Dogs and cats who have already lived tough lives are being brought into the state in large numbers.
Some wind up in animal shelters, and others are brought to rescues, or places where, at times, conditions may be even worse.
Ray Connors heads Connecticut’s Animal Control Division, and his office regulates so-called “animal importing,” and giving out licenses to those who register with the state to bring in scores of animals for sale or adoption.
Most animals are from the south, while others are from places as far as Egypt.
According to records, in 2012 there were 15,779 animals imported, and in 2014 there were 19,913, which is a 21 percent spike.
While many are well cared for, some cases are startling, where at times people are unwilling or unable to give them proper care, even temporarily.
Wolcott Animal Control Officer Roslyn Nenninger said the stench of cat urine and feces emanating from the home of Egyptian cat importer Cheryl McMurray was awful.
In November, McMurray was charged with 59 counts of animal cruelty. Her attorney said she is a “good importer and her home was clean leading up to the day the cats were seized.”
“There were circumstances that led to what occurred in 2015 when the police went there,” said Attorney Rachel Baird.
The cats now take up so much space in the Wolcott pound that others can’t be brought in.
On Dec. 31, McMurray’s importer license was renewed by the office of Ray Connors.
When Eyewitness News asked why, Connors said “She has been accused of a crime. She has not yet been convicted of a crime."
Municipal pounds are just one place unwanted animals wind up, and animal rescues are another.
Connors said rescues began popping up after Hurricane Katrina. Many animals that were trucked to Connecticut from the south were sick or injured.
Legislation was passed to curb the practice and force importers to have their health checked. However, once they’re in a rescue, animal control does not follow up.
In fact, there’s no regulation for rescues and groups like them.
“In state humane organizations, animal welfare organizations are not regulated by anyone. They are not regulated by the state, they are not required to be licensed by the state,” Connors said.
In December, Eyewitness News cameras were rolling as the Almost Home Rescue was raided by police who said they found deplorable conditions inside. Among them were cages stacked on cages.
The rescue’s attorney said there is a lack of regulation in Connecticut when it comes to rescues.
Massachusetts and Rhode Island do regulate this, which is part of the reason other rescues and police said Connecticut has become an attractive place to import animals, whether they’re adopted or not.
There are animal welfare laws and standards of care, but many feel not enough is being done.
“The welfare of the animals sometimes gets forgotten to a point,” said Marc Maas, who runs Thank Dog Rescue and has foster dogs at his own home.
He said it sickens him when animals are trucked here, some unwanted, and wind up in shelters.
For that reason, Connors and animal control officers want to see tougher rules for importers and clear regulations for rescues statewide.
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