By Allison Pari
In 1998 California State Legislature passed the Hayden Law (SB 1785), a law requiring shelters to hold stray animals for four to six business days, rather than the previously required 72 hours, as well as other provisions for the safety and humane treatment of domesticated animals.
Now, 14 years later, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed permanently repealing the legislation in an attempt to cut costs. The intent is “to relieve local entities of the duty to perform the reimbursable activities,” according to an act to amend the California Civil and Food and Agricultural Codes.
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Shelters will no longer be required to provide veterinary care for their animals (CA Civil Code §1834), the holding period will be reduced again to 72 hours (CA Food and Agricultural Code §31108) and pets other than cats and dogs (rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, lizards, birds, etc.) may be euthanized on arrival (CA Food and Agricultural Code §31753).
In a recently posted YouTube video, Senator Tom Hayden said that he originally promoted the Hayden Bill when he discovered that “65,000 animals were put to death unnecessarily every year in Los Angeles County.” Animal rights organizations across the nation, including the Humane Society of the United States and the Stray Cat Alliance, are up in arms about the proposed modifications.
Though the measures targeted by Brown have been suspended since 2009, activists fear that “If this law is repealed it will set our progress back decades,” said L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz. On Wednesday, March 7 he held a press conference announcing that Los Angeles County planned to oppose modification of the bill.
Nancy Anderson, founder of the Brittany Foundation, a no-kill dog shelter in Acton commented that she didn’t agree with the governor’s plan. “We’re going to lose a lot of dogs,” she said, because people who are on vacation won’t have time to retrieve their lost animals before the 72-hour holding period expires.
Kyle Harris, owner of Kyle’s Critter Care, said that this also creates a problem for owners who have “surrendered their dog, and… changed their mind, which happens. There won’t be enough time.” She also mentioned that the holding period does not provide time for dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered: “All animals must be spayed and neutered before they’re adopted. So, if we don’t have a vet, and they’re waiting for a vet, and there’s only three days, that’s not going to work.”
Evelina Villa of the L.A. County Department of Animal Care and Control does not believe that Brown’s modifications will affect local shelters, particularly Castaic Animal Care Center, which serves Santa Clarita. Apart from state law, L.A. County shelters hold animals four days (plus day of impound) before euthanasia. Often, if the shelter has room, the animal will be kept longer. Because Castaic is small shelter and not usually crowded, it is less likely to be affected by the repeal of the Hayden Law. Larger shelters in L.A. County are more likely to be affected, due to the large number of animals they care for.
Despite this, Brown firmly believes that repealing the Hayden Law is in the best interest of the state. In his recent State of the State speech he said, “I propose cuts and temporary taxes. Neither is popular but both must be done. In a world still reeling from the near collapse of the financial system, it makes no sense to spend more than we have… It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and digging ourselves into a deep financial hole—to do good—is a bad idea. In this time of uncertainty, prudence and paying down debt is the best policy.”