Governor Brown puts lives of pets in the balance
Governor Jerry Brown has proposed repealing provisions of the Hayden Act, a California State Assembly bill passed in 1998 expanding the minimum allowed impound time for sheltered animals to 4-6 days. Previously, only 72 hours of holding were required. If Governor Brown has his way, we will return to this. With over 1200 California animal rescues listed on Petfinder (an online searchable database of around 300,000 adoptable pets), innumerable lives are saved during this period. As the owner of a happy, healthy former shelter dog found through a rescue (the Milo Foundation), I would be horrified to see the potential for a new life stolen from animals like Kovu, my family’s Saint Bernard mix. Organizations like the Milo Foundation cannot relieve stress on California shelters if animals are euthanized before adoption can take place.
It has been suggested by Jennifer Fearing, chief economist and California senior state director for the Humane Society, that “the vast majority of shelters have adjusted to longer holding periods”, and “added space”. However, many rescue workers well-acquainted with the shelter system disagree. Cindy Marabito, who has been rescuing pitbulls for 12 years, believes that the Hayden Act has enabled non-profit groups to “challenge particular animal control facilities’ harsh temperament tests,” by allowing their trainers in to reassess pets. According to saveourdogs.net, the number of dogs euthanized in California has gone down 43% in the last 5 years alone, and more than 70% since the numbers peaked in the 1970s, despite an increase in the state’s human population. While our state’s animal control surely isn’t without flaws, it has made great strides under the current legislation. Why is it being altered in such a counter-productive way?
California may be approximately $13 billion in debt, but is it moral to push for the repeal of an act that saves the lives of countless companion animals within a month of approving over $800,000 worth of raises to Assembly employees? Even if it was, how much would this repeal actually save the state? One estimate puts the total cost of several days care and subsequent euthanasia and disposal at $105. Euthanasia and disposal are not only relatively costly, they also prevent recovery of these funds through adoption fees, which range from around $150 to $300.
In a theoretical world where this repeal did decrease spending, how significant would these savings be? For the sake of this equation, a pet eventually bound for euthanasia would stay 5 days beforehand, but post-repeal, this same pet would only stay for 3. In addition, it will be presumed that these pets are going to be terminated regardless of how long they are held, ignoring the obvious reality that additional time in a shelter allows a greater opportunity for adoption by civilian or rescue. If likelihood of eventual euthanasia increases 20% each day when pets are held for 5 days, as they are theoretically being held now, and 33% each day when pets are held for 3 days, a 13% increase in overall euthanasia will occur. Third day euthanasia will be valued at a $15 saving to the state per pet. In 2007, about 390,000 cats and dogs were euthanized in California. The 13% increase in euthanasia would raise this number by 50,700. This would result in net savings of $760,500— and if the financial situation in California is so dire that this sum is seen as consequential, the $800,000 raises to Assembly workers would not have been approved, regardless of how appreciated they may have been.
The elimination of Hayden’s Act is both inhumane and illogical. If this is an honest attempt to save money for Californians, it is incredibly ill-conceived. However, as a vote-mongering ploy to stress the measures we must endure if we are to avoid a tax increase, it makes a lot more sense. California residents will be far more motivated to pay additional taxes if they believe that the alternative is death rates among otherwise healthy lost or abandoned pets will skyrocket. Politics may be a wagering game, but the bets on the table should not be paid in the lives of our state’s companion animals.