On August 20, Sen. Peter Lucido introduced SB 419, which has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Agriculture. This bill introduces long overdue regulation of animal rescues in Michigan and, like animal shelters, pet shops, and large-scale breeders, would bring them under the oversight of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
Currently in Michigan, any individual or organization can call itself a “rescue,” and aside from local ordinances on the number of pets someone can have in a home and state and local anti-cruelty and neglect laws, there are probably not any rules that apply to them.
In Michigan and other states, so-called rescues are engaged in a variety of unacceptable practices:
- They do not care for their animals appropriately and adopt out animals that are sick or adopt out or do not properly manage animals that are unsocialized or aggressive.
- They don’t adopt animals out at all, and they are actually hoarders.
- They raise money under false pretenses.
- Some so-called “rescues” are being used as a front for the puppy mill industry.
- Some self-designated “rescues” are acquiring animals illegally (such as taking strays from a city in violation of state law and usurping the role of the local animal control authority).
There is even a Facebook page that collects and shares news stories and other reports of disreputable rescues nationally.
When a rescue operation results in large numbers of animals in jeopardy, shelters and legitimate rescues have to step in to help the animals. Of course, by the time these animals have spent time with a disreputable rescue, they are suffering from health and behavior issues that are much worse than they would have been had they just gone directly to a legitimate organization in the first place. Also, because these unregulated people and groups are able to amass such a large number of animals, when they are discovered, these animals hit the system all at once, which is overwhelming.
The proposed changes to Act 287 of 1969 (Pet Shops, Dog Pounds, and Animal Shelters) in SB 419 are designed to include Michigan animal rescues with the other animal-related organizations and businesses regulated by the Act and subject them to the Act’s requirements.
As a necessary starting point, the bill includes a definition of an “animal rescue” and of a “foster home.” An animal rescue is defined as an organization that conducts many of the same functions as an animal protection shelter or an animal control shelter but that is not registered with the department because the rescue lacks a bricks and mortar facility. Instead, these rescues maintain animals in foster homes. Animal rescues would be required to register with the department, and the department would have the authority to inspect some or all of the foster homes utilized by the rescue.
Pursuant to SB 419, MDARD would have the authority to promulgate rules that would provide minimum standards of care that would apply specifically to animal rescues. In the absence of new rules, animal rescues would be subject to R151, the department’s administrative rule that also applies to animal control shelters, animal protection shelters, pet shops, and large-scale dog breeders. All of the Act’s provisions regarding such matters as importing animals, sterilizing animals, availability of ICHAT, and general record maintenance would apply to rescues.
The proposed changes also include a section that would apply specifically to rescues, including a prohibition on breeding, a prohibition on accepting strays without a municipal contract, and the street addresses for the foster homes where the rescue’s animals are located and information about which animals are being fostered at each foster home.
The majority of Michigan rescues are comprised of hard-working, responsible people who are taking good care of their animals and are doing their best to help animals in need. The Michigan Humane Society deeply appreciates the critical role they play in animal welfare, and we regularly partner with reputable rescues. However, the problems with the minority of groups that are behaving irresponsibly or unethically seem to be growing. The time has come for state-wide legislation of foster-based rescues.
We will provide updates and information about opportunities to support this bill as it makes its way through the legislative process. Please help us raise awareness and enlist the support of other animal lovers by sharing this blog and encouraging others to join our Legislative Action Network.
Thank you for all you do for animals!
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