California’s “Hayden Law”, enacted in 1998, extended the mandatory holding period for shelter animals from 72 hours to four to six business days. It encouraged shelters to work proactively to place animals and reduce euthanasia rates. The provisions of the Hayden law have been loosely adhered to over the past decade and a half, and this has resulted in great improvements in shelter practices in the State of California. Because this extended hold is a statewide mandate, the state must reimburse local shelters for their costs.
California is just plain flat broke, and for the past few years hasn’t had the money to reimburse shelters the $23 million dollars per year it owes them under Hayden. But besides just plain not having the money to fund this mandate, another problems is the fact that the state reimbursement is only paid to shelters for animals who are ultimately killed. Those animals reclaimed by their owners, sent to rescues or placed for adoption must have their impound expenses paid for by the agencies or individuals who take them from the shelter, and not by the state. Shelters may not be as proactive as necessary because they will, in theory at least, receive reimbursement for animals that are killed. Laws with good intention often come with unintended consequences, and the Hayden law is no exception, as it has served as a disincentive for adoption.
Most shelters currently hold dogs and cats much longer than the prescribed four to six days anyhow, and even if the Hayden law is repealed in whole or in part, shelters would most certainly not be REQUIRED to kill in three days. They can continue with their current best practices and techniques. Adoptions and numbers of pets sent out to rescues are at an all-time high. No one wants to kill, we hear from the shelters.
Los Angeles County holds animals for an average of eleven days, and the City of Los Angeles holds them for an average of nine days. Well beyond any state legal requirement. Since there has been no state reimbursement since 2009, there will be no real substantive change in conditions with a repeal of the reimbursement mandate. The law will just be altered to reflect the reality of the state’s inability to fund local shelters.
Besides, there are plenty of other action, progressive actions, that could be taken to reduce the burden on animal shelters.
Here are just a few that could help:
• Raise the limit on the number of dogs someone can own. Why is "3" a magic number – especially if they’re small?
• Stop raiding places where the dogs are fine. Stop confiscating dogs from kennels where the dogs aren’t sick, in danger, or dying. Then there wouldn’t BE so many in the shelters. OH – and if there’s NO ROOM at the shelter, then don’t confiscate what you can’t take care of!
• Start doing a better job of identifying what breed the animals in shelters belong to - THEN maybe they’ll be placed in appropriate rescue groups, or sold to people who will know what to expect when it comes to behavior – and the boomerang effect will be broken.
• How about lowering the price of shelter dogs and dog licenses – so people can AFFORD to own one.
• Stop the 2-tiered fee scam which requires a higher license fee for intact animals. Most of the owned dogs and cats in our state have already been castrated anyhow. But there is absolutely NO EVIDENCE that intact owned animals are any more a burden on society than sterilized ones.
• Stray or feral animals are the ones who are problematic, but they don’t have OWNERS to sterilize them. Feral cats comprise the majority of intakes and deaths. Trap-neuter and release of feral cats is a proven solution that few animal control departments use. I guess it’s easier to continue to blame animal owners for all the animals out there who don’t have owners.
• Stop the exaggerations about the numbers of dogs that are pure-bred. Many shelter workers have personally told me, and I’ve seen it, that there are VERY few. The ads/promos make it sound like the shelter has ALL the breeds, just come and get one. People go looking for a pure-bred – and they’re not there. There are many excellent reasons for purebreds – including some idea of personality, size, and behavior – not to mention benefits of specific breeds for people with allergies.
• Provide incentives for apartment owners to allow pets.
• Picked up a stray with a license or a valid microchip? Give it a free ride home. Stop charging up the ying-yang with outrageous impound fees so high that people can’t afford to bail their pet out.
• Stop the mass importation of stray dogs from Mexico, Taiwan, the Caribbean, Spain, Brazil, etc. Shelters and rescues import thousands every year.
• Make the shelters report legitimate numbers – and NOT count the dogs multiple times, NOT count those who are Dead On Arrival, and NOT count the ones brought in at the end of their lives for a merciful death.
• Take the funds that encourage illegal aliens to take up residence and live in comfort and distribute them to the shelter system instead.
• Stop making it more profitable for the shelters to kill than to rescue. Hey – make them WORK with rescue groups.
• Stop the unionization of the shelter workers. No union will EVER agree to a reduction in their work force or anything that might affect their job security.
• FINALLY – HSUS, PETA and other sham organizations could give some of their ill-gotten SCAM monies to our shelters.
• Just STOP making laws that make it more difficult and more expensive for people to own a pet.
Our legislators should be able to come up with many more ideas – that are NOT onerous to pet-owners, that encourage people to have pets, and that would shrink the shelter population.
(Thank you Carol Hamilton for all these great suggestions!)