As someone who has attended an American Pets Alive! conference, or contacted us for information or assistance, we are reaching out to you to update you on the legislative issue we brought to your attention last Sunday, HB 1274, is scheduled to be heard in the House Committee on Urban Affairs this Tuesday, April 21st. HB 1274 is the Texas House version (identical companion bill) of SB 1911. As you know from our message to you on Monday, SB 1911 was pulled from last Tuesday’s agenda of the Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs Committee. Therefore, the hearing this Tuesday for HB 1274 will be our first opportunity to publicly weigh in regarding legislation that, if passed in its current form, would have a devastating impact on the growing No Kill Movement in our state. Note that SB 1911 may also be rescheduled to be heard this coming week, so efforts to defeat that bill should continue.
Details regarding both bills from the Austin Pets Alive!, Executive Director, Dr. Ellen Jefferson, are included below. If you, or your family or friends, live in a district represented by a legislator that serves on this committee please reach out and ask that they vote against HB 1274 at the hearing on Tuesday. The full committee membership with links to their districts is listed below.
Senate Bill 1911 and House Bill 1274, which are identical companion bills, would create additional government bureaucracy and obstacles for shelters to receive the help they need from veterinarians. Should these bills become law, it will directly result in the unnecessarily deaths of many animals in Texas. We need you to ask your senators and representatives if they are aware of the negative consequences of this legislation and that passing it adversely affects shelters and the No Kill Movement.
In their current versions, passage of these bills would mean that shelters across Texas would not be able to use the low-cost, innovative, and lifesaving medical techniques that have resulted in savings the lives of thousands of animals across our state. The “standard of care” required by these bills is simply out of reach financially for most shelters. Despite the fact that our programs have been extremely successful year after year, saving thousands of lives, and other states are contacting us every day to learn from the no kill model established in Texas, this bill will shut programs down, including Austin Pets Alive!, on September 1, 2015 should this legislation go into effect.
Here are more details on how this legislation would affect your community’s shelters:
The TX Veterinary Board would be responsible for creating “standards,” approving those standards, and then holding the veterinarian who assists your shelter to meeting those standards, regardless the cost to do so. These standards will be based on open intake shelters that do not share our mission to save all the animals, nonprofits that spend a good deal of money to save a few select animals, and high dollar private practice norms.
- If you have a vet that helps you by letting you order or store drugs at your facility for use on your animals for common issues, your vet will now be responsible for everything that happens in that shelter regarding the care of the animals.
- If you give a pill to an animal after hours and outside the veterinarian’s direct orders, even if just to prevent pain overnight, the vet could lose their license. This will create enormous new potential for liability for your vet who, as a consequence, may not be able to continue to support your shelter.
- If you have an outbreak in your shelter and you don’t have a protocol for your staff to treat in the absence of a vet, your vet will have to wait to get vet board approval before treating it with whatever lifesaving method they can find. If you have an animal that has a complicated fractured limb, your vet will not be allowed to perform surgery themselves, but be required to refer that animal to a specialty hospital (at your cost), or refuse treatment (i.e. recommend death).
- Similarly, if you have an animal in your care that is very sick and you don’t have the resources to send to a specialist or overnight facility, your veterinarian will be liable for not following the standard of care, even if they are personally treating the animal and working through the issue.
Note that while much of the language in these bills appears to create improvements in shelter care, the reality is that the veterinarians supporting your shelters would be required to jump through many additional bureaucratic hurdles without sufficient funding to meet this challenge. We would no longer be able to use the best and most cost-effective ways to save thousands of lives. No Kill Programs, including those of Austin Pets Alive!, are not “standard” by definition because the “standard” methods are unable to save the lives that we save. “Standard” veterinary practices have NEVER created a No Kill Program in any community in the United States. Our methods have. And as always, we welcome any and all those who would like to visit our facilities and learn more about our programs and protocols to do so.
Below are some of the Austin Pets Alive! programs that would be in immediate danger if this legislation passes. Many Texas shelters have similar programs.
1. The Parvo puppy program, which saves 85% of the 500 dogs with Parvo that we save from other shelters each year.
2. The bottle baby kitten program, which saves 90% of the 1600 neonatal kittens we save each year (a higher save rate than any published survival rates in breeding facilities and nature).
3. The ringworm program, which saves 100% of the 250 cats saved with ringworm each year.
4. The entire medical program, which cares for every animal in our system and treats hundreds of severely injured and ill animals each year.
Again, this legislation sounds like a good thing (who wouldn’t want “standard” vet care!?) but the reality is “standard” care does not and cannot save the animals we are all dedicate to saving. There is no way that shelter programs can bear the cost of care to match that of private practice or much better funded humane nonprofits. Our local governments will not be able to absorb additional costs resulting in a devastating and needless loss of life.
So again, we need to help each other to defeat this bill and protect No Kill Programs. For now, please ONLY make contact with the House and Senate offices (listed below) if you are a constituent of these members. Should this legislation reach the Senate or House floor, we will need more help!
We’ll keep you posted, please contact us if you have any questions, and many thanks,
Ellen Jefferson, DVM
Austin Pets Alive!
Here is the Urban Affairs Committee membership (where HB 1274 is scheduled to be heard this Tuesday, 4/21/15):
Here is the membership of the Senate’s Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs Committee (hearing date on SB 1911 now pending):