It is beyond legitimate dispute that enlightened societies have a moral and political obligation to protect innocent children from harm. In the United States, even before enactment of today’s modern statutes, it was the consistent policy of government to look after the interests of children (although the form and extent of that protection often left much to be desired). Laws protected children from their own folly and improvidence, and from abuse and neglect by adults. Today, in every state in America, child-protection statutes reflect governmental concern with a child’s nutrition, clothing, shelter, education, capacity to contract, inability to consent to sexual acts, and much more.

The principle which underlies all modern child protection legislation unites the cause of children’s rights with the parallel cause of animal rights. Government intervenes to prevent or remedy children’s fear, hunger, pain, suffering, neglect, abuse and even death because children are incapable, mentally and physically, of protecting themselves from these conditions. So, too, are companion animals. Like children, they are defenseless. Like children, they can experience fear, hunger, pain, suffering, neglect, abuse and even death. Like children, government has a duty to protect them—one manifested in the many state laws regarding the protection of companion animals.

Regrettably, however, companion animal protective legislation is woefully inadequate.

Today we live amidst what can fairly be characterized as animal genocide, especially of dog and cats. Puppy mills, cat factories, and back-yard breeders manufacture countless companion animals. American cities are rife with pet shops, selling dogs and cats.

Strays, dogs and cats alike, breed indiscriminately. And unwanted animals end up dead in the streets or countryside, or euthanized at shelters and humane societies. Estimates vary as to how many unwanted dogs and cats are killed annually, but millions[1] is probably not an exaggeration.

Today we live amidst people who cause untold animal suffering through ignorance, irresponsibility, negligence, recklessness, and yes, often even intentional cruelty.

Today we live in an environment which, at best, has animal protection services spread across state and many local levels, and throughout various agencies. At worst, some localities have no such services. And even in those jurisdictions where private shelters or humane societies do exist, they cannot—mostly, they do not— adequately cope with the profound animal protection problems which exist throughout America today.

Those problems do not include merely the countless strays who roam our streets and countryside, the fecal matter which pollutes our environment, the euthanasia of millions of unwanted dogs and cats, the cruelty, the neglect. No, those problems also embrace every other aspect of the relationship between humans and companion animals, and the responsibility of the former to the latter. And because, taken as a whole, there are so many problems born of this interaction, what is needed governmentally is a single public entity with know-how, power, and resources, a single public agency concerned with companion animal problems, one empowered to take a coordinated across-the-board approach to those problems in the public interest and in the interest of companion animals.

What is needed on a state level is a Department of Animal Affairs.

Model Department of Animal Affairs Statute

Department; commissioner. — The humane treatment and control of dogs and cats being directly related to the public fiscal, health, safety, welfare, and environment, and thus a matter of great public concern, there shall be a Department of Animal Affairs in the Executive Department of this State, the head of which shall be the Commissioner of Animal Affairs who shall be appointed by the Governor.

(a) The Commissioner shall have jurisdiction to regulate all matters affecting dogs and cats.

(b) In furtherance, but not in limitation, of such jurisdiction, the Commissioner shall have the duty and power:

(1) To promulgate, amend, suspend, and abolish rules and regulations to implement the jurisdiction and carry out the powers and duties of the Department;

(2) To exercise all functions consistent with the Department’s jurisdiction, powers and duties which are now or may hereafter be allowable under state law;

(3) To hold public and private hearings, administer oaths, take testimony, issue and serve subpoenas, receive evidence, make findings, promulgate and enforce orders, and generally to utilize the administrative fact finding and adjudicative process in furtherance of the Department’s function;

(4) To conduct studies, research, and investigations pertaining to, and monitor the status of, the welfare of dogs and cats.

(5) To plan and develop programs, and make recommendations to the Executive and Legislative branches, concerning the humane treatment and control of dogs and cats to ensure their protection from cruelty and all forms of suffering and exploitation;

(6) To establish and humanely operate a public shelter and pound for the care, redemption, adoption, and humane euthanization of unwanted dogs and cats and those incurably suffering from injury, disease, or other infirmity;

(7) To establish and humanely operate low-cost spay neuter clinics;

(8) To consult with and assist all schools below college level in connection with the preparation and implementation of educational programs concerning the humane treatment and control of dogs and cats to ensure their protection from cruelty and all forms of suffering and exploitation;

(9) To license all owned or possessed dogs and cats in this jurisdiction, subject to such requirements as the department may promulgate.

(c) In furtherance, but not in limitation, of such jurisdiction, the commissioner shall have and exercise such additional powers and duties as shall be necessary and proper to fulfill its function and as may be assigned by law.

Separability. — If any provision of this statute shall be held invalid, or ineffective in whole or in part, or inapplicable to any given situation, it is the intent and purpose of this statute that all other provisions shall nevertheless be separately and fully valid, effective, and applicable.

This law shall take effect as provided by law.

[1] Neither ISAR nor any other organization in the United States has available a reliable estimate for how many dogs and cats are euthanized annually just by animal shelters in this country.


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