Tue, May

Best Friends: CA Gov. Newsom's $50M Budget Proposal for No-Kill Was a 'Campaign Promise' – to Whom?


ANIMAL WATCH-In 2017 Los Angeles Animal Services was proclaimed an "almost-No Kill' shelter by GM Brenda Barnette and Mayor Eric Garcetti. In 2020, the City still falls short of that goal. 

Despite removing breed ID from shelter cards (to hide Pit Bull designations), as recommended by Best Friends, and encouraging the public to keep lost/stray dogs they find, all six LAAS shelters are crowded with  long-stay Pit Bulls, feral cats and plagued by vicious dog attacks. 

Still, in the midst of rampant human homelessness, families with children living in cars, and human feces and urine saturating sidewalks where tents line major streets, LA and the Governor’s own San Francisco, Gavin Newsom was persuaded by someone to announce a $50 million proposal in the 2020-21 budget for statewide “No Kill” animal shelters, meaning at least 90% of the animals impounded are released alive (not necessarily adopted into homes). 

They may be given to rescues or, in the case of feral (wild, unsocialized) cats, relocated, released or returned to the streets--a process called Trap/Neuter/Release, which places them in the streets to fend for themselves, rather than humanely euthanizing them. 

Best Friends Animal Society claims on its website that Governor Newsom’s January 10 proposal was the first step in fulfilling a promise which was part of his campaign, “to ensure resources to meet the state’s goal in the Hayden Bill that no healthy or treatable dog or cat is euthanized in an animal shelter.” 

However, the Hayden Bill differs significantly from the current “No Kill” edicts.  

A promise to whom. . .and when? 

An in-depth search of Gavin Newsom’s many campaign proposals prior to his November 6, 2019, election failed to yield any mention of such a promise. 

Perhaps this was a knee-jerk reaction to appeal to animal lovers as a voting group while under increasing pressure from two petitions described by the California Globe in Recall Effort Against Governor Newsom Gains National and International Exposure. One accuses Newsom of "over a decade of proven mismanagement of policies, public monies and resources, and lack of leadership that have led to deterioration of California communities, poor schools, crumbling infrastructure. . . " The other lists ". . .giving healthcare to illegal aliens, tax increases, homelessness, and sanctuary cities within the state." 


In view of the recall accusations, this might be a bad time to announce a $50 million gift of taxpayers' dollar for animal shelters. "The proposal is part of an expansive budget plan by Newsom that aims to create more green jobs and address homelessness," according to The Hill. (It never hurts to throw that in.) 

Governor Newsom says, "We want to be a No-Kill state," the Sacramento Bee wrote on January 10, "...and he's ready to put taxpayer money toward the cause." 

The $50 million will not go directly to the shelters, but will reportedly be a one-time allocation from the State's general fund to UC Davis' Koret Shelter Medicine program, administered by Dr. Kate Hurley, who will control its use and develop a grant program for shelters over a five-year period. 

Judie Mancuso, of Social Compassion in Legislation, told the Bee, “If the money goes to spay and neuter, micro-chipping, then, yes, we’re on the right track. And then promoting adoptions. . . only a few things will alleviate this pet overpopulation. And that is controlling how many animals are born.” 


It appears Dr. Hurley's passion is TNR and feral cat management, which removes cats from shelters or traps them in the streets and creates "colonies," where they live outdoors but are fed by a caretaker.  Many animal lovers do not consider a life of fear to be humane because they are still subjected to hazards and predators. They also encroach on private property rights by wandering into yards to defecate and urinate and can spread diseases to domestic pets and humans. 

An internet search for "UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program," found an open letter describing the program and signed by Dr. Kate Hurley, which is quoted here in part: 

UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program - Funding 

"Because we receive no state support, the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program relies on the generous support of foundations and individual donors. Here are some of the foundations that help us help you." (Emph. added.) 

