Governor Threatens to Reduce 'Hold Time' for Shelter Animals
• Budgetary Constraints Lead to Suspension of State Funding for Impounding Improvements
BY ANNE SOBLE
Governor Jerry Brown has earmarked provisions of California's animal control and shelter legislation known as the Hayden Law, which increased holding time for impounded animals and other protections, for repeal in the 2012-2013 California budget.
Brown has asked the state legislature to repeal animal protections championed by Senator Tom Hayden in 1998 that include the increase of California's holding period from 72 hours to four days; the requirement that other species, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, be given the same protections as cats and dogs; the posting of lost-and-found lists so that animals can be reunited with their families; and the directive to provide veterinary care for sick and injured animals.
The political motivation is to lower costs, but supporters contend that additional protection is no longer needed. The supporters' argument appears to contradict the ways the measure could save money, unless contributing to shorter holding times, less care and increased use of euthanasia.
Opponents of the repeal express disbelief that the Humane Society of the United States supports the governor's proposal. HSUS is being described as perceiving euthanasia as a more humane approach to animal overpopulation than extended caging and long, drawn out rescue efforts.
Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to repeal these same provisions in 2004, which led to a firestorm of protest from animal lovers who flooded his office with so many telephone calls that they jammed the switchboard. Others, in the hundreds, traveled with their animals to Sacramento for rallies.
Schwarzenegger backed down and animal rights and no-kill shelter proponents are now waging social and traditional media campaigns to try to accomplish the same objective.
These critics assert that many public shelters, which are usually county or city run, fail to provide adequate hours of public access for adoptions or reclamation of lost or missing companion animals.
Critics say shelters have not maintained adequate lost/found services or records for animals in their systems. Some have failed to provide adequate veterinary health care for many animals. Others have resisted working with the rescue/adoption community.
A look back at the political fight over the Hayden Law indicates that shelter administrators virulently opposed the measure. Their main objection was that the law made it illegal to kill an animal if a rescue group or no-kill shelter was willing to guarantee that animal a home through its own adoption program.
Some administrators did not want the extent of their use of euthanasia and limited animal care practices to become public issues.
Legislators then heard from animal supporters who argued public shelter policies did not reflect the opinions of their constituents. The bill passed the legislature 96 to 12. The governor signed it into law.
The County of Los Angeles fought and weakened the measure through a regulatory challenge, claiming the law would be too expensive to implement.
Because the state legislature cannot impose an unfunded mandate, until the recent budget crisis, the animal provisions were funded by the state. During the last fiscal year, however, the state suspended its payments, making the provisions unenforceable.
When proponents of repeal argue that the provisions are suspended and unenforceable, Prof. Taimie Bryant of the Animal Law Program at UCLA Law School—who has helped draft animal protection legislation—says the current status is temporary, and adds, "Permanently removing the ability for animals to share in future brighter economic times in California is unconscionable."
Groups opposed to repeal of the Hayden Law urge like-minded state residents to telephone Gov. Brown at 916-445-2841 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; or fax a letter of opposition to 916-558-3177.
Opposition may also be voiced via email to Brown at http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php; by post to Brown's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ jerrybrown; or by tweet to his Twitter page at @JerryBrownGov<http://twitter. com/jerrybrowngov>