Health and Safety

Regulatory Provisions Concerning Public Health

CHAPTER 30F. Animal Welfare

Subchapter I. Shelter Operation

§ 3001F. Definitions.

For purposes of this subchapter:

(1) “Animal shelter” means a public or private facility which includes a physical structure that provides temporary or permanent shelter to stray, abandoned, abused, or owner-surrendered animals and that is operated, owned, or maintained by a duly incorporated humane society, animal welfare society, or other nonprofit organization for the purpose of providing for and promoting the welfare, protection, and humane treatment of animals. “Animal shelter” shall not include individuals providing temporary foster care to animals in their home or to animal rescue groups sheltering animals on an individual’s private property.

(2) “Business day” means each day the shelter is open to the public for reclamation and adoption.

(3) “Department” means the Department of Health and Social Services or its duly authorized representatives.

(4) “Ear-tip” means the removal of approximately a quarter-inch off the tip of a cat’s left ear while the cat is anesthetized to help identify the cat as having been sterilized and vaccinated for rabies at the time of ear-tipping.

(5) “Free-roaming cat program” means a program in which visibly healthy cats admitted to a shelter, not placed for adoption, and lacking discernible owner identification, are sterilized, vaccinated against rabies, ear-tipped, and returned to a safe location where they were found or, if necessary, appropriately relocated. However, no free-roaming cat or feral cat shall be relocated to public lands managed for wildlife or outdoor recreation activities, including but not limited to lands owned or managed by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Delaware Department of Agriculture, the National Park Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife or to lands recognized to be located within coastal migratory bird flyways.

(6) “Intake” means the number of live animals for which an animal shelter assumes custody and are admitted for temporary shelter and care. Intake includes all animals admitted to the shelter, foster care, or a satellite location.

(7) “Isolation” means the physical separation and confinement of an animal or group of animals who are infected with a communicable disease from nonisolated animals to prevent or limit the transmission of the disease.

(8) “Licensed veterinarian” means a veterinarian licensed to practice veterinary medicine pursuant to Title 24.

(9) “Licensed veterinary technician” means an individual licensed as a veterinary technician pursuant to Title 24.

(10) “Quarantine” means the physical separation and confinement of an animal or group of animals who have or may have been exposed to a contagious disease and who do not show signs or symptoms of communicable disease from nonquarantined animals to prevent or limit the transmission of the disease.

(11) “Return to field” means a program whereby community cats that have been admitted to an animal shelter are returned to the place they were found after being processed as an intake, sterilized, ear-tipped, and vaccinated against rabies.

77 Del. Laws, c. 418, §  279 Del. Laws, c. 377, §  181 Del. Laws, c. 450, § 284 Del. Laws, c. 171, § 1

§ 3002F. Shelter care and treatment.

(a) Animal shelters shall be advised by a licensed veterinarian and shall adhere to a written veterinary care protocol developed with a licensed veterinarian, which protocol shall include appropriate evaluation and testing of newly impounded animals, disease control and prevention, and adequate veterinary care. In addition, animal shelters shall have a protocol for behavioral enrichment. The protocols shall be updated annually.

(b) Animal shelters shall vaccinate all dogs against canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, and bordetella bronchiseptica and all cats against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and the panleukopenia virus before or upon entering the shelter or holding facility to reduce the spread of disease. Such vaccinations must be administered as soon as possible and no more than 8 hours after entering the shelter. For animals admitted overnight, such vaccines shall be given no later than noon. This provision shall not apply to animals in quarantine for rabies observation or to animals having injuries, illness or temperament that make administration of the vaccinations unsafe.

(c) Each animal entering an animal shelter shall be evaluated at intake to check for signs of infectious disease or an injury or illness requiring emergency medical care. A full examination shall be performed within 48 hours of entry and prior to adoption.

