FAIRFIELD, Conn. — A 2012 case in Bethlehem involving 63 dogs that were saved from deplorable shelter conditions has led a group of lawmakers to introduce a bill to improve the conditions at shelters throughout Connecticut.
The bill was introduced by State Rep. Brenda Kupchick of Fairfield along with House Republican Leader Themis Klarides and State Reps. Nicole Klarides-Ditria of Seymour, Beacon Falls and Derby and J.P. Sredzinski of Newtown and Monroe.
In the Bethlehem case, the animal control officer accused Fred Acker of abusing animals and keeping dogs in conditions that were too cold, according to Kupchick.
"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 Kupchick. She is a former co-chair of the Puppy Mill Task Force.
The legislation stems from an incident last summer when the Klarides sisters went to adopt a cat from the Monroe Animal Shelter run by Acker, who has a long history of operating unhealthy animal shelters, according to Kupchick.
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, Kupchick said.
She has worked on legislation since 2012 to stop those like Acker from running and owning animal shelters in Connecticut.
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," said Klarides.
"The lack of regulation at the local and state level has led to animal abuse that has gone unchecked in many instances."
“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," said Klarides.
"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 Sredzinski.
“Having almost no oversight and standards for animal shelters is unacceptable,” said Klairdes-Ditria.
“The conditions that I witnessed at the facility were deplorable and went on for far too long.”
The legislators would require the Connecticut Department of Agriculture to oversee all animal shelters in the state.
If the bill passes into law then 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 is awaiting action in the committee.
They have until March 24 to move the proposal to the House floor for debate.