By Jerry Kopel
Dec. 6, 2008
"Pets ..." admits the Dept. of Regulatory
Agencies (DORA), "are like family" to an overwhelming majority of
households in Colorado and nationally.
So a Sunset review in 2008 of the licensing law, Pet Animal Care and
Facilities Act (PACFA) revealed a very good law, but with few inspectors
and a desperately inefficient small backup system under the Dept. of
That system could be overwhelmed without a deeper dig into general
revenue funds paid from fees from more than 2,000 present licensees
(1,818 as of July 1, 2007), in 14 categories ranging from retail dealers
to cat breeders.
DORA reports "the pet industry is very stable and largely unaffected by
downturns in the economy ... continued industry growth at approximately
five percent ... (is) expected ... (and) pet owners will pay for
services at an increasing level".
PACFA is cash funded by license fees. Because of revenue and spending
restrictions by Colorado law, fees were lowered in 2008 and projections
are that, without a change in spending authority, they may be lowered
Along with recommending continuing the PACFA program, the second most
important recommendation was to increase spending authority. DORA
"Protecting Colorado's multi-million dollar
pet industry from bad actors benefits the state's economy generally
and its citizens tangentially".
"Since the regulated community and the general public want to see
more inspections and increased action, it seems illogical to
continually lower fees, rather than using resources to upgrade
technology. This is particularly so, since there appears to be ...
correlation between lowered fees and LESS public protection."
There are at present only three inspectors
following up complaints. The state is divided into three sectors over
Colorado's 104,1000 square miles. There is an average of over 800 annual
inspections finding more than 1,000 inspection-based violations.
" ... even if there was another inspector on
staff, the current disorganized record system would not handle the
increase in inspections and actions without exponentially increasing
the record keeping/technology problems."
In other words, more spent for pet protection is
better, and politically acceptable, even desirable among Colorado
licensees and pet owners if spent first in bringing the staff backup
system into the 21st century.
DORA surveyed 227 licensees in June of 2008. Here are the results:
PACFA has raised the standards: 140 agree, 36 disagree. PACFA
inspections are necessary: 180 agree, 13 disagree. PACFA inspectors are
effective in explaining expectations: 143 agree, 25 disagree.
DORA found the present backup system is a mess, everything is at "a
separate entry into an electronic filing cabinet". (This is a failure
from the previous administration, but it is now on the shoulders of the
While a hiring freeze would not be affected, DORA's concept is to stop
accumulating five or more separate pet information data bases (new ones
conflicting with previous information still in the files) instead of an
integrated system. In DORA's words:
"The information recording methods are an
inefficient use of time, space and labor. The licensee hard copy
files are too large, unorganized and cumbersome to be useful to the
staff, or any person who wishes to examine them. PACFA ... is in
desperate need of a technology overhaul".
Another important issue is the lack of unimpeded
access to all properties and records pertaining to PACFA. CRS 38-80-110
"At any reasonable time during regular
business hours, the commissioner (of agriculture) shall have free
and unimpeded access upon consent or upon obtaining an
administrative search warrant ... to facilities and records".
DORA's position" "The majority of licensed
facilities care for pet animals 24 hours per day seven days per week.
Considering that animals could possibly be in danger at any time they
are in a non-compliant facility, what, or who, determines what a
reasonable time is to inspect a facility?
"Therefore, staff must have unlimited access
to fulfill its mission, keeping pet animals safe. If a licensee
chooses to operate a home-based facility it must be subject to the
same regulatory oversight as those businesses that operate in other
" ... the Commissioner should have the authority to scrutinize any
property or records of a licensee at any time".
"This Sunset review contains recommendations for systemic upgrades
that, if adopted by the General Assembly and implemented by staff,
will increase efficiency and accountability measures (and we) ...
recommend the next Sunset review ... take place in five years to
more quickly measure the impact of the changes."
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado
House ands was chief sponsor of the Sunset law.)