For the dogs
City of Sacramento animal shelter head insists fate of Hayden Bill won’t lead to more dead pets.City animal-shelter head insists fate of Hayden Bill won’t lead to more dead pets
A provocative headline looms: “State budget cuts kill innocent pets.” But reality at Sacramento animal shelters and such a headline are two different things entirely.
Gov. Jerry Brown proposed repealing parts of the Hayden Bill, which requires shelters to care for animals at least four to six days before euthanizing. If funding is rescinded, shelters will not be reimbursed for keeping animals alive. Some call this inhumane—but reports argue that said funding has little bearing on whether stray dogs or cats are adopted or die.
For Gina Knepp, director of the City of Sacramento Animal Care Services shelter on Front Street, big changes to the Hayden Bill, passed in 1990 by then state Sen. Tom Hayden, would have little or no effect on her job. “I can’t speak for the other shelters, but our business here at the Front Street shelter is to save as many lives as we can,” Knepp said. “With or without the money, I am still going to bust my ass to make sure that those protections happen.
“But I don’t know if that is going to happen elsewhere,” she added.
The Hayden Bill requires local shelters to offer a defined level of protection for domestic animals. The law also extended the window that a shelter is required to care for an animal before euthanizing it to four to six business days.
The state, meanwhile, once reimbursed local governments for the extra care and money spent to keep these animals alive. But there have been no six-day hold requirements at shelters since the law was suspended in 2009.
Gov. Brown’s partial repeal of the Hayden Bill would save the state $46.3 million in the coming fiscal year, an amount that represents approximately two years’ worth of claims. This proposed cut is currently in front of the Legislature for consideration.
Brown’s Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer explained that if the governor’s proposal is approved, cities and counties can still hold pets for longer than three days. “It could be six days, it could be 10 days,” he said. “All the provision is saying is that if you have a hold period longer than three days, the state is not going to reimburse or pay for the costs associated with that stay period longer than three days.”
Knepp told SN&R that her city shelter has not received state reimbursements “for a very long time” but continues to abide by the Hayden Bill. “Granted, it is a struggle and juggling act,” she added. “Funding would be incredibly helpful, but the Front Street shelter is committed to doing what is right for the animals and the people who lost them or will adopt them.”
Yet while the bill’s intent seems to benefit adoption, findings of a commission on state mandates tell a different story: A review found no link between state funding and programs that encourage animal adoption.
Instead, it found that state reimbursements actually awarded more money to the shelters that euthanize the most animals, rather than those successful in adoptions.
Knepp agrees with the commission, acknowledging that the mandate does nothing to increase the number of California residents each year who will adopt a pet. Simply, there will never be a shortage of pets available for adoption.
“The problem lies in that not all people choose to adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue group,” Knepp argued. “People may choose to buy their pets from pet stores or breeders, while others opt for more affordable alternatives.
“Go to Craigslist on any given day and look at how many animals are either being sold for very little money, and some even being offered for free.”
In a YouTube video published in January, former state Sen. Hayden urged that the bill remain untouched.
“I think that ever since [the bill was enacted], governors, including Jerry Brown, have tried to save a few bucks,” Hayden said in the video. “But the costs of that is to put countless dogs and cats to death, and I don’t think any governor should want to do that.
“It is not a budget issue, because you can solve the problem with penalties or fees. It is a humane issue.”