(d) Animal shelters shall ensure that animals requiring veterinary care are seen by a licensed veterinarian within a reasonable amount of time based on the condition of the animal, and that urgent medical care is provided as needed. Animal shelters shall comply with treatment plans developed by a licensed veterinarian for animals at the shelter requiring treatment. Animals in the shelter’s custody for 1 year or more must receive a veterinary exam every 12 months.

(e) Animal shelters shall include a designated treatment area and isolation and/or quarantine areas. Animals having a severe communicable disease shall be moved to isolation to limit exposure to other animals and people. Animals that have been directly exposed to, but are not showing signs of, a high risk communicable disease shall be quarantined to monitor for signs of illness and prevent spread of disease.

(f) Prior to adoption or return to field, all dogs and cats of required age must be vaccinated against rabies or have a valid exemption from vaccination, pursuant to § 8204 of Title 3. Dogs and cats in quarantine for rabies or on dangerous-dog hold shall be administered rabies vaccine prior to release from shelter, unless proof of current rabies vaccine is provided.

(g) Feeding.

(1) Animals must be fed at least once each day except as otherwise required to provide adequate veterinary care. The food must be free from contamination and must be wholesome, palatable, and of sufficient quantity and nutritive value to meet the normal daily requirements for species, condition, age, and size of the animal.

(2) Fresh, clean water must be accessible at all times, unless directed by a veterinarian.

(3) Food and water bowls must be durable and shall be kept clean and sanitized.

(4) Food preparation and storage areas must be easily sanitized and maintained in clean condition.

(5) Supplies of food must be stored in a manner that protects the supplies from spoilage, contamination, and vermin infestation. All open bags of food must be stored in airtight containers with lids. Foods requiring refrigeration must be stored accordingly.

65 Del. Laws, c. 136, §  177 Del. Laws, c. 418, §  279 Del. Laws, c. 377, §  184 Del. Laws, c. 171, § 1

§ 3003F. Animal adoption, recovery, and rehabilitation.

(a) Animal shelters shall be open to the public after normal business hours, including evenings and weekends, to increase access for the purpose of adoption.

(b) Animal shelters shall provide a minimum holding period of 3 business days for animals in their care, to allow reclamation by their owners. If an adoptable animal is not reclaimed, the animal may be transferred to another animal shelter or rescue for adoption, or adopted as a companion in a suitable home. The holding period required by this subsection shall not apply to owner-surrendered animals, other cases in which the owner of the animal is known, or to cats that are returned to field as part of a free-roaming cat program.

(c) Animal recovery. — (1) Animal shelters shall take appropriate action to ensure that all animals brought to the shelter are checked for all currently acceptable methods of identification, including microchips, identification tags, tattoos, and licenses.

(2) Animal shelters shall maintain updated lists of animals reported lost, and attempt to match these lost reports with animals reported found and animals in the shelter, and shall also post all stray animals on the Internet with sufficient detail to allow them to be recognized and claimed by their owners.

(3) If a possible owner is identified, the animal shelter shall make every reasonable attempt to reunite the animal with its owner. Upon the owner’s or caretaker’s initiative of recovery procedures, the animal shelter shall retain custody of the animal for 5 business days to allow for completion of the recovery process. The owner or custodian of the animal may be held responsible for reasonable housing and boarding costs once the owner or custodian has been notified of the animal’s location, provided that the owner or custodian has been advised of such costs prior to the costs being incurred.

(4) All animals adopted out must be microchipped.

(d) Animal shelters shall establish and maintain a registry of organizations willing to accept animals for the purpose of adoption, including breed specific rescues, or to provide the animals with long-term placements. The registry shall include the types and breeds of animals about which the organization wishes to be contacted. Animal shelters shall have the right to inspect the facilities of any adoption organization taking animals from the shelter.

(e) Animal shelters shall make best efforts to prioritize acceptance of animals from within the State of Delaware before accepting dog or cat intakes from outside of Delaware. Animals accepted from shelters outside the State of Delaware must have a current health certification.

