FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Julie Lewin,

Complainant,

 

against Docket #FIC 87-383

 

Connecticut Humane Society,

Respondent July 13, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was scheduled for February 4, 1988, as a contested case but was continued to March 17, 1988, at which time the parties appeared and presented evidence and argument on the complaint. Thereafter the hearing was continued to March 31, 1988, at which time the parties appeared and presented further evidence and argument on the complaint. On May 22, 1988, the hearing officer accepted as a post-hearing exhibit a memorandum dated September 11, 1987 to agency heads from Lieutenant Douglas F. Hanahan, which was submitted by the respondent and designated as respondent's exhibit #22.

 

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found:

 

1. On December 7, 1987, the complainant requested a copy of the minutes of the last meeting of the respondent's board of directors and the notice and agenda of its next scheduled meeting.

 

2. The respondent offered to provide the complainant with a copy of the requested minutes but it informed the complainant that it was not a public agency.

 

3. On December 15, 1987, the complainant learned that the respondent had not filed a schedule of regular meetings with the Secretary of the State.

 

4. On December 18, 1987, the complainant filed a complaint with the Commission, alleging the failure of the respondent to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.

 

5. The respondent moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it is not a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 87-383 page two

 

6. It is found that the respondent was chartered by the general assembly in 1881.

 

7. It is found that the respondent performs several functions with respect to which there is no government involvement, and which are not funded or regulated by government, such as its provision of a humane education program for schools, provision of a pet cemetery, the provision of general information and news releases on pet care, and the euthanization of unwanted pets.

 

8. It is found, however, the respondent is involved with and is regulated by government by virtue of the following state statutes pertaining to animal cruelty and abuse:

 

a. 17-24, G.S., authorizes officers of the respondent to prevent cruelty to animals and imposes either a fine or a term of imprisonment upon persons interfering with those officers.

 

b. 17-23, G.S., authorizes the commissioner of public safety to appoint agents of the respondent as special police officers with the powers of sheriffs, constables and police officers to arrest and detain any person violating any provision of the statutes concerning cruelty to animals.

 

c. 53-247 through 53-253, G.S., set forth the crimes over which the agents of the respondent, appointed under 17-23, G. S., have jurisdiction. These include neglect and cruel treatment of animals, sale of animals unable to work, unwholesome confinement of poultry, sale of dyed fowl or rabbits, certain types of exhibiting of wild animals, docking of horses' tails, and neglect or abuse of animals transported on railroads.

 

d. 53-251, G.S., specifically authorizes inspection of horses by officers of the respondent.

 

e. 17-28, G.S., authorizes the respondent to detain abandoned or cruelly treated animals.

 

f. 17-27, G.S., authorizes the respondent to collect the charges for detaining animals from the owners of the animals.

 

g. 17-19, G.S., authorizes the respondent to kill animals in its charge under special circumstances where the animal is injured, disabled, or diseased.

 

Docket #FIC 87-383 page three

 

9. It is found that the respondent has not provided services for children for the last twenty years, although under 17-26, G.S., it still has authority to detain children, and under 17-23, G.S., it has authority to prevent cruelty to children.

 

10. It is found that agents of the respondent are eligible for training in the protective services training course provided by the Division of State Police for employees of organizations having "special police powers," pursuant to 29-18, G.S. The course consists of fifteen weeks of training, and costs for it are paid primarily by the State of Connecticut.

 

11. It is found that the last appropriation of state funds for the respondent was made in 1933 in the amount of $4000.

 

12. It is found that after 1937 or 1938, the respondent determined that it preferred to operate without the conditions imposed upon it by certain legislators in connection with its appropriations.

 

13. It is found that 1965 P.A. 30 repealed the statutory provision authorizing appropriations for the respondent's activities.

 

14. It is found that the respondent does not require state funds because it has a substantial endowment. Its investment income is more than one million dollars annually.

 

15. It is found that the purpose of the respondent is to "promote humanity and kindness, and to prevent cruelty to both man and the lower animals, by information, statistics, appropriate literature, and by any and all other lawful means . . . and by assisting in the prosecution of crimes of a cruel and inhuman nature . . . ."

 

16. It is found that the respondent is used routinely by local police, dog wardens, and the State Department of Agriculture to handle complaints of animal abuse and neglect.

 

17. It is found that agents of the respondent use a two-

stage procedure in handling complaints.

 

18. It is found that when, upon investigation of an initial complaint, agents of the respondent find an animal owner is in violation of the law, they issue a warning.

 

19. It is found that, if the prohibited behavior continues concerning a matter with respect to which a warning has been issued, then the respondent turns the matter over to the

 

Docket #FIC 87-383 page four

 

local office of the state's attorney.

 

20. It is found that both prosecutors and police departments rely upon agents of the respondent to provide expertise regarding proper care and treatment of animals of all kinds, but particularly larger animals and birds.

 

21. It is found that, when local police departments must detain large animals or birds, such as fighting cocks, they usually request the respondent to hold the animals until they can be disposed of in a lawful manner.

 

22. It is found that, in 1987, the respondent investigated 1,323 complaints, issued 52 written warnings, confiscated 208 animals, was involved in 226 visits to local and state police departments and 15 arrests, made 27 court appearances, was involved in 14 convictions and provided shelter to an unspecified number of animals.

 

23. It is found that the law enforcement and shelter services of the respondent are so intertwined with the activity of state and local law enforcement agencies, and with the department of agriculture, that the respondent is performing a governmental function insofar as it engages in activities which it is authorized to perform by statute.

 

24. It is concluded that the respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S., to the extent that it performs activity authorized by state statutes, as set forth in paragraphs 8, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22, of the findings, above.

 

25. It is also concluded that the respondent violated 1-15, 1-19(a), 1-21(a) and 1-21c, G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with a copy of the requested notice and agenda and by its failure to file a schedule of its regular meetings with the Secretary of the State.

 

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.

 

1. The respondent shall henceforth comply with 1-15, 1-18a, 1-19 to 1-19c, inclusive, and 1-21a to 1-21k, inclusive, G.S., with respect to those activities set forth in paragraphs 8, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22 of the findings, above.

 

2. This order is not to be construed to imply that the activities of the respondent which are authorized by state statutes are activities of a public agency within the meaning of any federal law or state statute other than the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act.

 

Docket #FIC 87-383 page five

 

3. This decision cannot establish a more precise delineation of the respondent's statutory functions which are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, because the evidence at hearing was insufficient for this purpose. In this regard, the Commission notes that if the respondent finds it is not practical to separate activities which are subject to the Freedom of Information Act from those which are not, it could choose to conduct all of its business in accordance with that Act. Such a policy would be in the public interest because public access would enhance public awareness of the issues which are relevant to the prevention of abuse of and cruelty to animals which is clearly a matter of public policy as evidenced by the state statutes noted herein.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of July 13, 1988.

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission