Animal Law Review

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This Note aims to provide a guide for state law reforms to ease the responsibility on southern states’ shelter, rescue, and foster systems. It employs a three-pronged strategy to address two main challenges for homeless companion animals—overpopulation and unprosecuted animal cruelty. The United States euthanizes an estimated 1.5 million companion animals annually in its companion animal shelters, largely due to overpopulation, and the South plays an exponentially larger role in this statistic than the North, with some southern cities annually euthanizing hundreds of thousands of companion animals each. Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters each year, and in addition to facing the possibility of euthanasia in their future, a large fraction of those companion animals have been subject to abuse before their arrival. Lack of funds to support homeless companion animals, however, has left overpopulation and animal abuse largely unaddressed. Animal abusers responsible for homeless companion animals’ suffering frequently escape arrest and prosecution for these crimes.

To address these challenges, legislators should employ a comprehensive approach to state animal law reform to avoid the unpopular decision to raise taxes on pet owners. First, states should heighten state breeding fees and penalties to help shrink the future homeless companion animal population. Second, states should establish a private civil action for shelters to hold animal abusers accountable and collect money forfeitures of any profits abusers gained through their cruelty to animals. Third, funds collected from breeding fees, penalties, and civil action forfeitures should finance greater enforcement of breeder regulations. Surplus revenue should then finance any combination of the following: a state spay and neuter program, a homeless companion animal transport program, or a state animal abuser registry. By executing all three prongs concurrently, legislators can provide sustainable support to their state’s overwhelmed shelter, rescue, and foster system without inflicting a general tax on pet owners.

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