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Lawmakers debate bill to address pet overcrowding in Colorado

State lawmakers consider bill to strengthen Colorado's sterilization law
State lawmakers consider bill to strengthen Colorado's sterilization law 02:48

As animal shelters across the state reach capacity, rights groups have joined forces to limit the number of puppies and kittens for sale in Colorado.

Now, they're getting help from state lawmakers, who are considering a bill aimed at strengthening the state's sterilization law.


As CBS News Colorado has reported previously, some rescue organizations are skirting the law. The so-called retail rescues or puppy flippers import thousands of puppies every year from out of the state and because of a loophole in the law, they are able to sell them as soon as the animals arrive, before they're spayed and neutered.

While the current law prevents shelters or rescues from selling or releasing dogs and cats that haven't been sterilized, there are exemptions.

The Commissioner of Agriculture can waive sterilization if a facility is located in an area with a shortage of veterinarians or a vet can give an exemption if he or she thinks it could impact the health of the animal or endanger its life.

Animal rights activists say some unscrupulous rescues with the help of vets are abusing the "health" exemption.

Elizabeth Coalson with the National Canine Rescue Group says one Colorado rescue has received 2,500 exemptions alone. She's among those who testified in support of a bill that would only allow an exemption if a veterinarian declares in writing that the life of the animal is at risk.

Facilities that import unsterilized dogs or cats would not be eligible for any exemption under the bill.


Coalson says Colorado's three biggest rescues imported 25,000 puppies over the last 6 years.

"There are estimates that for every one dog that is not spayed ... there 67,000 that are born. So for the three rescues that we're talking about, if you do the math for 2022, if only 2% of them are not sterilized that puts 1 to 3 million dogs into Colorado's pet population," she said. 

The Denver Dumb Friends League also testified in support of the bill after saying it took in a record number of unsterilized animals last year and that its shelters have never been so full.

While there was no opposition to the bill, its fate is uncertain. State Sen. Larry Liston, the bill sponsor, told the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that Gov. Jared Polis was threatening to veto it unless it was amended to restore the health exemption for animals not known to be imported.

The Democratic chair of the committee said if the governor had a problem with the bill he should come and testify on it. The committee passed the bill unanimously without any amendments.

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