77 Del. Laws, c. 418, §  279 Del. Laws, c. 377, §  181 Del. Laws, c. 450, § 284 Del. Laws, c. 171, § 1

§ 3004F. Euthanasia in animal shelters.

(a) Any dog, cat or other animal held by or in the custody of an animal shelter and not adopted, transferred to another shelter or animal rescue group, placed into a free-roaming cat program, or reclaimed by the owner within 5 days may be euthanized, provided that no reasonable alternatives are available and the requirements of subsections (b) and (c) of this section are met.

(b) Animal shelters shall ensure that the following conditions are met before an animal is euthanized:

(1) The holding period for the animal required by this subchapter is expired;

(2) There are no empty cages, kennels, or other living environments in the shelter that are suitable for the animal;

(3) The animal cannot share a cage or kennel with appropriately-sized primary living space with another animal;

(4) A foster home is not available;

(5) Organizations on the registry developed pursuant to § 3003F(d) of this title are not willing to accept the animal;

(6) A visibly healthy cat whose source of origin can be identified and it can be returned to the field; and

(7) The animal care/control manager certifies that the above conditions are met and that such manager has no other reasonable alternative.

(c) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this chapter to the contrary, an animal may be euthanized immediately if necessary to alleviate undue suffering or to protect shelter staff and/or other sheltered animals from an animal’s severe aggression or contagious deadly health condition. The determination of whether euthanasia is necessary pursuant to this subsection shall be made by a licensed veterinarian or, in cases of extreme emergency occurring after regular business hours in circumstances under which a licensed veterinarian is not available, by other appropriately trained staff.

(d) Euthanasia method and procedure. — (1) The Department shall promulgate regulations regarding acceptable methods of euthanasia in animal shelters and regarding sanitation and ventilation of euthanasia areas. The methods included shall be approved or conditionally approved by the most recent American Veterinary Medical Association Guidelines on Euthanasia.

(2) Under no circumstances shall carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide be used as a method of euthanasia.

(3) Any animal shelter performing euthanasia shall have a current policy and procedure manual regarding euthanasia. The policy and procedure manual shall set forth the shelter’s equipment, process, and the procedures for individual separation of animals.

(4) Notwithstanding the provisions of Chapter 33 of Title 24, euthanasia must be performed by:

a. A licensed veterinarian;

b. A nationally certified euthanasia technician; or

c. A licensed veterinary technician; or

d. A person certified by a licensed veterinarian, after passing both a written and practical examination, as proficient to perform euthanasia. Training and certification requirements shall be established by Department regulation in consultation with the Delaware Board of Veterinary Medicine.

(5) If euthanasia is by injection, animals in an animal shelter that are amenable to being controlled shall be lowered to the surface on which they are being held and shall not be permitted to drop or otherwise collapse without support.

(6) The trained staff member performing the euthanasia in animal shelters shall remain in attendance between the time procedures to euthanize the animal are commenced and the time death occurs, and shall verify death has occurred using methods to be determined by regulation.

(7) Sodium pentobarbital may be obtained by an animal shelter with required federal and state permits.

65 Del. Laws, c. 136, §  170 Del. Laws, c. 186, §  177 Del. Laws, c. 418, §  379 Del. Laws, c. 377, §  181 Del. Laws, c. 450, § 2

§ 3005F. Proper facilities required.

Any municipality that does not have proper facilities and trained personnel shall transport in a humane manner any animals which are to be euthanized to the nearest private or public shelter or agency which has proper facilities and trained personnel or contract for euthanasia of such animals by a licensed veterinarian.

65 Del. Laws, c. 136, §  177 Del. Laws, c. 418, §  379 Del. Laws, c. 377, §  1

§ 3006F. Violation constitutes class A misdemeanor; civil remedy; jurisdiction of Superior Court.

(a) Failure by any person employed by, volunteering at or an agent of any private or public animal shelter to comply with § 3004F(d) of this title regarding euthanizing animals shall constitute a class A misdemeanor and shall be punishable as provided by law.

