Food for Thought

A Call to Action in California

by Nathan J. Winograd

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Please join animal lovers across California by writing to those in the California Legislature who hold the power of life and death over shelter animals.

finallogoThe Governor is asking the Legislature to repeal several provisions of the 1998 Animal Shelter Law. If the Governor succeeds in repealing it, he will not only turn back the clock nearly 15 years, he will rob these animals of any hope for a brighter future. But we stopped it once before when the former Governor tried to do it and we can do so again.

In 2004, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to repeal the provisions, but was forced to relent when a united chorus of animal lovers across California convinced him to reverse himself. That is the power of the people. Follow the links at the bottom to send a copy of the enclosed letter via e-mail to key legislators in both the Senate and Assembly.

Dear Senator/Assembly Member:

The Governor is asking the Legislature to repeal several provisions of the 1998 Animal Shelter Law that increased California’s holding period for dogs and cats in shelters from 72 hours to four days; required shelters to give other species such as rabbits the same protections as cats and dogs; mandated the posting of lost and found lists so that more animals get home to their families; and provided prompt and necessary veterinary care for sick and injured animals. If the Governor succeeds in repealing those provisions, animals will die and the costs associated with killing them will increase.

These provisions helped reduce the killing of dogs and cats by nearly 250,000 in just one year after the provisions went into effect. Since these provisions were suspended in 2009, the number of animals killed in California shelters has risen precipitously.  This is not only inhumane, it is expensive. When animals die, shelters lose the revenues from adoption or owner-redemption and they incur the costs of killing and disposal.

The Governor claims that the state law created a perverse incentive because shelters are reimbursed for the longer holding period only if the animal is killed and not if the animal is adopted or reunited with his or her family.  The reason the reimbursement formula works that way is that shelters have fee authority to capture costs when an animal is adopted or reunited with his/her family. In fact, it is never in the best interests of shelters to hold an animal, kill him or her, and then seek reimbursement for the longer holding period. The state does not reimburse the costs of killing, and the shelter has foregone the adoption and owner-redemption fees it could have obtained when saving the animal’s life. Therefore, shelters’ financial incentives are always aligned with saving animals’ lives.

Even with the longer holding periods, California is still far from generous. Only one state has a shorter holding period for stray animals. And despite economic challenges in other states, those states are working to increase their protections, not eviscerate them. New Jersey stopped a legislative effort to curtail holding periods in that state this August. And Minnesota, New York, Florida, and Georgia are considering legislation to increase care and treatment of animals in shelters.

We realize these are difficult economic times. And while we continue to believe that funding the provisions will save the lives of animals and save money for local governments, and therefore should be restored, we would rather see the provisions continue to be suspended, rather than repealed. The latter would remove any chance that California’s sheltered animals would ever have of improved care and conditions even when the economy improves. Permanently removing the ability for animals to share in future brighter economic times in California is simply unconscionable.

Thank you.

To send a copy of this letter via e-mail to the Senate, click here.

To send a copy of this letter via e-mail to the Assembly, click here.
(Please note: This is for California residents only!)

What the repeal would do:

  • Eliminate all protections for rabbits and other small animals, including the right of rescue groups to save them, resulting in mass killing.
  • Reduce the holding period from 4 days to 72 hours resulting in killing of stray animals before their families can reclaim them and killing of owner-surrendered animals before they can be adopted or transferred to rescue groups.
  • Eliminate lost and found lists resulting in lost animals not being matched with found animals, increasing killing.
  • Eliminate prompt and necessary veterinary care, increasing suffering.