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Animal advocates protest shelter defunding

February 23, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
State funds for animal shelters are on the chopping block, and activists say it's a matter of life and death for many animals. Governor Jerry Brown is being urged not to cut the budget for the shelters.

Animal advocates urge Brown to think about his own dog, Sutter, before he repeals parts of the Hayden Act, which would basically result in a permanent funding loss for animal shelters across the state.

Some shelter animals are anxiously waiting for new homes. Others need their owners to re-claim them. They have six days.

Cities and counties typically pay for three days or 72 hours of care. Under the Hayden Act, the state reimburses them about $23 million a year to keep the animals alive another three days.

But Governor Brown wants to permanently relieve the state its mandate to save money. Critics say that's putting pets on death row too soon.

"After 72 hours, at this point they can be euthanized," said Marla Tauscher, an attorney specializing in animal law.

Tauscher began an online petition on Change.org to protest the proposal. Some kids even began their own signature drive. Tauscher turned in nearly 50,000 signatures to the governor, hoping that'll pressure him to back off.

"It is heartbreaking. It really is. These provisions, they don't require anything more than sort of common decency," said Tauscher. "They're not extraordinary. They're not exorbitant."

But the Brown administration points to a report by the Legislative Analyst Office that found no evidence the extra three days actually increased adoptions. It also says the formula on how much cities and counties get makes no sense.

"So those local governments who are actually putting down more animals get more money from the state," said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the California Dept. of Finance. "That seems to be somewhat of a perverse fiscal incentive."

To help, Brown proposes to give local governments an extra $500 million to spend however they want, including paying for the extra three days themselves.

With so many other pressing needs, pet owners want dedicated state funding to help them.

"Maybe they're at work and they're busy and don't have time to get down and rescue their pet. They need to allow more time for that," said pet owner Marci Frank.

Former Governor Schwarzenegger once proposed a similar budget cut for the extra three days. He decided not to when his daughter confronted him about it.