DOAG: DOMESTIC ANIMAL CONTROL WORKING GROUP




February 6, 2019

DOMESTIC ANIMAL CONTROL WORKING GROUP

Nathan Wilson, Executive Assistant, Commissioner’s Office

 

The Department of Agriculture (DoAg)’s Domestic Animal Control Working Group has prepared legislation that has been submitted to the Connecticut General Assembly for the 2019 legislative session.

In August 2018, the Commissioner of Agriculture convened the working group to develop recommendations for legislation to:

  1. Reduce the number of attacks by domestic animals which result in the death or serious injury of another animal or person, and

  2. Mitigate the effects of disposal orders for such attacking domestic animals on municipalities and the state by shortening the process for appealing animal control officer disposal orders while ensuring due process for animal owners.

By the end of 2018, the working group had agreed on recommendations and the Department submitted those to the General Assembly’s Environment Committee as a proposed bill for the 2019 legislative session.

After much discussion and consideration, the legislative recommendations of the working group included:

  • Providing definitive guidance to Animal Control Officer (ACO)s pertaining to the factors to be considered when determining the need for a disposal or restraint order on a dog which has demonstrated an aggressiveness and/or a vicious propensity by biting or attacking people or other animals.

  • Modernizes language and provides more specific situations when a dog may be killed during and attack on people, livestock or other domestic animals.

  • Requires ACOs to consider the circumstances, nature of the attack(s) or bite(s), the viciousness of the attack(s) or bite(s), and the ability of owner’s to control aggressive dogs in determining the type of order issued and conditions placed in restraint orders. It includes the provision for either the dog owner or keeper, or the victim to appeal the order.

  • Requires the municipality and dog owner(s) to meet prior to initiating an appeal to the department. At this meeting the parties may address any disputed issues in the order.

  • Provides for the process to issue restraint or disposal orders, notification of rights to appeal, and provides for the holding of a dog during the appeal of a disposal order.

  • Rewrites the language of when an attacking dog or cat attacks another animal it may be subject to a restraint or disposal order, and the opportunity to appeal, similar to the rationale for an attack on a person.

  • Adds the exemption of dogs, cats, and other animals owned by law enforcement, and service animals provided they are under the control of the person with the disability.

  • Provides for the quarantine of animals which have been bitten by or have been exposed to potentially rabid animals and for the state veterinarian to determine the quarantine and management of animals bitten by or exposed to potentially rabid animals.

  • Requires mandatory quarantine of biting dogs, cats, and ferrets for the purpose of observation for the clinical signs of rabies.

  • Shortens the mandatory quarantine of biting dogs, cats, and ferrets from 14 days to 10 days, the length of time currently recommended by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians and the CDC.

  • Adds a requirement that the quarantined dog, cat, or ferret be vaccinated for rabies at the end of the quarantine if it is not current with its rabies vaccination.

The group originated from a 2018 legislative proposal, House Bill No. 5367: AN ACT ESTABLISHING A WORKING GROUP TO STUDY WAYS TO PREVENT DOMESTIC DOG ATTACKS AND MITIGATE THE EFFECTS OF ANIMAL DISPOSAL ORDER, introduced by the Environment Committee, but that proposal to create the working group never passed.

DoAg believed this working group was a good idea and therefore decided to create its own working group with a similar framework as the Environment Committee’s proposed working group. The working group membership consists of:

  • The Commissioner of Agriculture or his designee

  • DoAg’s Director of Regulatory Services

  • A dog bite victim or representative of dog bite victims

  • A representative of the Connecticut Humane Society

  • A representative of a nonprofit organization which represents rescuing of animals

  • A representative of a veterinarian practice

  • The chief elected official of a municipality

  • Two municipal Animal Control Officers

  • One representative of a municipal police department

The working group met once a month in August, September, October, and November to conclude their proposal by the end of the year.

Throughout the meetings the working group had lengthy discussions on topics such as domestic animal quarantines, restraint/disposal orders, exposure to rabies, location of incidents, dog bite severity levels, ACO training hours, and on/off property incidents.

During the 2015 legislative session, DoAg submitted a proposal, House Bill No. 6732: AN ACT CONCERNING THE APPEAL OF RESTRAINT AND DISPOSAL ORDERS ISSUED BY ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS, which would have shifted any appeal of quarantine, disposal or restraint orders concerning certain dogs, cats or other animals to the Superior Court rather than to the Commissioner of Agriculture, but the bill did not pass.

Currently, DoAg is the final decision maker for appealed domestic animal restraint or disposal orders. When a domestic animal incident occurs within a municipality it is handled by the ACO in which the animal and owner resides.

Under current law, depending on the severity of the incident, a municipal ACO can issue a restraint or disposal order for the domestic animal.  The owner and town may attempt to mediate the restraint or disposal order. If a deal is not met and the order continues, the owner can appeal the ACO’s order to the Department.

If the order is appealed the case is then heard by a Hearing Officer within DoAg who will conduct an administrative hearing and consider the facts of the case as presented by both parties. Once a hearing is complete, the Hearing Officer will make its recommendations to the Commissioner of Agriculture who then makes a final decision on whether the order stays or can be thrown out.