L.A. Councilmembers Challenge Governor on Animal Rights Law

During a city hall meeting Wednesday, Los Angeles councilmembers along with animal rescue groups introduced a resolution to stop Gov. Jerry Brown from repealing parts of an animal welfare law

L.A. city officials and animal rescue organizations called on Gov. Jerry Brown Wednesday to stop trying to repeal an animal welfare law that requires animal shelters keep stray pets at least four days before euthanizing them.

Paul Koretz, a long-time animal rights advocate, introduced the resolution at a city council meeting, during which the city opposed the effort to repeal the Hayden Law. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would have to sign the resolution before that position is sent to Sacramento.

"This serves as a vehicle for expressing the city's opinion," said Kian Kaeni, senior legislative deputy for the city of Los Angeles.

The Hayden Law, passed in 1998 by then-Senator Tom Hayden, is being challenged based on the state's budget crisis, which has lead Brown to propose provisions considered to be state mandates, according to H.D. Palmer, deputy director for external affairs at the California Department of Finance.

Under Brown's proposed provisions, a stray animal's four-day required holding time before being euthanized would be reduced to 72 hours.

The 72-hour hold would only affect one of the law's mandates, Palmder said, adding that Brown does not want to repeal the law in its entirety.

Rather, Brown would nix certain parts of it in an effort to save the state $46.6 million, Palmer said.

Part of the law requires the state to reimburse city shelters for the costs incurred from holding an animal.

"We would rather that it remains in suspension rather than being repealed," Francis Battista, co-founder of the Best Friends Animal Society.

Going back to measures before the Hayden Law was passed would bring shelters back to a catch-and-kill mentality, Battista said.

An analysis of the 2008-09 budget bill noted that the Hayden law did not increase the potential for an animal to be adopted, emphasizing that the demand for animal adoptions needed to come from communities.

"We should do everything we can before we take a life, that's the core of it," Kaeni said. "Euthanization shouldn't happen 'til the last possible second when every effort is made to get them adopted."

Shelters that euthanize more animals than others receive more money from the state, the analysis reported. It recommended that the state try a different approach to get animals adopted.

Despite the findings, many rescue organizations are fearful that the shortened time shelters would be required to hold an animal would inhibit many families from being reunited with their beloved pets.

"You could go away on Friday, your dog could get out. It's a long weekend and you don't get back until Tuesday and by then your dog is dead. Three days is not a long time to reclaim your animal," Battista said.

Adding to the high-cost problems of rescuing a stray for rescue workers is the length of time it takes to enact a plan to save the animal.

"When we decide to save an animal people don't realize the time it takes to get a plan together," said Haze Lynn, founder of the Take Me Home Rescue. "By killing quickly, we won't be able to save anybody. This is a big problem for us because we need the time."

The Hayden Law has been a template for progressive shelter reform legislation across the country. Once the law is gone, the reference point for other shelters to follow is also gone, Battista said.

Brown is also trying to repeal mandates that eliminate the requirement for shelters to provide lost-found posting opportunities, record keeping and "necessary and prompt veterinary care" for certain animals.

Although a repeal would eliminate legal requirements, it would not mean that shelters can't do these things on their own to help save the animal, find its family or get it adopted, Palmer said.

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