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June 4, 2009

Animal Sheltering Leaders Urge Calif. to Spare Abandoned and Lost Pets

Groups Urge Lawmakers Not to Make Sheltered Dogs and Cats Victims of Budget Crisis

The Humane Society of the United States

SACRAMENTO — On behalf of its nearly 1.3 million California constituents, The Humane Society of the United States yesterday appeared before the state legislative Budget Conference Committee to urge consideration of the serious and adverse implications of the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to suspend the "animal adoption mandate," which would have the effect of reducing by three days the holding period for stray dogs and cats in the state's municipal animal shelters.

The Governor is advancing this proposal as a means of generating savings during the state's budget crisis.

The holding period is the period of time that a shelter must hold stray dogs or cats before they can be adopted to new families or euthanized. The current requirement that stray dogs and cats be held for at least four or six days (depending on hours of operation) was established by the 1997 passage of the Hayden bill, a body of law that includes other provisions aimed at increasing the number of animals adopted from the state's shelters.

The intent of the Hayden law's provision that stray animals be held an additional three days is two-fold: (1) to give pet owners more time to locate lost animals and (2) to give unclaimed animals more time to either be adopted or transferred to an animal rescue group.

Testifying before the budget conference committee yesterday, Jennifer Fearing, chief economist for The HSUS offered a counter-proposal intended to spare some funding by creating a one-year "animal safety net" program to assist animal shelters in promoting pet adoptions. The program is especially needed by shelters during a time when their operating budgets are being cut despite a significant rise in the number of animals surrendered and abandoned by their owners due to foreclosures and layoffs.

"If shelters are no longer reimbursed by the state for holding animals, they will be forced to cut services," said Fearing, "The 'savings' generated by suspending this mandate is a paltry 0.1 percent of the $24 billion deficit. These funds are the only state dollars that presently go to assisting local governments with the costly problem of pet overpopulation."

Joining the call to keep lost and abandoned dogs and cats from becoming victims of the economic crisis are the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA®), the State Humane Association of California (SHAC) and the California Animal Control Directors Association (CACDA).

"Animal redemption and adoption rates had been steadily rising in California until the tidal wave of home foreclosures dramatically increased the number of surrendered and abandoned animals," added Jill Buckley, senior director of Government Relations for the ASPCA. "For example, Los Angeles County Animal Control, the state's largest animal control agency, took in almost 10 percent more dogs and cats in the current fiscal year than last year."

"While we strongly prefer not to face a suspension of the stray hold provision, we understand the grave circumstances the state is facing and encourage lawmakers to consider creation of a one-year 'animal safety net' program to promote the adoption of as many animals as possible," said CACDA's president, Kathleen Brown. SHAC Executive Director Erica Gaudet Hughes added, "This is a critical juncture for California's animals. If the 'animal adoption mandate' is suspended, shelters will need a safety net to help them continue with their hard work of promoting the adoption of homeless pets."

The HSUS, ASPCA®, SHAC and CACDA propose that lawmakers:

  • Consider the extremely modest cost associated with the important policy goal of promoting the adoption of homeless animals.
  • If deemed absolutely necessary and unavoidable, suspend the additional three-day stray hold required by the Hayden law, being careful to draft any suspension language carefully and narrowly, so as to avoid inadvertently suspending important provisions unrelated to the three-day stray hold requirement.
  • Create a one-year "animal safety net" program to assist shelters in promoting pet adoptions during a time when their operating budgets are being cut despite a significant increase in the number of animals that are surrendered and abandoned by their owners due to foreclosures and layoffs and make payments in a timely manner to maximize the benefit to shelter adoption programs.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) was the first humane organization established in the Americas, and today has more than one million supporters throughout North America. A 501[c][3] not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA's mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. The ASPCA provides local and national leadership in animal-assisted therapy, animal behavior, animal poison control, anti-cruelty, humane education, legislative services, and shelter outreach. The New York City headquarters houses a full-service, accredited, animal hospital, adoption center, and mobile clinic outreach program. The Humane Law Enforcement department enforces New York's animal cruelty laws and is featured on the reality television series "Animal Precinct" on Animal Planet. For more information, please visit aspca.org.

The California Animal Control Directors Association, a nonprofit organization, formed in 1976, that represents animal care and control professionals and agencies in California. CACDA is supported by its membership, which is composed of animal care and control professionals, as well as its respective agencies throughout the state. On the Web at cacda.org.

The State Humane Association of California is a non-profit membership association of humane societies and SPCAs. We offer assistance to member associations through education, training, and legislation to promote the inherent value of animals through the elimination of cruelty, neglect, and exploitation. On the Web at californiastatehumane.org. 

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