Kupchick, area legislators continue fight to tighten restrictions on animal shelters

State Rep. Brenda Kupchick

State Rep. Brenda Kupchick

State Rep. Brenda Kupchick along with House Republican Leader Themis Klarides and State Reps. Nicole Klarides-Ditria and J.P. Sredzinski introduced legislation that looks to improve conditions at animal shelters throughout the state.  

A public hearing was held on the bill, H.B. 6334, last week in the legislature’s Environment Committee, where legislators urged the committee to pass the bill onto the House and Senate for a vote.  

“This bill would require, “brick & mortar” animal welfare/shelter facilities be licensed and inspected to make sure animals are being treated humanely. It’s not directed toward home based rescues. The bill is in response to the 2012 case in Bethlehem where animal control seized 63 dogs from the SPCA of Connecticut when the animal control officer claimed SPCA Director Fred Acker was abusing animals and keeping dogs in conditions that were too cold. Both the local Animal Control office and the state Department of Agriculture had their hands tied by not being able to seize the animals without a court order,” said Rep. Brenda Kupchick, former co-chair of the Puppy Mill Task Force.

The genesis of this year’s legislation stems from an incident last summer when the Klarides sisters went to adopt a cat from the Monroe Animal Shelter run by Fred Acker, who has a long history of operating unhealthy animal shelters. The sisters walked into appalling conditions — almost all the cats and dogs at the facility had a respiratory disease and were showing signs of general neglect.

Rep. Kupchick has worked on legislation since 2012 to stop those like Fred Acker from running and owning animal shelters in Connecticut.  

Mr. Acker has been in and out of courtrooms for animal cruelty charges. In 2012, animal control seized 63 Dogs from Acker’s facility in Bethlehem. Acker was later convicted of 63 counts of animal cruelty in 2013, but for the past three years, he still operated the SPAC of Connecticut in located in Monroe. Last year, Acker was convicted of 11 counts of animal cruelty and was sentenced to one year in jail.

“We learned firsthand of the real need to have far greater oversight of these facilities. The lack of regulation at the local and state level has led to animal abuse that has gone unchecked in many instances,’’ Klarides said. “This legislation will give the local and state authorities the leverage to regulate and, if necessary, close down animal shelters that pose threats to animals.’’

“The reason I co-introduced this bill was to be a part of the solution for keeping our shelter animals safe and well taken care of while they await being adopted out. This bill provides the same oversight we require of pet shops, grooming facilities and other animal operations and is the right thing to do to ensure the humane treatment of animals,” said Rep. Sredzinski.

“Having almost no oversight and standards for animal shelters is unacceptable,” said Rep. Klairdes-Ditria. “The conditions that I witnessed at the facility were deplorable and went on for far too long. The time is now for us to create new standards and regulations for animal shelters in the state of Connecticut. I am committed to making sure the conditions at animal shelters are clean and safe for the animals and the staff that operate them.”

Currently, there is a lack of oversight and enforcement regarding animal shelters in the state, which leaves room for shelters to operate in substandard conditions while giving localities no avenue for legal action.

The legislators are seeking to have the Connecticut Department of Agriculture oversee all animal shelters in the state. Should this bill move forward, all shelters that do not register will be forced to cease operation, and those that do register will be subject to the oversight and regulation enforced in the law.

H.B. 6334, An Act Requiring the Registration of Animal Shelters, now awaits action from the committee.  The committee has until March 24 to move the proposal to the House floor for debate.

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