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Mandatory life jackets for dogs in kennels? Colorado could be the first

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How safe are doggy pools in Colorado pet-care centers? Apparently dangerous enough that the state's Department of Agriculture is now considering rules to mandate life jackets for dogs in the state's boarding kennels and daycare facilities. And officials say that if they ultimately go forward with this plan, Colorado would probably be one of the first states to do this.


Officials from the Pet Animal Care Facilities Act Program, or PACFA, a branch of the state's Department of Agriculture, emphasize that it's just a proposal and that nothing is finalized.

The idea of requiring canine flotation devices was inspired by recent tragic drowning incidents, says Kate Anderson, a veteranarian and program manager for PACFA. "What we're talking about is...what ways can we protect dogs in pools? Having a flotation device on the dog -- that's one option," explains Anderson, who notes that there were three drownings in the last year. "Each and everyone of those is a tragic incident."

Anderson'sprogram is responsible for the licensing of nearly 2,000 pet-care facilities across the state, of which more than 500 are boarding kennels or daycare facilities. Many of those have pools -- and currently there are no rules that govern that aspect of the facilities.

"A lot of them have swimming pools...and we don't just mean little plastic pools.... Some are in-ground filtered pools like you would find for people," she says.

Her program is in the process of drafting and getting feedback on a wide range of rule changes and rewrites -- and the mandated life jackets is just one piece of the possible changes. This process is part of an effort encouraged by the governor's office to improve the language of the rules and regulations of state agencies so that the licensing processes are easier to understand, Anderson adds.

The public can offer feedback now and will have additional opportunities in the fall of 2013 when the program will likely go forward with official rulemaking.

Continue for more specifics on the drafted rule.

The drafted rule says: "Every dog must wear a personal flotation device while in or while having access to a pool area whenever the pool water is deeper than the height of the dog at its shoulder."

Anderson says her program is also exploring new staffing requirements that would cover observing dogs in pools. Currently, she explains, up to sixty dogs can be at one of these locations, with only one human supervisor required for every fifteen.

"If you can imagine sixty dogs with access to a swimming pool...that would be difficult to monitor," she says.

There are facilities that already use these flotation devices, and they have been available to dog owners for years, she explains.

"This is not a new idea," she says.

Actually requiring them, though, would be new. In fact, she says, she thinks Colorado could be one of the first states to implement this kind of rule. "This would probably be a model, as is most of our program already," she notes.

Here's the full draft proposal, which includes the flotation requirement. Proposed Rules

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Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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