TOPEKA — Animal welfare advocates have renewed their charge to update the state’s 25-year-old Pet Animal Act, with a bill already working its way through a House committee.
Nearly all of the 23-member House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources for 90 minutes Monday heard testimony regarding House Bill 2030 — a resurgence of a failed bill last session and an effort now several years in the making. The bill was written by a 10-member Kansas Pet Animal Advisory Board, which includes representatives from breeders, kennels and other licensees covered under the act.
“This law and the reputations of Kansas-raised pets and the welfare of Kansas pet animals is vital,” Sharon Munk, breeder and advisory board member, said.
The bill includes several amendments to the existing law, including requiring facilities to provide adequate water, banning the use of carbon monoxide chambers in euthanasia of cats and dogs and allowing rescues and shelters to house adoption events off-site. It also would formalize the division’s performance-based inspection schedule — allowing inspectors to focus on breeders who need assistance — and change inspections from an option to a requirement.
The bill, and all of its provisions, only affects those licensed to shelter and sell pet animals, a concern for farmers who wondered if the standard would extend to them.
While representatives on Monday seemed comfortable with many of the suggestions, some were concerned with an aggressive fee structure included in the bill.
The bill proposes setting higher caps for six fees, some increasing by more than $300. When Natalie Scott, with the Office of Revisor, gave an example — that the annual licensing fee for hobby breeders would increase from $95 to $200 — there were audible noises of surprise from some committee members.
The fee caps are designed to help the animal facilities inspection program reduce its use of state general fund dollars and help the department pay for hoarding and other major animal welfare events, said Bill Brown, animal health commissioner.
He said the AFI program represents 18 percent of the Department of Agriculture’s animal health budget, but eats up 47 percent of its general fund allocations. The department, he said, handles between two and three hoarding events each year, with a combined average between $4,000 and $6,000 a year.
Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan, challenged that taking care of “real problems” is precisely what the state general fund is supposed to do. Otherwise, she said, those costs fall to good breeders and local resources.
Committee members also had questions about the necessity of opening veterinary care records for U.S. Department of Agriculture facilities to state inspectors. Without having access to those records, Brown stated in his written testimony, state inspectors can’t suspend or revoke a state license for failing to provide adequate veterinary care.
That was a sticking point for the Federation of Animal Owners, said agency representative Steve Hitchcock, the only person to speak against HB 2030. He said the group considered eliminating the USDA records exemption an overreach.
“Those records are for USDA inspections,” Hitchcock said. “Adequate vet care is checked and taken care of by USDA inspectors. We don’t see a reason why two separate agencies need to be doing the same job.”
The committee heard from nine proponents and had written testimony from at least three other groups, including representatives from shelters and breeders from across the state. Many wanted language put back into the amendment giving state inspectors authority over hoarding situations.
Maureen Cummins, a former animal abuse investigator who runs Second Chance Animal Rescue Society in Auburn and serves on the Kansas Pet Animal Advisory Board, said inspections of hoarders is “imperative” to animal and community health.
“I think we all know that hoarders present a very serious problem in our animal community,” she said.
Two members talked about their own communities having “cat houses” and houses where the floor was a “bed of fur.” Both agreed with the advocates who wanted to add the language back in.