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It is time to return investigative authority to BAP agents

Colorado always ranks as having the best animal protection laws in the country. However, since 2015, animal welfare agencies’ ability to enforce these protections for neglected, abused animals have been rendered virtually ineffective at the state level.

As the result of an inexplicable change in regulations in 2015, the current interpretation of the powers and duties of a Bureau of Animal Protection (BAP) agent is confusing and limits their authority to “assessing and inspecting” a situation but draws an ambiguous line at “investigating”. This language leaves agents unclear on how far their authority goes and requires them to engage local law enforcement who may or may not be able to assist them in a timely manner.

Current regulations have also left BAP agents without the ability to investigate and enforce state animal cruelty laws under the criminal code, resulting in offenders not being prosecuted to fullest degree.

The lack of clarity has resulted in a dramatic decrease in animal cruelty and neglect investigations and prosecution by BAP agents. From 2010 through 2014, prior to the new rules, BAP agents conducted investigations on an average of 18,041 animals per year. In 2018, however, assessments were conducted on a total of 5,655 animals–nearly a 70 percent decrease in the previous average. Additionally, since 2014, state criminal misdemeanor animal cruelty charges that are filed has decreased by 60 percent.

The Dumb Friends League, along with more than 100 sheriffs, district attorneys, animal welfare agencies and animal control officers from across the state, support SB 20-104. The bill would explicitly allow BAP agents to investigate and impound animals in both criminal and civil cruelty and neglect cases, and this small, but critical change in the statute will make a huge difference in the lives of companion animals in Colorado.

Click here for more information on SB 20-104.

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