Jerry Kopel

Pet Regulations

By Jerry Kopel

Dec. 6, 2008


"Pets ..." admits the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), "are like family" to an overwhelming majority of households in Colorado and nationally.

So a Sunset review in 2008 of the licensing law, Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act (PACFA) revealed a very good law, but with few inspectors and a desperately inefficient small backup system under the Dept. of Agriculture.

That system could be overwhelmed without a deeper dig into general revenue funds paid from fees from more than 2,000 present licensees (1,818 as of July 1, 2007), in 14 categories ranging from retail dealers to cat breeders.

DORA reports "the pet industry is very stable and largely unaffected by downturns in the economy ... continued industry growth at approximately five percent ... (is) expected ... (and) pet owners will pay for services at an increasing level".

PACFA is cash funded by license fees. Because of revenue and spending restrictions by Colorado law, fees were lowered in 2008 and projections are that, without a change in spending authority, they may be lowered again.

Along with recommending continuing the PACFA program, the second most important recommendation was to increase spending authority. DORA states:

"Protecting Colorado's multi-million dollar pet industry from bad actors benefits the state's economy generally and its citizens tangentially".

"Since the regulated community and the general public want to see more inspections and increased action, it seems illogical to continually lower fees, rather than using resources to upgrade technology. This is particularly so, since there appears to be ... correlation between lowered fees and LESS public protection."

There are at present only three inspectors following up complaints. The state is divided into three sectors over Colorado's 104,1000 square miles. There is an average of over 800 annual inspections finding more than 1,000 inspection-based violations.

" ... even if there was another inspector on staff, the current disorganized record system would not handle the increase in inspections and actions without exponentially increasing the record keeping/technology problems."

In other words, more spent for pet protection is better, and politically acceptable, even desirable among Colorado licensees and pet owners if spent first in bringing the staff backup system into the 21st century.

DORA surveyed 227 licensees in June of 2008. Here are the results:

PACFA has raised the standards: 140 agree, 36 disagree. PACFA inspections are necessary: 180 agree, 13 disagree. PACFA inspectors are effective in explaining expectations: 143 agree, 25 disagree.

DORA found the present backup system is a mess, everything is at "a separate entry into an electronic filing cabinet". (This is a failure from the previous administration, but it is now on the shoulders of the present governor.)

While a hiring freeze would not be affected, DORA's concept is to stop accumulating five or more separate pet information data bases (new ones conflicting with previous information still in the files) instead of an integrated system. In DORA's words:

"The information recording methods are an inefficient use of time, space and labor. The licensee hard copy files are too large, unorganized and cumbersome to be useful to the staff, or any person who wishes to examine them. PACFA ... is in desperate need of a technology overhaul".

Another important issue is the lack of unimpeded access to all properties and records pertaining to PACFA. CRS 38-80-110 (3) states:

"At any reasonable time during regular business hours, the commissioner (of agriculture) shall have free and unimpeded access upon consent or upon obtaining an administrative search warrant ... to facilities and records".

DORA's position" "The majority of licensed facilities care for pet animals 24 hours per day seven days per week. Considering that animals could possibly be in danger at any time they are in a non-compliant facility, what, or who, determines what a reasonable time is to inspect a facility?

"Therefore, staff must have unlimited access to fulfill its mission, keeping pet animals safe. If a licensee chooses to operate a home-based facility it must be subject to the same regulatory oversight as those businesses that operate in other conditions.

" ... the Commissioner should have the authority to scrutinize any property or records of a licensee at any time".

"This Sunset review contains recommendations for systemic upgrades that, if adopted by the General Assembly and implemented by staff, will increase efficiency and accountability measures (and we) ... recommend the next Sunset review ... take place in five years to more quickly measure the impact of the changes."

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House ands was chief sponsor of the Sunset law.)

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