In recent weeks, the Wisconsin Humane Society and Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission expressed their joint support for a bill proposed to the state legislature by representative John Spiros, a Republican representing Marshfield. Bill LRB 1926/1 addresses two issues: the holding periods for seized animals and the holding periods for stray cats and dogs.
While it may seem that the bill actually discusses one thing, holding periods for seized animals and holding periods for strays are actually two completely separate issues because the circumstances that cause animals who are seized to be in a shelter are generally distinctly different from those that cause strays to end up in the same place. In Wisconsin, seized dogs are generally referred to as “Court Case Dogs” and they are taken from their homes when their owners are suspected of crimes such as dog fighting.
Under Wisconsin’s current law, seized animals can be held by MADACC for however long it takes for their owners to stand trial because the dogs are considered evidence in pending trials. Unfortunately, this means that some of Wisconsin’s Court Case Dogs are held by MADACC for several years with only limited interaction with other dogs and humans and no chance of being rehomed.
Stray animals, on the other hand, are typically brought to shelters because Good Samaritans identified them as lost and wanted them to be in a safe place that will give them a chance to be reunited with their families. While it is true that the state’s system to reunite lost pets with their owners is riddled with problems, including a lack of coordination and communication between shelters and rescues, an unused centralized database for lost pets, nonworking and outdated microchip scanners and excessive reclaim fees, among many others, it is equally true that bringing a lost pet to a shelter gives the animal his or her best shot at being reunited with its owner.
Under the current law, shelters must hold stray animals for seven days before they attempt to rehome them through the adoption process; the seven day hold period does not include the day a stray is brought to a shelter. If passed, Bill LRB 1926/1 will lower the holding period for stray dogs and cats to four days, not including the day that an animal initially arrives at a holding facility.
Statistics irrefutably show that the psychological, emotional and physical well-being of animals are put at risk when they spend time in a shelter. This is particularly true when animals such as Wisconsin’s Court Case Dogs are forced to remain in holding facilities for months or even years at a time.
When it comes to stray animals, however, reducing the length of time that a shelter has to hold them by nearly half does not mean that their health will not be jeopardized by a shelter environment because they’ll spend less time in one. Rather, it means that their very lives and the relationships they have with their permanent families are at greater risk. Owners will have only four days instead of seven to reunite with their lost pets and bring them back to the homes the animals are used to. Strays who are not lucky enough to be found by their owners and aren’t adopted by a forever home might be euthanized according to a comparatively shorter timeline than they are now.
While Bill LRB 1926/1 will finally end the systemic cruelty that seized animals are too often exposed to for too long a period of time in Wisconsin, in its current form the bill will also decrease the likelihood that some stray animals will be returned to their families because it severely reduces the required holding periods for strays at the same time.
Certain respected organizations such as the Wisconsin Humane Society have come out in support of Bill LRB 1926/1, others such as Lost Dogs of Wisconsin have withheld their support because of the reduction in holding periods for strays, while still others have expressed no opinion regarding the bill as of yet. There is no reason for you to not tell your state representatives how you feel about Bill LRB 1926/1, however.
Click here and enter your residential address and the contact information for your district’s state legislators will pop up. Let them know that holding periods for seized animals and those related to stray animals are two completely separate issues and they should be dealt with by two individual pieces of legislation!