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Utah Legislature: Bill seeks more pet owner notification by animal shelters

SALT LAKE CITY — Calling the current system "deluded, disorganized and misguided," a beagle owner pleaded with lawmakers Wednesday to impose tougher owner notification requirements on animal-shelter employees.

His personal account of a run-in with Midvale animal-shelter workers was enough to convince the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee to unanimously send HB107 on for additional consideration.

Sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake, the bill would require employees of animal shelters to make "reasonable efforts" to contact owners of dogs and cats that have been impounded and extends the holding period for five days.

It also gives shelters greater flexibility in decisions to turn over seized animals for research purposes to the University of Utah, which Seelig indicated is neutral on the bill's proposals.

Daniel Alix said that prior to his encounter with animal-control employees, he wrongly assumed that licensing fees helped fund a pet identification program that was intended to help reunite owners with lost pets.

Instead, when his dog made a great escape and disappeared off the streets of South Jordan, Alix spent the entire day going from shelter to shelter trying to find his pet.

The reunification happened at the Midvale center, where Alix asked why he hadn't been notified.

He said the worker told him it wasn't her job to take those steps to take care of his property. When he started writing down information from tags on other impounded animals so he could notify the owners, he said he was threatened with arrest.

"I know they're overcrowded, so why wouldn't they try to call me? It is because there is a system in place that creates an environment where they feel like they do not have to."

Alix said the issue is not about animal rights, but about property ownership rights.

"I own that dog. He's my security system, my hunting partner and my children's companion. I pay to protect him," through obtaining required pet identification tags.

"We need a more robust system," Alix told the committee.

The bill can be viewed online at le.utah.gov/~2010/htmdoc/hbillhtm/hb0107.htm.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com