MAC’s summary of shelter regulation hearing

What happened on September 24th?

MAC members attended and testified at the hearing on shelter and rescue regulations — 330 CMR 30:00. One important thing to note is that the comment period was extended until October 8, 2013.  Comments should be sent to:

Mr. Gregory Watson
Department of Agricultural Resources
251 Causeway Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02114

About 100 people attended with about 30 or so people testifying. Overall the general theme heard is that while regulation may be necessary, the proposed draft exceeds MDARs authority, doesnt serve to solve the issue of their concern disease transmission and has been formulated in a vacuum. Additionally, many of the requirements run counter to the Association of Shelter Veterinarians Guidelines and would serve to increase length of stay, animal density and disease transmission. Several speakers (mostly scientists) questioned if the regulations are data-based — what evidence are there for these regulations and specific provisions. Many people thought that there would be more back and forth with the hearing officers or answers to questions. This is not usually a part of a administative hearing — the goal is for the hearing officer to listen to commments.

Although MDAR commented that they sought input from approximately 25 shelters and rescue groups there is a perceived failure on the part of MDAR to involve the larger shelter community in the drafting of the regulations. People want a more open dialogue with MDAR to craft fair and appropriate regulations that would serve to focus on those organizations that are acting irresponsibly and not hinder professional, responsible groups’ work in caring for and placing animals.

Many people thought the hearing went well as people were professional, many of the comments echoed each other and the attorney indicated that this was the beginning of the process, not the end.

There were recurring concerns:

  • Foster home inspection and registration. In the absence of a disease outbreak, foster home inspection is an overreach of MDAR authority, and as the population of foster homes is dynamic, registration and accompanying record keeping is onerous. Foster homes make the difference between life and death for many animals. Many voiced their concern that the proposed regulations would result in a decrease of foster homes which would increase euthanasia rates.
  • MDAR’s lack of understanding of significant aspects of sheltering. Many understand that while some sort of regulations are necessary, the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t provide the most effective way to reduce disease transmission, and in several ways runs counter to such goals.
  • Health Certificates. Issuance of health certificates will be sometimes logistically impossible, may require unavailable funding, and would actually increase disease transmission. Increasing length of stay and animal density may ultimately lead to increased euthanasia.
  • Behavior. Language regarding behavior assessments, modification, disclosure and adoption of animals with behavior issues is vague and without determination of who would be the arbitrator of such assessments.

What’s next?

1.  Submit comments by October 8th if you haven’t. See above. Read MAC’s guidance document or see our comments on this page.  If you have submitted comments, consider whether you want to submit any further comments before October 8th. Make specific suggestions in your comments — suggest alternative language! Don’t just criticize; offer constructive alternatives.

2.  The MDAR attorney will review comments after the 8th. They will also need to be reviewed by the Secretariat level before they go to the Secretary of State (and are final). The attorney for the MDAR said that people would have access to the next draft.