State office treads lightly as it begins work on animal care standards

FAIRBANKS — The Office of the State Veterinarian is beginning work on drafting animal health care standards for sled dogs, pets, horses and other animals.

The office is taking it slow in order to give the public plenty of opportunity to help shape expanded standards of care in five animal categories: domestic animals, horses, livestock, birds and exotic animals.

Assistant State Veterinarian Jay Fuller said that the revisions are aimed at clarifying and strengthening the role of the state troopers and animal control officers in animal neglect and abuse cases, according to Monday’s Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

“One of the big reasons that we need to develop standards is to make it more clear to animal control officers and peace officers and to veterinarians and to the general public what constitutes proper care, what constitutes lawful care and what constitutes humane care,” he said.

In a state famous for its sled dogs and sub-zero temperatures, the topic could be heated.

Fuller said at a work session last week in Anchorage that multiple public work sessions will be held with each group during the next few months before the proposed standards are released for public review next summer.

The state has posted a preliminary draft of care standards, which already has drawn some concerns. Fuller said the draft measures are solely intended as a starting place and he expects to see them change as the public provides its input.

Fuller said the proposed standards won’t make it difficult or illegal to mush dogs.

“There won’t be any adopted regulations that will make it against the law to mush dogs,” he said, “but what is up for public discussion are things that constitute proper minimal animal care.”

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