(b) Any person may maintain a civil action to enjoin the continuance of the violation of § 3004F(d) of this title. If the acts sought to be enjoined are determined by the courts to violate § 3004F(d) of this title, a permanent injunction against such acts shall be granted. The violation may also be abated by any public body or officer authorized to do so by law.

(c) The Superior Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of misdemeanor offenses under this section.

65 Del. Laws, c. 136, §  177 Del. Laws, c. 418, §§  3- 679 Del. Laws, c. 377, §  1

§ 3007F. Record keeping and reporting.

Animal shelters shall maintain records regarding the following information:

(1) Intake and outcomes data by type for all animals.

(2) Number of animals at beginning and end of period.

(3) Number of spay/neuter surgeries performed for shelter and public animals.

(4) Records showing compliance with vaccination requirements.

(5) Records regarding medical treatment provided.

(6) Location and date of return for cats returned to field as part of a free-roaming cat program.

The information in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this section shall be posted to the shelter’s website on a quarterly and annual basis in a format determined by the Department. The information in paragraphs (4) through (6) of this section shall be made available upon request by the Department.

77 Del. Laws, c. 418, §  779 Del. Laws, c. 377, §  181 Del. Laws, c. 450, § 284 Del. Laws, c. 171, § 1

§ 3008F. Enforcement.

(a) The Department shall adopt rules and regulations as may be necessary for the protection and care of companion animals in animal shelters, as defined in this subchapter.

(b) The Department will conduct at least annual inspection of every animal shelter.

(c) The Department or its duly authorized representative or representatives shall have the power to enter at all reasonable times, during ordinary business hours, upon any private or public animal shelter for the purpose of determining whether or not there is compliance with or violations of this subchapter, rules, and regulations thereunder.

(d) Upon request of the Department, animal shelters shall make available records concerning the requirements of this subchapter.

(e) All findings will be documented in writing and a copy provided to the animal shelter within 30 days. Once provided to the animal shelter, the documentation will also be posted on the Department web site. Deficiencies must be corrected within the timeframe established by the Department.

(f) The Department shall have the power to issue orders to correct deficiencies and to impose penalties pursuant to § 107(a) of this title.

(g) The animal shelter management has the right to appeal the results of the inspection. If the opinion of the animal shelter management is in conflict with the inspection, the animal shelter management may request a review of the inspection by the Department. The appeal will be made in writing and submitted within 30 days after publication of the findings. After receipt of the appeal, the Department will have 60 days to respond in writing.

(h) The Department shall conduct an investigation upon receipt of a complaint of alleged violations of this subchapter.

(1) Anyone desiring to file a complaint against any animal shelter shall file a written complaint with the Department. All complaints shall be reviewed and complaints concerning violations of this chapter will be investigated by the Department or its designee. The Department shall notify the animal shelter of the complaint within 30 days of receipt of said complaint. The Department shall be responsible for issuing a final written report of violations of this subchapter to the animal shelter. Once the final report is issued to the animal shelter, the report will also be posted to the Department website at the conclusion of the proceedings.

(2) The animal shelter management may, in writing to the Department, request a hearing if they wish to contest the findings of the investigation. The appeal will be made in writing and submitted within 30 days after publication of the findings. Within 30 days of receipt of the request for public hearing, the Department shall set a time and place to conduct a hearing on the complaint. Notice of the hearing shall be given and the hearing conducted in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act, Chapter 101 of Title 29, and the Freedom of Information Act, Chapter 100 of Title 29.

79 Del. Laws, c. 377, §  1

§ 3009F. Facilities; primary enclosures; sanitation and disease control.

(a) Facilities.

(1) Surfaces used in all animal areas must be constructed and maintained so that they are substantially impervious to moisture and may be easily sanitized.

(2) Indoor housing facilities for animals must be sufficiently heated and cooled when necessary to protect the animals from temperature and humidity extremes, and to provide for their health and well-being. The ambient temperature in all areas where animals are present may not fall below 60° (15.6° C) or above 80° F (26.7° C) when animals are present.

