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California has a massive budget crisis and since our state is in a state of gridlock where Democrats refuse to concede cuts to their pet causes and Republicans failing to fund the expansive state budget, our Governor is trying to find so many small items to cut to help to provide substantive fiscal relief. The issue that has gotten thousands of animal welfare advocates mobilized is the movement to repeal the Hayden Law for shelter animals that was passed in 1998 and signed by Governor Wilson. Hayden’s legislation was intended to help reunite pets with their owners in the instance they may have become lost and also to encourage animal shelters to focus on working on adoptions instead of putting animals down.
In an effort to trim costs, the governor’s budgetary staff has stricken out particular parts of the law in their trailer bill that will likely be part of the next state budget. First, animal shelters will not be mandated to provide necessary and prompt care when an animal needs medical assistance so if an animal is in needed for treatment it will either suffer in pain or be the first one to be put down. Second, animals that are not traditionally dog or cat will not be guaranteed the new 72 hour hold period, if the shelter is in danger of running out of space they will likely be put down. Third, regulations that require accountability in our animal shelters will be repealed so we will not find out the status of any animal medically treated or impounded. Four, there will not be a six business day holding period if your animal runs out of your home. If you are on vacation and your pet is impounded on a weekend expect your animal to not see Monday. The new rule will be 72 hours from the date of impoundment including days animal control may be closed to the public.
The Hayden Law is still needed, and repealing the Hayden Law is very drastic when we can suspend relevant clauses until our state is in better fiscal health. Even so, shelters in various parts of our state have violated the Hayden Law for shelter animals and without the law expect it to happen across the state. We should be able to provide dignity and respect for the companion animals that many of us value. We should keep the law on the books to further the cause of adoption and reduce the instance of putting animals down. We need to clamp down on animal shelters that deny volunteers, refuse the acceptance of blankets to help keep animals comfortable in concrete or outdoor kennels and refuse to cooperate with rescue organizations that want to save animals from being put down due to crowded kennels.
Budget analysis’s claim that these changes will save 46 million dollars, but there are much bigger fish to fry for the state of California to have meaningful budget reform such as dealing with the looming public employee pension crisis or curtailing the spiraling costs of high speed rail. However the thousands of shelter animals do not have a lobby as viable as the SEIU or the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Organization. That is why people like you and me who live in our state are encouraged to lobby their state legislators and our governor to reject this misguided proposal. First, look up your state legislator and find out if they are a member of the state budget committee for the assembly or senate. If they are then it’s strongly encouraged to lobby them because they are able to kill the proposal before it gets to a full vote. Even if your legislator is not on the budget committee, if the misguided proposal passes, we need them to defeat it at the full floor vote.