On June 28th at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, more than 50 people gathered to learn together about trends and opportunities in animal welfare, one of the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut’s four strategic pillars and an area of high interest among community members and donors.

A distinguished panel of experts weighed in on the progress made in advancing the welfare of companion animals over the last 30 years and how the landscape of animal welfare is changing in New England. Their observations spurred productive discussion around successes in saving animals’ lives and keeping people and pets together. The engaged group identified opportunities for change and what can be done together to continue improving the welfare of animals.

Featured panelists:
Susan Linker, CEO, Our Companions Animal Rescue
Christine Puskaric, DVM, Compassionate Care Veterinary Hospital
Diana Urban, CT State Representative and animal welfare activist
Gordon Willard, Executive Director Connecticut Humane Society

What We Heard

Shifting Landscape
Spay-neuter efforts since the '80s have been successful in curbing the overpopulation of dogs to the point that in the Northeast there is an under-supply of dogs ready for adoption as family pets.

  • Now, roughly 20,000 dogs come into CT annually from other regions which has both an upside (forever homes) and a downside (can encourage a market for puppy mills).
  • Animals that end up in animal control or with rescue organizations are often “harder to place” seniors or have challenging (but not insurmountable) health or behavioral issues.
  • Collaborative efforts among animal welfare organizations, state/municipal animal control departments and caring citizens/social media have increasingly focused on keeping pets in their homes.
  • Appreciation of the human/animal bond continues to grow and take on greater importance as we consider social and health issues.

Resources Needed
The current system and safety net for animals needs more support and resources.

  • Connecticut is facing a projected shortage of veterinarians, and current veterinarians find it increasingly difficult to offer pro bono or discounted services to care for rescue animals and animals living with low income families.
  • Many animal control facilities are in disrepair and animal control officers are being cut from budgets or shared between towns.

Education and Laws
Although state lawmakers and animal activists have achieved several key legislative wins such as pet shop laws, Desmond’s Law and tethering laws, the current laws are not widely known.

  • More resources are needed for awareness building, monitoring and enforcement of existing laws.
  • There is disparity between laws affecting dogs and cats (as well as other animals).
  • There is more legislative work to be done. Despite a link between animal abuse and other unlawful or violent behavior, a bill creating a registry of convicted animal abusers was vetoed.
  • We all need to educate and push our legislators to take steps to protect and promote the rights of animals in shelters and in our communities.

What We Can Do Together

Local animal welfare efforts need to continue to focus on keeping pets in current loving homes and increase the chances of adoption for rescues through spay/neuter and vet care programs, expanding animal welfare education and resources, and increasing advocacy efforts.

In the words of our expert panelists:

  • Cherish your own animals and transfer that love to other animals that need it!
  • If you see something, say something. Intervene if need be!
  • Let’s put our heads together at every opportunity!
  • Empower and support your local Animal Control Officer.
  • Become an advocate and an activist: join CT Votes for Animals www.ctvotesforanimals.org
  • Become a volunteer and/or donor to an animal welfare organization.

Our Commitment to the Community

  • Keep the conversation going and provide the connective tissue between people and organizations who are interested in animal welfare issues.
  • Continue grantmaking – almost $500,000 to date - through nine permanently endowed funds directed at strategic animal welfare programs and advocacy. Click here to see a list of recent grants
  • Keep our door open to people like you in case you have comments, questions or concerns on this topic! Contact Alison Woods, Vice President at alison@cfect.org or 860-442-3572.
Read the article published in The Day