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Update on California shelter bill

We wanted to bring you up to speed on the latest with the California shelter bill. As we told you in the fall, an independent stakeholders group in California has been seeking to update the historic Hayden Act law that was passed in 1998. Their work was based on an analysis of the law’s impact on various shelter metrics over the 15 years since the law was passed. Another stated concern was the fact that portions of the law were ruled to be unfunded mandates for which the state must reimburse local agencies. Consequently, due to California’s budgetary woes over the last decade, many of the key provisions of Hayden, such as extended hold time for strays, have been routinely suspended, so a way to decouple Hayden from the budget roller coaster was also being sought.

The stakeholder group, comprised of a handful of agencies (Best Friends was not a member of the stakeholder group), met and came up with a set of recommendations from their analysis of the data that was expected to form the basis for the new law. The language that was recently submitted has largely been met with criticism, and we, too, are finding ourselves in the position of being quite concerned over what’s been proposed.

Before I go into some of our main points of contention, I want to clearly say that we are committed to working through this with the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Mike Gatto of California’s 43rd district. Best Friends has a lot at stake in California, and we will do everything we can to ensure that state law doesn’t head down a path that would ultimately harm the animals, and, of course, also impede our own work in Los Angeles. As it stands, we cannot support this bill.

Our main points of concern with AB 2343, as it currently stands, are:

  • The bill as written does away with hold times for unidentified cats who enter shelters and allows them to be put up for adoption immediately. As we said in the fall, this is the right idea but only if these cats are fixed and returned to where they were found. Allowing a stray family pet to be immediately adopted undermines a large part of why shelters exist in the first place!

  • AB 2343’s mandatory release provision has been written to include for-profit entities. This means animals could be placed with commercial entities that have no interest in the safety, health or life of the dog or cat.

  • AB 2343’s proposed block grant is intended to incentivize compliance with Hayden’s extended hold times and sidestep the unfunded mandate issue, but as written would not incentivize positive outcomes and would release shelters that do not apply for grants from any mandatory hold time whatsoever.

Assemblyman Gatto has proved himself to be a friend of the animals, and we are optimistic that an amended version expected next week will move this in the right direction.

Best Friends legislative team will stay on top of this, and we are hopeful that the final product will be one that we can support without reservation.

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Francis Battista, Co-founder, Best Friends Animal Society Francis Battista
Best Friends Animal Society