UPDATE: On April 11 the California Senate budget subcommittee voted unanimously not to repeal certain provisions of the Hayden Law, just as the Assembly budget subcommittee did on March 13.
While this is good news, the provisions could still be repealed. The next step is for the Assembly and Senate budget committees to review the subcommittees’ reports and vote on their versions of the budget bill.
California pet parents should therefore continue to spread the word, sign the petition and let their legislators know how they feel.
But now these protections are in danger of disappearing. To save the state what he says is $46 million annually (California currently faces a $9.2 billion deficit), Gov. Jerry Brown is considering repealing provisions of the Hayden Law, which means shelter animals could be euthanized after only 72 hours.
The three-day holding period would apply whether or not the shelter is open for business. As Francis Battista, co-founder of the Best Friends Animal Society, told NBC Los Angeles, “You could go away on Friday, your dog could get out. It’s a long weekend and you don’t get back until Tuesday and by then your dog is dead. Three days is not a long time to reclaim your animal.”
The short holding period could result in less-adoptable pets, like senior dogs or dogs with health issues, being euthanized before they could be given a second chance by a rescue group or potential adopter. The 72-hour timeframe would make it difficult for rescues to arrange saving even young, healthy dogs.
“When we decide to save an animal, people don’t realize the time it takes to get a plan together,” Haze Lynn, founder of Take Me Home Rescue, told NBC Los Angeles. “By killing quickly, we won’t be able to save anybody. This is a big problem for us because we need the time.”
Not only would the repeal reduce the holding period, it would allow shelters to immediately euthanize rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, turtles, hamsters and other pets.
Also eliminated would be the requirement for shelters to provide sick or injured animals with veterinary care; to provide records of their animals; or to post lists of lost and found pets.
Back in 2004, when then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was considering repealing the same provisions, the public outcry helped influence him to change his mind. Now Brown is facing a similar backlash.
Most animal welfare groups, among them the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), ASPCA, Best Friends Animal Society and Stray Cat Alliance, oppose the repeal.
More than 56,000 people have signed a Change.org petition started by attorney Marla Tauscher that asks Brown not to repeal any provisions of the Hayden Law. The Best Friends Animal Society is organizing a rally in Sacramento tomorrow, March 13, the day state budget subcommittee hearings begin. People are urged to spread awareness of the possible repeal via their social networks.
The law’s creator and namesake, former state Sen. Tom Hayden, appears in a video urging Brown not to repeal his law.
“I wrote the legislation because I learned that 65,000 animals were put to death unnecessarily every year in Los Angeles County, and it was meant to avoid that from ever happening to another stray animal and their family,” he says in the video.
“It’s not a budget issue, because you can solve the problem with penalties or fees. It is a humane issue, and I urge you to look at your dog before you allow this bill which protects animals to die.”
A major argument for not letting the Hayden Law die is that it has actually been suspended since 2009 – meaning that for the past three years, the state has not paid municipal shelters to hold animals beyond 72 hours or provide animals with veterinary care. (Many shelters continue to do so anyway by relying on city or county funds.) Animal advocates say the law should continue to be suspended instead of permanently repealed so that when the economy recovers, the state can start compensating the shelters again.
“Since these requirements are already suspended, the Governor’s repeal proposal is a policy decision, not a budget decision,” said Jennifer Fearing, California’s senior director for the HSUS, in a statement. “And the policy consequences of repeal are likely to be adverse for homeless animals’ prospects – indeed repeal cannot possibly move California forward.”
In defense of the repeal, the Brown administration says that local governments, not the state, should decide on the holding time for shelter animals.
But Taimie L. Bryant, a UCLA law professor who specializes in animal law, disagrees. She told Sutter’s Friends, a Facebook group opposed to the repeal, “The Hayden Law established a few modest provisions that should be in place at the state level as a minimum standard of decent animal sheltering … We need consistency across jurisdictions on basic aspects of animal sheltering.”
There is also a misconception that the state pays shelters to euthanize animals. H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the California Dept. of Finance, told KABC-TV, “So those local governments who are actually putting down more animals get more money from the state. That seems to be somewhat of a perverse fiscal incentive.”
Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL), a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce pet overpopulation through legislation, clarifies the reimbursement formula on its website:
“The reimbursement formula does not create a perverse incentive to kill animals. Shelters’ financial incentives are always aligned with saving lives because they can bring in revenues from adoption and owner redemption and will be spared the costs of killing (which are not reimbursed by the state). If they hold and kill, they will only get the small difference in excess of 72 hours reimbursed by the state. They will not get from the state the costs of killing or the foregone money from adoptions and owner redemptions.”
Thanks in part to the Hayden Law, California has been at the forefront of shelter reform across the U.S.
“Once the law is gone, the reference point for other shelters to follow is also gone,” Battista told NBC Los Angeles.
What You Can Do:
- Help spread awareness of the possible repeal on your social networks. Tell Brown you oppose it on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
- Sign the Change.org petition urging Brown not to repeal provisions of the law.
- Call Brown at 916-445-2841 or send a fax to 916-558-3160.
- Attend the rally starting at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, March 13, at the California State Capitol in Sacramento.