelty Investigators are adequately trained by an approved training program and certified by the state to operate in Delaware. Over the next several months, OAW will draft procedures and regulations for SB 201 and HB 311 that concern shelter inspections, complaint investigation, and animal control officer certification.
• Senate Bill 245 protects animals seized in criminal activity, cruelty and animal fighting from automatic euthanasia, instead allowing for evaluation of animals for adoptability by trained personnel. The bill also ensures that individuals involved in the criminal activity are prohibited from adopting the animals after their seizure or forfeiture.
• House Bill 297 clarifies when an animal control constable or dog warden may impound a dog that is suspected of being dangerous or potentially dangerous. HB 297 strengthens the existing Dangerous Dog Law.