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Animal shelter defunding has activists alarmed

February 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Plans to help California's ailing budget could impact animal shelters throughout the state. The proposal to strip funding from shelters has animal activists concerned that more pets will get euthanized.

A battle is brewing between animal-rights activists and Governor Jerry Brown. The governor is planning to strip away legislation requiring animal shelters to hold strays up to six days before they are euthanized.

"Right now we're talking about trading lives for dollars, and by taking away the funding that they are giving to shelters now, it's just going to mean the animals suffer more," said Denise Perry, executive director of the Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center

The organization fears if the state mandate, known as the "Hayden Law," is repealed, shelters could euthanize animals after just 72 hours.

"It's just a tragedy because some people, they look for their pet or they're on vacation or something and they don't know it's gone within 72 hours," said Perry.

Currently the law requires the state to reimburse shelters for the cost of caring for animals up to three additional days after holding them for 72 hours.

The governor's proposal would repeal reimbursements to shelters, saving the state $23 million. But since 2008 there has been no funding for the reimbursements.

"We don't get the reimbursements anymore but we are carrying on with business as usual, in that we keep them for longer than 72 hours," said Dr. Allan Drusys, chief veterinarian for Riverside County Department of Animal Services.

The average stay for a stray pet at the Riverside County Animal Shelter is 13.5 days.

Shelter officials say if the mandate is rolled back it will allow them to euthanize some animals sooner.

"The way we're doing things here at Riverside County Animal Services is looking at the dogs that normally would not be adoptable anyways, due to behavior characteristics," said John Welsh, a spokesman for the Riverside County Dept. of Animal Services.

Both shelters and rescue officials say spay-and-neuter programs are the best solution to control pet overpopulation.

Los Angeles County and city shelters have not been a part of this funding program for several years.