LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Pet advocates are fighting like cats and dogs to stop a deficit-slashing proposal from Gov. Jerry Brown that aims to save $23 million by ending reimbursements to animal shelters for the cost of keeping strays alive.
Brown wants to repeal parts of Hayden’s Law that require shelters to hold lost and stray animals for six days instead of three, and mandates the state to pay for such expenses as food and veterinary care.
The Hayden Bill, sponsored by former Sen. Tom Hayden, was passed into law in 1998.
In a video posted to YouTube, Hayden pleads with Brown to consider his own dog, Sutter.
The animal shelter cuts are part of Brown’s proposed $92.5 billion budget that would eliminate 50 mandates or reimbursable amendments that have been suspended for the last two years or more, said H.D. Palmer, deputy director of California’s Department of Finance. The savings would put a $728.8 million dent in a $9.2 billion deficit.
Thousands of pet owners and animal welfare groups across the country have lined up to fight the repeal, saying it would lead to countless deaths — not just canine and felines. The law requires shelters to hold rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, pot-bellied pigs, birds, lizards, snakes, tortoises and turtles for three days. Without the mandate, they could be killed immediately.
“It would also degrade shelter operations, as well as morale and ultimately the character of shelter workers, by altering the mandated focus of animal control agencies from lifesaving back to the failed catch-and-kill orientation of the bad old days,” said Best Friends Animal Society co-founder Francis Battista.
The state’s legislative analyst said a 2008 review found that holding animals longer did not improve their chances for adoption; it just increased the number of animals people had to choose from.
But Los Angeles County supervisors disputed that finding. In a Feb. 6 letter to Brown, supervisors said more than 1,100 lost pets were returned to their owners after the third day last year.
Under Hayden’s Law, most shelters put lost or stray pets up for adoption after the third day, so if they had been euthanized after three days, those 1,100 pets would not have been reunited with their families.
“The cost issue is a bogus one,” said Hayden in a statement to CBSLA. “The budget formula incentivizes the killing but not adopting out.”
Palmer confirms this, but maintains the initial bill was presented with the argument there would be no cost to the state. Subsequently, he says, the Commission on State Mandates determined local governments were entitled to reimbursement of related costs.
“There is nothing that precludes a local government from having a longer hold period,” said Palmer. “It’s just that [under Brown’s proposal] the state would not reimburse the incremental costs incurred beyond the third day.”
Animal advocacy groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Best Friends are circulating petitions to block the budget cut.
“California is known for its progressive laws protecting animals and repealing this mandate would be a setback for animal welfare, public health, and local communities who have already realized benefits from the provisions in place,” said Jill Buckley, senior director of Community Initiatives for the ASPCA.
Brown’s office has yet to comment.
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