The Koret Foundation Funds 

Based in San Francisco, the Koret Foundation supports organizations that promote a vibrant and distinctive Bay Area. Koret focuses its giving in two major areas: strengthening the Jewish community in the Bay Area, Israel and Poland, and supporting Bay Area anchor institutions. Since its founding in 1979, Koret has invested nearly $500 million to contribute to a higher quality of civic and Jewish community life.

The Koret Foundation seeks strategic, collaborative solutions to leverage our grantmaking dollars. For more than thirty years, Koret has looked to market-based approaches and proven business principles to improve communities and the Bay Area.

The Koret Foundation has played an instrumental role in developing the Koret Shelter Medicine Program with multi-million-dollar five-year grants, the first one starting in 2005.(Read complete letter here.) 

And, more about Dr. Hurley: "MILLION-CAT CHALLENGE" (Interview! Kate Hurley, DVM, Director of U.C. Davis Koret

"Kate’s passion for saving the lives of community cats is undeniable. Within what she calls her ‘big picture work,’ she has incorporated treatment of infectious diseases in lowering the number of shelter cats and euthanasia. Kate discusses how the excitement of peer-to-peer networking influenced her TNR program called “Million Cat Challenge."

Maddie's Fund states regarding 'The Million Cat Challenge’: "Bold initiatives also are keeping pets out of shelters. Several municipal shelters no longer accept healthy stray, feral and surrendered cats if the only possible outcome is death. The Million Cat Challenge Initiative and Trap Neuter Release (TNR) programs are returning cats back to the community before they ever enter a shelter."

See also: LAAS Feral Cat-TNR Plan Criticized, OC Animal Care Accused of 'Cat Dumping' for into on current feral cat programs in LA and Orange County.

NOT ALL EXPERTS AGREE WITH TNR / Toxoplasmosis Transmission

A peer-reviewed study published June 18, 2019, entitled, "The One Health Approach to Toxoplasmosis: Epidemiology, Control, and Prevention Strategies," examined health and environmental impacts of TNR and concluded that, "Local capacity also includes a commitment to laws to control the number of feral domestic cats on the landscape to minimize the risk of transmission of T. gondii. Veterinary schools have a particular responsibility to educate their students on the risks of this disease and not to allow specialized programs with outside funding, e.g., ‘‘shelter medicine’’ programs funded by animal rights organizations, to put out messages that undermine established science." (Read entire paper here.)

ACTUAL WORDING OF HAYDEN BILL - It is a ‘preference,’ not a ‘mandate’ 

In 2004, UCLA professor Taimie Bryant, one of the drafters of the Hayden Bill, explained provisions of the policy in an update, she explained that the 1998 Hayden Bill (SB 1785), which changed animal sheltering in CA and hold periods for animals and began what has become the "No Kill" movement was a statement of “preference,” not a mandate: 

  1. Statewide policy preference for adopting animals rather than killing them 

A policy preference for adoption was placed in three Codes: the Civil Code, the Food and Agricultural Code, and the Penal Code. Its placement in all three Codes emphasizes the fact that it is applicable to statutory interpretation of statutes in all three Codes. The policy statutes include the following language: 

It is the policy of the state that no adoptable animal should be euthanized if it can be adopted into a suitable home. . . It is the policy of the state that no treatable animal should be euthanized. A treatable animal shall include any animal that is not adoptable but that could become adoptable with reasonable efforts(Emph. added.) 


A number of California animal-sheltering agencies, including the County of Los Angeles have decided to follow a different path, "Socially Conscious sheltering."  This is clearly in compliance with provisions of the Hayden Bill, but focuses on the welfare of the impounded animals and the safety of those who adopt shelter pets. 

Long Beach announced: "Compassion Saves" is not No Kill | Long Beach, CA Patch

The term “reasonable effort” is one of the keys these shelters use for euthanasia decisions. The Hayden Bill does NOT require animals that have displayed dangerous or aggressive behavior which could be a serious threat must (or should) be kept alive. 