(3) Indoor housing facilities must have ample lighting by natural or artificial means. Lighting in indoor housing facilities must be sufficient to allow observation of the physical condition of the animals, and to permit routine inspection and cleaning of the facility. Animals housed in these facilities must be provided a regular diurnal lighting cycle of either natural or artificial light. Primary enclosures must be placed to protect animals from excessive light or darkness.

(4) A suitable method must be provided for adequate drainage and to eliminate standing or excess water from indoor housing facilities.

(5) Provisions must be made for the daily removal and disposal of animal and food waste, bedding, and debris from the housing facility.

(6) Indoor housing facilities must be sufficiently ventilated to provide for the health and well-being of animals, and to minimize odors, drafts, ammonia levels, and moisture condensation. Ventilation may be provided by windows, vents, fans, or air conditioning.

(7) Premises where housing facilities are located, including building and grounds, must be kept clean, free of trash, and in good repair.

(b) Primary Enclosures.

(1) Housing must be provided for all animals in the shelter’s custody, appropriate to the species, size, and number of animals, to ensure their comfort, health, and well-being.

(2) Primary animal enclosures must be structurally sound and maintained in a safe working condition to properly confine animals, prevent injury, keep other animals out and enable animals to remain dry and clean. Enclosures must have no sharp edges, gaps or other defects that could cause injury or entrapment.

(3) A primary enclosure must provide sufficient space to allow each animal to:

a. Turn about freely and easily stand, sit, stretch, and move their head without touching the top of the enclosure.

b. Lie in a resting position with limbs extended.

c. Move about and assume a comfortable posture for feeding, drinking, urinating, or defecating.

d. Sit, sleep, and eat away from areas where they defecate and urinate.

(4) The interior height of a primary enclosure must be at least 6 inches higher than the head of the animal in the enclosure when it is in a normal standing position.

(5) Dogs and cats may not be sheltered in a primary enclosure having only wire mesh bottoms or slatted floors in caging.

(6) Crates or travel kennels may be used as animal housing on a temporary or emergency basis only, and not as permanent primary enclosures.

(7) Cages may not be stacked upon each other in a manner that allows excrement to fall into cages below.

(8) Animals may not be tethered.

(9) At night, all dogs and cats must have access to clean, dry, bedding or a bed off the floor unless unsafe to do so.

(10) Identification cards must be visible outside enclosures and include name, ID, species, and color/description.

(11) Additional requirements for cats:

a. In all primary enclosures, a receptacle containing sufficient clean litter must be provided to contain excreta and body wastes;

b. Cats must be provided places to hide; and

c. Cats that are housed long term must have access to environments where they can scratch, climb and perch.

(c) Sanitation and disease control.

(1) The shelter building, primary enclosures, and all other areas where animals are kept must be sanitary and regularly cleaned to reduce disease transmission among animals, protect public and human health, and increase animal comfort.

(2) Excreta must be removed as often as necessary to prevent contamination of animals and to control disease and odors.

(3) All primary enclosures, food bowls, and water bowls must be spot cleaned daily and fully cleaned and sanitized as necessary.

(4) All floors, junctions, walls, doors, and drains must be fully cleaned and sanitized after coming into contact with feces, urine, vomit, or an animal known or suspected of having an infectious disease.

(5) Only cleaners that are safe for animals may be used to clean primary enclosures, transport carriers, exercise areas, or any area of the shelter where animals are present or likely to be present.

(6) Animals must be removed from an enclosure when water or cleaning and disinfecting products are sprayed in or near that enclosure to ensure the animal will not be harmed, wetted, or distressed by the process.

(7) The shelter building and animal areas must be kept reasonably free of flies, fleas, mosquitoes, rats, mice, and other vectors or nuisance species. If necessary, an effective pest control program must be established and maintained.

84 Del. Laws, c. 171, § 1