Alcee Hastings, Brian Fitzpatrick Call on House to Do More for Animal Shelters, Rescue Organizations

Last week, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., led more than 80 members of Congress in sending a bipartisan letter to House leadership urging support for animal shelters and rescue organizations in any upcoming aid package.

As the country continues to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, animal shelters and rescue organizations are working diligently to provide emergency services that benefit animal welfare and the public health, even as they continue to face workforce issues and supply shortages in addition to financial distress amid the coronavirus pandemic. This letter was endorsed by the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Besides Hastings, other members of the Florida delegation who signed the letter included Democrats U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy, Donna Shalala and Darren Soto and Republican U.S. Reps. Bill Posey

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy,

As you continue to negotiate and draft further legislation to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we respectfully urge you to consider the funding needs of animal shelters and rescue organizations that are working diligently to provide emergency services that benefit animals and public health more broadly. Specifically, federal funding should be included in any upcoming aid package to help non-profit animal shelters and rescues as they face workforce issues and supply shortages in addition to financial distress, including those that are educating the public about the basic elements of pet care and welfare, and those that are providing emergency services and animal control or adoption services, which are recognized as public health services for the benefit of local communities.

We are a nation of pet lovers and these local institutions play a vital role in promoting public health by helping to keep pets with their families and in making every American community a better and safer place for people and animals.  The 2017-2018 American Veterinary Medical Association Sourcebook states that 74.4 million American households have at least one pet. Some 80 percent of those households consider pets to be members of their families, and a large percentage of them have acquired their pets from animal shelters and rescue groups. Despite the workforce issues and supply shortages caused by this pandemic, many shelters still provide emergency services such attending to injured or sick stray animals, cruelty and neglect complaints, bite complaints, and dangerous and aggressive dog complaints.

In this difficult time, the organizations that care for and adopt out animals are heavily engaged in disseminating  information and providing direct services to citizens, designed to help them ensure the safety and well-being of their pets. Many of these organizations provide access to emergency pet food for families struggling to feed their pets, as well as basic services and veterinary care, and valuable counsel and support regarding pet health and nutrition. Amid this crisis, these services remain vital in keeping pets and families together and in helping to stave off an increase in pets being surrendered to shelters or abandoned in this time of crisis.

There are an estimated 3,500 brick and mortar animal shelters and 10,000 rescue groups in the United States providing services for pets in our communities. In addition, agencies and private authorities with animal control contracts spend approximately $800 million to $1 billion annually to pick-up, treat, and promote the adoption of stray animals. This too is an important public health service and should have funding as such for the benefit of millions of Americans, their pets, and their communities.

As our country continues to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge you to ensure that local and county governments have the resources they require to accommodate the immediate, increased needs of animal shelters and rescue organizations in any upcoming coronavirus response package. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

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