AR-News: (US-CA): Governor Wants to Repeal Law Favoring Pet Adoption
United Animal Nations
uan at calweb.com
Fri Jun 25 10:39:20 EDT 2004
Governor Wants to Repeal Law Favoring Pet Adoption
The plan to save counties and cities money would make it
easier to put stray animals to death.
By Robert Salladay, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times
June 25, 2004
SACRAMENTO In his brief political career, Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger has challenged powerful state unions, prison
guards and wealthy American Indian tribes alike. But now he
is up against a group with far greater numbers and a louder
voice: animal lovers.
Schwarzenegger wants to repeal California's comprehensive
law forcing animal shelters to hold stray cats and dogs up
to six days before killing them, a budget-cutting move that
has enraged pet adoption groups.
As a favor to the state's cash-poor counties and cities,
Schwarzenegger has asked the state Legislature to reverse
the 1998 law, which makes adoption of wayward pets the first
priority of shelters instead of quickly putting them to
death. The law is dubbed the Hayden Act, after former Santa
Monica state senator and activist Tom Hayden.
"This is an issue that affects the care and protection of
tens of thousands of stray animals, and will inflict
heartbreak on a lot of owners and people in the animal
adoption world," Hayden said Thursday.
Few issues can incite animal lovers more than the abuse or
killing of pets. Los Angeles' animal services director,
Jerry Greenwalt, retired in April after protesters
vandalized his house and spray-painted "murderer" on his
car. Claiming the city killed too many animals, protesters
also picketed the San Pedro home of Mayor James K. Hahn
(only to be targeted themselves by Hahn's neighbors, armed
with squirt guns.)
Many experienced politicians say it is best to either be an
advocate for animals or stay clear of the issue.
"There is no organized constituency of cats and dogs, but
certainly the pet owners of America will find this
reprehensible," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the
Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Cal State
"Cats and dogs are like mom and apple pie. Don't mess with
the pets. Most people prefer them to other people."
Hahn, in fact, announced last year that the city would stop
killing animals by 2008, but Los Angeles continues to put to
death cats, dogs and other animals that are not adopted. The
city handles more than 60,000 animals each year and kills
about 34,000, or 54%. An estimated 600,000 dogs and cats are
put to death each year statewide.
The Schwarzenegger administration said repealing the Hayden
Act could save local governments up to $14 million. As
proposed, shelters would be allowed to kill dogs and cats
after holding them just 72 hours, regardless of whether the
shelters are open to the public during those three days.
But animal rights activists believe cats and dogs should not
be sacrificed in an effort to save money amid the state's
"It's sad they would put a price tag on the animals," said
Kathy Riordan, a member of the Los Angeles Animal Services
Commission and daughter of Schwarzenegger advisor and former
Mayor Richard Riordan.
Schwarzenegger has proposed a change in the law to allow
birds, hamsters, potbellied pigs, rabbits, snakes, turtles
and other animals that are not cats and dogs to be put to
death immediately after capture if the shelter favors that
approach, animal rights groups said. Currently, a minimum
six-day window covers all animals, but the protections for
everything but cats and dogs would be eliminated under the
Schwarzenegger also would eliminate a requirement that
people convicted of animal cruelty be prohibited from owning
a pet for three years and be forced to pay for medical care
for the animals they have mistreated.
Shelters no longer would be required to search for owners
who have embedded microchips in their pets that store
addresses and phone numbers.
There are signs that Schwarzenegger has a growing
understanding of how volatile the issue of animal protection
Amid complaints from animal rights groups, the
Schwarzenegger administration said it has been working to
keep portions of the Hayden Act that do not cost local
shelters money, such as requiring pets to be offered to
nonprofit rescue groups before they are killed.
Schwarzenegger's aides are expected to meet soon with animal
rights groups and local governments to reach a compromise on
the issue before the 2004-05 state budget is approved by the
Legislature, perhaps as soon as this weekend.
H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state's Department of
Finance, said the administration would like to cut costs for
local governments but also fix an unintended consequence
that local governments said came because of the Hayden Act:
overcrowding because shelters must hold even vicious dogs
for up to six days. Subsequently, Palmer said, shelters have
been forced to kill animals to make room for new animals
than come in every day.
"Because of space limitations, the shelters are being forced
to euthanize animals who are otherwise highly adoptable
immediately after the holding time," Palmer said, "whereas
before that they could use some discretion and delay that."
Pet adoption and animal rights groups said repeal of the
Hayden Act would sacrifice protections for animals in order
to save cities and counties money, although exactly how much
money is being disputed. But many also said they do not
believe Schwarzenegger would purposely advocate killing
animals sooner to save local budgets.
"They are attempting to cut this budget with a hatchet
instead of a scalpel, and they are not thinking rationally,"
said Rich McLellan, director of the Animal Legislative
Action Network in Los Angeles and a consultant on the 1998
Jennifer Fearing, director of programs for United Animal
Nations in Sacramento, said the Hayden Act managed to move
California to fairly reasonable shelter standards
certainly not groundbreaking and ending the law would
set California back. "It wasn't like we revolutionized
things," she said, "but we greatly improved the status of
animals in shelters, and we focused on a policy of not
killing animals. This undoes all of that."
Under the current law, animals at shelters must be held at
least four business days before the shelter can consider
killing them. A stray animal must be kept at least six days
if the shelter is open only Monday through Friday and does
not offer evening hours.
The optional evening and weekend hours often give owners
time to search for lost pets after work and allow nonprofit
rescue workers time to search for dogs and cats to offer for
adoption themselves. Nonprofit rescue shelters also pay
government-run shelters to take cats and dogs and save them
Some lawmakers say Schwarzenegger should not repeal part of
the law that requires people convicted of animal cruelty to
pay the veterinary costs of the injured animal. That item is
under discussion this week.
"If we repeal that, guess who has to pay for the cost? The
taxpayers," said Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys). "We
are overturning a policy I think most people would agree
with and we are going to be costing the state money."
The state has been struggling with how to close a
$15-billion shortfall, and counties and cities have been
complaining that lawmakers continually put spending mandates
on them without reimbursement. For counties, the requirement
to hold cats and dogs has been a complaint since the Hayden
Exactly how much local governments are being forced to spend
because of the Hayden Act has been the subject of dispute
for years. The Commission on State Mandates said two years
ago that local governments are owed $79.2 million, a figure
the state auditor later said was inflated. Who pays for
state laws about animal shelters is now the subject of a
lawsuit and a bill in the Legislature.
"I believe it's premature not only because of the pending
court cases, but also premature because we don't have an
assessment of how much is owed," said Taimie Bryant, a UCLA
law professor who teaches a class on animal law and helped
write the Hayden Act.
Lawmakers say repealing the Hayden Act has not been given a
proper hearing in a policy committee and should not have
been inserted into the proposed state budget without
oversight. Now, some are threatening to withhold their vote
on the budget until the Schwarzenegger administration
withdraws or alters its plan.
"As far as I'm concerned, this throws a wrench in the budget
negotiations," said Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West
Hollywood). "I would not want to make this part of the
budget vote. Why would we want to make it easier to kill
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