DENVER - A group of animal advocates are proposing a ballot initiative for this fall that would prohibit shelters from euthanizing animals unless they were sick, suffering or dangerous.

George Brown, an attorney from Aurora with Animals Vote, is leading the effort to take the issue to voters in November.

"I'm with a nationwide organization that believes legislation is the only way we can achieve some sort of humane way of dealing with the overpopulation of homeless pets," Brown said.

The No-Kill Pet Animal Act is being drafted, but would only appear on the November ballot if the signatures of enough registered voters are gathered to meet state requirements.

The Colorado Federation of Animal Welfare Agencies is opposed to the ballot initiative, said Lisa Pedersen, president of the group.

"While we support the intention of reducing the incidence of euthanasia, this approach is going to have some immediate negative impacts and some unintended consequences on both the pets in our care and on our communities," said Pedersen, who is also the CEO of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley.

Pedersen said the Humane Society of Boulder Valley has been able to achieve an extremely high "live-release" rate through a comprehensive and complex community program.

"We're all working towards reducing euthanasia, this approach is going to hinder our ability to continue making the great strides that we are now," Pedersen said, noting that as a whole Colorado is improving. "This lies not in detrimental mandates on our operations but those continued efforts."

Brown said that's clearly not sufficient as tens of thousands of dogs are being put down across the state, many for merely resembling the boxer-breed of pitbull that has been banned in municipalities such as Denver.

"We need to draw a line in the sand," Brown said. "You can only euthanize pets for specific reasons if they are in pain or suffering, or have been labeled a dangerous dog by an animal behaviorist . We have to somehow raise the standard of who we are as human beings."

The law as drafted by Brown would require a licensed veterinarian to make the decision that a dog is in pain or suffering.

Pedersen said this could cause undue suffering to animals in shelters that don't have immediate access to a licensed veterinarian.

On Thursday, a number of other initiatives that deal with animal treatment were submitted to the Colorado Legislative Council for review and public comment.

Four dealt with livestock, including two about banning cattle tail docking unless it is performed by a veterinarian or done with anesthetic to dull the pain as the tail is cut off.


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