New Rules Go Into Effect Tomorrow for Pet Shops and Other Licensed Sheltering Facilities
PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today announced Rhode Island is the first state in New England to adopt detailed housing and care standards for animal care facilities licensed by the state. The new rules, outlined in the State of Rhode Island's Rules and Regulations Governing Animal Care Facilities, go into effect Thursday, October 8, 2015, and apply to pet shops, kennels, municipal pounds, animal shelters and rescues, and animal brokers.
"This is yet the latest example of Rhode Island's leadership and continued commitment to the care and protection of animals," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Ensuring their health and welfare is a responsibility we take very seriously. By giving us broader authority to intervene and address issues before they spiral out of control, these new rules will help keep animals safer, and by giving consumers better access to breeder information, they protect prospective buyers as well."
Of particular note in the new regulations is the requirement that sources and dispositions of animals be documented and made available to consumers. This requirement addresses growing concerns from the public about acquiring pets from 'puppy mills' - breeding facilities known for their inhumane conditions.
All commercial dog breeders that supply pet shops must register with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which in turn publishes inspection records on breeding facilities. Under the new guidelines, animal enclosures must now have 'source' information clearly displayed on them; this allows prospective buyers to easily access information, such as citations on a breeder's record, via a quick search of USDA's website.
"Rhode Islanders will now have access to vital records that help them make more informed decisions and determine for themselves whether a breeder is upstanding or not," said Rhode Island State Veterinarian Scott Marshall, DVM. "With this added transparency, the breeder is also held to a higher standard - a clear victory for both animals and consumers."
The new regulations also allow DEM to assess penalties and respond to situations that require remedial action. Previously, the Department lacked the authority to address deficient conditions that did not meet the threshold necessary to revoke a facility's license or to file criminal charges. Adoption of these standards builds on recent legislative victories, including the passage of amendments to RIGL 4-1-31 in 2014, that bolster the state's ability to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty and neglect.
Feeding and watering requirements - as well as the size, comfort, and safety of animal enclosures - are equally addressed by the new standards; this given young animals that are not fully vaccinated and housed in such facilities are often found to carry diseases that pose risks to both animal and human health. The intent of the new guidelines is to ensure animals are housed in safe, sanitary environments and in a manner which will minimize any risk of disease to other animals or to the public.
For more information, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow DEM on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) or Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM for timely updates.