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Proposed Colorado law would be first to limit euthanization in shelters

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As of January 2, two Aurora attorneys are trying to put an initiative on the Colorado ballot tightening the definition of animal euthanasia and providing fines for those who violate it.

If ultimately approved by voters, the resulting law would be the first of its kind in the nation, they said.

"It would make euthanasia the exception to the rule," said Juliet Piccone, who specializes in animal welfare law. "It outlaws euthanasia as a way to control the population of animals."

According to the ballot language, "Euthanasia should be reserved for cases in which a pet animal is experiencing extreme pain and suffering, not as a solution for reducing the homeless animal population."

Those violating the policy would be subject to a state fine of $1,000. If the state declines to act. individuals would be able to file suit to collect damages and legal costs.

Piccone and George Brown are the top Colorado leaders of AnimalsVvote.org, a national nonprofit that focuses on legislative activism to halt the killing and suffering of animals.

The attorneys have submitted ballot language to the Colorado Legislative Council. A hearing for review and comment will be held Jan. 14 at the state Capitol.

If it clears all the legislative hurdles, backers would have to get the necessary signatures to place the measure on the statewide ballot.

"I don't think our government officials should be playing God with our animals," Piccone said.

Lisa Pedersen, president of the Colorado Federation of Animal Welfare Agencies, said the proposed law presents challenges and unintended consequences.

She said she is concerned about the issue of warehousing animals in shelters.

"What happens to the animals that can't be placed?" she asked. "What happens to a dangerous animal?

"We're moving forward already," Pedersen said, noting that the live release rate of shelter dogs in the Denver metro area last year was 85 percent. "We're all moving in the right direction and committed to proving the best care and adoptions."

She said members of her organization will be monitoring progress of the initiative and "offering our perspective."

ABOUT ANIMALSVOTE.ORG

It was formed about a year ago by New York resident Alex Aliksanyan. an engineer in web development. It is the political arm of DogsinDanger.com, a New York organization that Aliksanyan says has saved more than 70,000 dogs.

AnimalsVote.org has 2,500 members and is active in every state., he says.

Although it shares some goals with No-kill Colorado, which was formed last year, Aliksanyan says his group has a different perspective.

"Everbody dumps on shelters. Our focus is politics first. We deal with the supply side of it: more spay/neuter, halting internet sales of animals, backyard breeders. The law must change."

AnimalsVote.org is in the midst of a campaign to get shelters to pledge not to kill animals on Mondays. Four Colorado shelters have taken the pledge: Humane Society of Pagosa Springs, Rangely Animal Shelter, Teller County Regional Animal Shelter and Lamar Animal Shelter.

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