California Governor Jerry Brown Looks to Reduce Holding Time of Animals in Shelters

In an effort to take shave off millions of dollars from California’s growing annual deficit, Governor Jerry Brown is looking to repeal a landmark legislation aimed to support thousands of animals that end up in animal shelters every year.  Hayden’s Law, first passed in 1998, and written by former state Senator Tom Hayden, lengthens the amount of time California animal shelters must hold on to animals before they are euthanized.

For Tom Hayden, it was simply a matter of ensuring that animals that are adoptable or lost find their way into a home or back to their families.  To get a good idea on just what the benefits of Hayden’s Law are, imagine that you are a pet owner.  You recently lost your animal and despite desperate searching you still come up short.  You want to make it to your nearest animal shelter but because you work, you cannot find time to do so in time before they close.  Little did you know, however, that your animal was at the shelter but after only a couple of days your animal was put down because no one came in to claim it.  Heartbreaking.

Under Hayden’s Law, a portion of the state budget would be set aside so that animal shelters have the means to hold on to animals for upwards of four to six days—giving pet owners and prospective owners more time to visit the shelter, and animals a better chance of making it into a home.  Even more, Hayden’s Law requires that animal shelters extend their regular business hours, staying open later on some nights of the week and even opening on the weekend. 

And for what it is worth, Hayden’s Law has worked.  The proof is in the numbers: in 1997, the year before Hayden’s Law was passed, the California Department of Public Health found that “576,097 dogs and cats were put down in California shelters.  The year the law went into effect that number dropped to 32,991.  But in 2009, the year after the mandate was suspended by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the number rose again to 455,046.”  With Hayden’s Law in place, more lost animals were reunited with their families and more adoptable pets found new homes of their own.

By repealing Hayden’s Law, government officials hope to save $23 million that would otherwise be spent to save these helpless animals.  But this is not sitting well with many activists throughout the state including Tom Hayden.  In a YouTube video posted by the former Senator, Hayden presses Governor Jerry Brown to think about his own dog, Sutter, “before you allow this bill that protects animals to die.”

For supporters of Hayden’s Law, euthanasia comes as an absolute last resort with the most focus being paid to the animals and getting them paired up with the families. While it may seem like a quick-fix to the state’s financial problems, state officials need to remember that if it is money that they are looking for, then there is plenty of it to be had in the pet adoption business.  To urge Governor Jerry Brown to reconsider his position to repeal Hayden’s Law, please sign the petition here.

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