Shelter reversal – Schwarzenegger backs off proposal to allow speedier euthanasia
Governor Schwarzenegger elated local animal activists Friday by backing down from his plan to make it easier for shelters to euthanize animals.
A month ago, the governor proposed a law that would have allowed county animal shelters to kill stray dogs and cats after three days instead of the currently mandated six.
“This is a huge relief and a true victory for the animals,” Anna Drummond of Nevada County Pet Adoption League said after the governor announced he had changed his mind Friday.
Even if Schwarzenegger’s proposal had passed, the new law would not have caused higher euthanasia rates in Nevada County, Lt. Ron Earles of Nevada County Animal Shelter said Friday.
“There is a lot of effort in our county to find animals we pick up a place to live. We hold animals at our shelter longer than required by law, and we haven’t had to put down an adoptable animal in a very long time,” Earles said.
As part of his budget proposal that was first drafted in December, the governor had asked the Legislature to repeal a 1998 law that requires the shelters to hold animals up to six days before destroying them. The governor wanted to save money by cutting the waiting period in half.
But after a nationwide storm of protest, the governor hastily organized a press conference outside his Capitol office and told reporters of his error.
“I realized last night that there was a mistake that I made on the budget,” he explained, noting he only had a few weeks to put his proposed budget together between his inauguration in November and when the document went to the printers in December to meet the Jan. 10 deadline for delivering a spending plan to the Legislature.
The idea to cut the waiting period would have saved local governments that operate the shelters $14 million, according to the governor’s office.
Statewide, an estimated 600,000 dogs and cats are put to death each year, including 34,000 in Los Angeles alone. In addition to cats and dogs, the shelters also care for many other animals, including birds, hamsters, potbellied pigs, rabbits, snakes and turtles.
Nevada County receives approximately 4,000 stray dogs and cats each year. Thanks to volunteers at the shelter and local pet advocacy groups that help coordinate adoptions, the shelter has maintained a 17 percent euthanasia rate for cats and dogs, Earles said.
Still, local animal rights groups are concerned that the life and safety of animals are on shaky ground.
“We work so hard to keep these animals alive,” Drummond said. “Every light at the end of the tunnel shouldn’t always be an oncoming truck.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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