 Even Best Friends has recently acknowledged that correcting aggressive behavior in dogs may require “aversive” training, and there is no guarantee the animals will improve. 

The Hayden Bill also does not require that a dog that has harmed a human or other animal must be kept alive or adopted, because there is no certainty it can “be adopted into a suitable home” nor can the shelter guarantee that its “known” aggressive behavior can be changed and that there will be no future injuries or deaths.  

This is further evident in the CA legislature's recent passage of AB 588, which requires shelters and rescues to disclose all known bite history to potential adopters. 

The Hayden Bill does not set a statistical standard; such as a 90% goal for live- release of animals. 

Any dog scheduled for euthanasia is required to be released upon request/demand by “rescues,” and potential adopters need to be fully aware of this. Rescuers tend to romanticize and believe that because they get along with the dog, it is no longer a danger. 


PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) PETA warns,  "No-Kill is Slowly Killing Animals"

Because 6 to 8 million dogs and cats flood animal shelters every year, “no-kill” facilities are perpetually full, with weeks- or months-long waiting lists, “managed admissions,” and appointment-based systems. Under intense pressure from “no-kill” extremists to increase “live-release” rates and reduce euthanasia at all costs, many shelters are turning their backs on the very animals that need them."

A Deceptive Shell Game

“No-kill” policies don’t prevent animals from dying. They simply leave animals to die elsewhere -- and often miserably. Facilities that adhere to these policies opt not to involve themselves in euthanasia by turning away animals in need, shipping animals out of state to unknown and often untraceable destinations, and/or warehousing animals in cages indefinitely.


Most campaign promises involve a “quid pro quo"-- this-for-that. And at the CA state governor's level--and especially with a high-end candidate like Newsom -- that wouldn't come cheap! It isn't always direct contributions; it can be the perceived ability to influence a large voting bloc. There are certainly enough major groups involved to potentially do that.

However, Newsom's proposal is devoid of law-enforcement and health and safety considerations, which may work against the governor after the euphoria has worn off and feral cats and abandoned/stray dogs (not picked up because it risks increasing the "kill" stats) are starving to death, attacking local residents and/or invading the property of influential residents who are already enduring homeless encampments in close proximity -- all of which can be traced back to the Governor's proposals, or lack thereof.

There is no mention by Newsom of obtaining input from the California Animal Welfare Association, the statewide association of animal care & control agencies, humane societies, SPCA's, and other animal-welfare organizations in California. These are the directors of the agencies about which this decision is being made. Merely declaring that shelters must reach a 90% live-save rate is not the answer, because that can mean being forced to not pick up strays, risking disease epidemics (including a resurgence of rabies) and causing owners to abandon unwanted pets. 

It can also mean refusing to accept owner-surrendered animals, leaving them to be advertised on Craigslist or given to anyone who will take them, with no guarantee of a safe home.

Also, there is no consideration of the need to stop a primary source of the problem through stressing the responsibilities of pet ownership, rather than insisting that everyone should have a pet--and carelessly giving them away free to temporarily "clear the shelters." (Los Angeles Animal Services allows homeless individuals to take animals to live on the streets.)

There is need for community input on such issues as dumping feral cats adjacent to residential and/or commercial property. How will the attraction of rodents, predators and the potential spread of disease be accepted by residents? Will a portion of the $50 million be granted to the shelters to spend on these issues also?  

An animal-control professional commented when reading this proposal that this is suggesting scooping water out of sinking ship with a paper cup and not repairing the hull. Unless all the factors of spay/neutering, licensing and microchipping to assure responsibility and accountability for pets is included AND ENFORCED, this may sound like a good idea, but the potential consequences of ignoring serious animal health and safety issues statewide, added to the homeless humans problem, could sink Governor Newsom's career.


(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of Los Angeles employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Cartoon credit at top of story: KQED, San Francisco. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.