Gov signs bill to protect pets

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Dogs had their day in Denver on May 13, as Gov. John Hickenlooper signed two pieces of legislation that led to some serious tail-wagging from our four-legged friends.

The governor — who brought his dog Sky to a bill-signing at the Denver Animal Shelter — put his signature on a bill aimed at protecting dogs whenever police are called to their owners’ homes, and another that designates dogs — and cats — that are adopted from animal shelters as the state pets.

“These pets become a huge part of people’s lives,” Hickenlooper said.

Each bill received support from Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly this legislative session.

“This is a bipartisan day for dogs,” said Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial, who was flanked by Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Lucia Guzman and Rep. Lois Court, both of Denver.

The three co-sponsored Senate Bill 226, known as the “Dog Protection Act.” The bill requires law enforcement agencies to put in place training, and to adopt policies and procedures that officers would be required to adhere to whenever they respond to homes where there are dogs.

The measure allows dog owners the opportunity to put their pets outside or into another room whenever police come to the home for calls involving non-violent situations.

The bill calls for the creation of a volunteer task force that will outline officer training guidelines.

The bill was the result of recent headline-grabbing stories involving officer-related dog shootings around the state.

Erie resident Brittany Moore’s German Shepard, Ava, was 4 years old when it was shot to death by a police officer there two years ago.

“We’ll always miss her and she’ll always be in our hearts,” Moore said afterward. “But I think this was a huge deal, this bill. I think it’s going to help a lot of situations,”

The bill received unanimous support from both legislative chambers this session.

The same cannot be said about Senate Bill 201, which designates cats and dogs that have been adopted from state animal shelters and rescues as the state pets.

The bill received criticism from animal breeder and retail groups, who felt that the legislation created a perception that it’s better to obtain pets from shelters and rescues, than from other places where pets can be adopted or purchased.

At times, legislative committee hearing testimony, and debate inside the House and Senate, resulted in lengthy discussions.

Democratic Sen. Andy Kerr of Lakewood, a bill sponsor, who brought his young son and his dog to the event, joked about the contentious nature of the legislation. Just before Kerr was about to speak, playful dogs behind the podium got their leashes tangled up, which caused the Colorado state flag to tip over.

“Next time somebody brings me a bill and says this is a nice, easy little bill ...” quipped Kerr. “It’s kind of like taking your 3-year-old son and your dog to a bill-signing, and then trying to catch the Colorado flag at the same time.”

Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, also a sponsor of Senate Bill 201, said the challenges that surrounded the legislation were worth it, in the end.

“These are our most vulnerable animals, who need homes,” she said. “And it’s about bringing awareness and the importance of adopting animals.”