Pets & Their People / Perspective

Miriam YardenYet Another Threat To Our Pets

by C. Miriam Yarden, B.Sc., MS, APDT Contributing Editor

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  • Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed that the legislature suspend a state mandate in the 1998 "Hayden bill" that lengthened the period animal shelters must hold animals before killing them. The Hayden bill extended the time generally from three days to six days; ending the state mandate would cut the minimum time to three days; local shelters could extend the time if they pay for it themselves [which most didn't do before the Hayden bill]. Contributing Editor Miriam Yarden criticizes the Governor's proposal below. Deputy Press Secretary Rachel Cameron tells "We understand the real consequences of these cuts, but with a $24 billion deficit there are no good options. Many of these cuts the Governor would never have considered before, be we are in a worst-case scenario." Deputy Press Secretary Cameron also cites an analysis by the Legislative Analyst's Office (below). welcomes your comments; Ms Yarden's opinions are first below.

    (June 16, 2009) -- Our Honorable Governor has found yet another way to disadvantage our pets in the foolish notion that he will reduce California’s $24 billion budget deficit. He wants to slash state funding to county and state animals shelters which is used to support the state's "animal adoption mandate" to keep shelter animals alive for not less than six days.

    This period gives people a reasonable time to locate lost pets. It also gives unclaimed animals a reasonable time to be adopted or taken by rescue groups. Gov. Schwatzenegger’s proposal would cut the minimum holding period to three days or less.

    As we know, due to the rise of foreclosures, more and more animals have been abandoned, the lucky ones ending in shelters. If this proposal passes, shelters will be forced to euthanize thousands of healthy, adoptable pets who otherwise would have been either found by their owners or would have found safe and happy forever homes. These animals have already had their lives shattered and they deserve the opportunity for a second chance.

    Why not tax alcohol and tobacco? What is so sacred about those commodities? They are not even necessities that we can’t live without. Why target the animals yet again?

    Please Californians, you have done so well with SB 250 (Pet Responsibility Act, passed Senate, now in Assembly) -- take a few moments again and call your Senators and Assemblymembers and ask them to oppose the Governor's proposal to suspend the animal adoption mandate.

    Imagine if your pet was lost (God forbid!) and you only had three days or less to check the shelters, knowing that he may have been euthanized because neither you nor he were given the chance to find each other.

    Just a few minutes out of your time and what a difference it can make! And those Companions are better for our health than cigarettes or booze.


    [Text from State Legislative Analyst's office]


    Given the state’s interest in promoting animal adoptions, we examined whether Chapter 752’s [Hayden bill's] longer holding period results in increased adoptions -- either directly due to its requirement or indirectly through the mandate funding provided. Our review indicates that there is little reason to believe it does.

    Direct Impact of Longer Holding Period. Throughout the United States, there are many more animals in shelters than there are households looking to adopt pets. Partly because of this imbalance between supply and demand, roughly one -- half of the animals entering shelters are euthanized. Chapter 752’s requirement that shelters keep animals alive longer increases the supply of animals in shelters on any specific day. It also gives animal rescue organizations more time to transfer animals to their facilities. This increased supply of adoptable animals (at shelters and rescue facilities) can give households greater choice in selecting a pet to adopt. It does not necessarily mean, however, that more households adopt pets. That is, the mandate does nothing to increase the demand for these animals.

    Indirect Effect of Shelter Funding. To increase the number of pets adopted, more households need to adopt pets rather than buy them from stores or breeders. Especially over the last decade, as concern regarding the treatment of animals has grown, many shelters, animal rescue, and humane groups have taken significant steps towards promoting animal adoption. Does the funding provided under Chapter 752 support these efforts? Our review finds no link between the funding provided under Chapter 752 and programs that encourage animal adoption. Specifically, under the mandate’s reimbursement methodology, shelters do not get more state funds if more households adopt animals. Rather, shelters that euthanize the most animals receive the most state funds. Shelters that are the most successful in promoting adoptions receive the least state funds.

    This gap between Chapter 752’s policy goals and mandate reimbursements stems from the requirements of mandate law. Specifically, the California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local governments for the cost of required activities -- without regard to local success in achieving the desired outcomes


    Because the goals of Chapter 752 are not suited to implementation as a mandate, we recommend the Legislature repeal the elements of Chapter 752 that impose a mandate. We further recommend that the state pay the outstanding costs for this mandate over time. (Reduce Item 8885–295–0001 by $13 million and increase Item 8885–299–0001 by $3 million.)

    Given mandate law’s focus on reimbursing local governments for activities, rather than the achievement of policy objectives, few state objectives are suited to implementation as mandates. This is particularly true when the state seeks to encourage local governments to make significant policy changes, such as in the case of Chapter 752.

    Because there is no evidence that the longer holding period (or its mandate funding) furthers state policy objectives, we recommend the Legislature repeal this requirement of Chapter 752 (along with the other minor elements of the measure found to be a mandate). This action would eliminate the state’s obligation to reimburse local governments for their increased costs of caring for animals that they euthanize. If the Legislature wishes to give shelters more incentives to promote animal adoptions, we recommend the Legislature try a different approach. For example, the Legislature could pilot an incentive program that gives funding to those shelters that increase the number of animals successfully adopted. (As a point of reference, based on information provided by the Department of Public Health, the state could give local government shelters $30 for every dog or cat adopted for a total annual cost of about $12 million.)

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    Ms. Yarden's Archives:

  • Coyote "Invasion" -- Let's Manage It

  • The Backyard Dog

  • L.A. Sets Poor Example by Undermining Its Own Spay/Neuter Law

  • There Is No Good Excuse -- EVER! - For Abandoning A Dog Or Cat

  • Keeping Tax Collector's Hands Off Our Pets

  • Animals Are Not For Suffocating Or Burning

  • Ensuring Effective Dog License Canvassing in LB

  • Christmas With Your Companions

  • The Other Side of Farm Animal Cruelty

  • The Coyote: Truths & Myths

  • Katrina, Now Gustav...And Thank God! We Have Learned Something!

  • A Toy For Every Animal

  • Foiling Thieves Who'd Steal Your Dog

  • What To Do, And Not Do, If Your Cat Is Freaked Out By The Quake

  • Driving With Your Dog

  • On CSULB's Unwelcome Coyotes & Formerly Welcome Feral Felines

  • Not Merely Birth Control: The Other Side of Spay & Neuter

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