Don’t Repeal Hayden Law

dog in shelter

Courtesy of Marla Tauscher, California attorney 

Since California enacted the Hayden
Law in 1998, we have taken the lead in humane sheltering legislation and have
served as a model for other states to follow. The overall goal of the Hayden
Law is to promote adoption over killing of California’s shelter pets and to
ensure that animals are treated humanely during the time they are impounded in our
shelters.  The Hayden Law provides the
nation’s most comprehensive protections for shelter animals.  Among other things, it extended the mandatory
holding period for impounded animals from 72 hours to either four or six days to
allow more time for owners to find their lost pets and others to adopt animals
before they are killed.  It also
established minimum standards of care for animals and required shelter
personnel to keep records for each animal taken in. 

part of his proposed cost-saving measures and cuts to the state budget,
Governor Jerry Brown is planning to repeal a number of the Hayden Law
.  In a recent speech, he said
that he would like to see more accountability at the local level in carrying
out state mandated policies.  However, that
position ignores the reality that local governments have proven unable or
unwilling to police themselves with respect to animal shelter regulations.  Despite claims that the paradigm has shifted
and shelters will continue to carry out the provisions of the Hayden Law even
with core provisions repealed, there are still shelters, hopefully a minority
of them, that do not voluntarily comply with the Hayden Law.  

Hayden provides a means of monitoring shelter
conditions and practices and compelling compliance through pro bono legal
efforts, if necessary.   That alone is a
compelling reason to keep the Hayden Law intact.  If the provisions in question are repealed,
countless animals will be killed needlessly before being given a meaningful
opportunity to be reunited with owners or to be adopted by others.  And while they are waiting out their death
sentences in the shelters, they will not be given the most basic of veterinary

without the Hayden record-keeping requirement, animals will be killed without a
trace.  Any transparency with respect to
shelter operations that has been achieved in the last decade or so will be
eliminated.  Many shelters are currently
violating the laws with regard to the holding periods and humane treatment of
shelter animals, which is evident from reviewing their records. Even with the
record-keeping requirement it is difficult to accurately assess conditions at
public shelters, which is advantageous to many of them, particularly to those
that are very poorly run.  Without
records, it will be impossible.  Permitting
local governments to operate their shelters without any records is an
invitation for mismanagement and abuse. 

is most appalling about the proposed repeal of parts of the Hayden Law is that
the provisions in question have already been suspended since July 2009 and
since then have not imposed a burden on state funds.  Repeal of those provisions cannot possibly
help to alleviate the current budget crisis. 
What it will do is to ensure that California will revert back to the
barbaric old days of animal sheltering in which animals are taken in and just
disappear without any accountability whatsoever.  It will further guarantee that animals will
not share in the benefit when the economy recovers and the state has the funds
to reinstate the Hayden Law in its entirety. 

is still work to do to achieve the goals of the Hayden Law, in large part due
to misunderstanding of its provisions and reluctance on the part of local
animal control agencies to promote adoption over killing.  Even over a decade after its enactment, killing
far outpaces adoptions statewide, not because of the Hayden Law, but primarily
due to entrenched ideas and an outdated shelter model that has proven that self-regulation
is ineffective.  That is further
exacerbated by a state reimbursement system, which is not part of the Hayden
Law, that in effect rewards killing.

a time when many other states are moving forward with humane laws, our Governor
is taking a huge leap backward by considering measures that will effectively
destroy the only viable tool for monitoring shelter conditions to promote
transparency and compliance with regulations that require nothing more than
decency dictates.  The results would be
tragic for the countless animals that are unfortunate enough to end up in our shelters.  There is no justification, financial or
otherwise, for repealing laws where to do so will not do anything to alleviate
the budget crisis and will, in fact, irreparably harm countless animals now and
in the future.  If this is truly an issue
of revenue, local governments should enforce existing regulations to collect
penalties and fees, before the state resorts to such draconian measures that
will not resolve any budgetary problems.