21
Sun, Apr

Proposed California Law (AB 2265) Would Prohibit Animal Shelter Euthanasia of Dangerous Dogs

ANIMAL WATCH

ANIMAL WATCH - An increasing number of reported vicious and fatal dog attacks across California, as reported by the L.A. Times—and worldwide—are ignored by AB 2265 (2024) authored by Assembly Member Kevin McCarthy and introduced in the CA Assembly—and, instead, it prohibits euthanasia of any dangerous animals, including dogs impounded in shelters for violent behavior. 

AB 2265, (which has so far been amended twice, the latest change being when it was introduced in the Assembly on 3/18/2024) wants California legislators to assure that NO dog (or other aggressive animal) in a shelter can be euthanized, other than if it is irremediably suffering, regardless of its violent or even deadly behavioral history. However, it is the goal and purpose of shelters to place as many animals as possible directly into homes with families. 

This bill went far beyond the purpose of the 1998 Hayden bill which had the intent to restrict euthanasia of healthy and adoptable animals. 

No one with knowledge of the devastating outcome of attacks by currently popular Pit Bulls, XL and XXL Bullys, now banned in the UK, Wales, Scotland and India, along with other aggressive breeds, nor anyone who has been the victim of any vicious dog attack, could plausibly agree that this risk should be encouraged or can be afforded by the State of California or any governmental jurisdiction. 

So far, it appears other legislators are skeptical of this bill. The only positive change with which some CA animal control agencies and legislators have expressed mutual agreement is the increase in spay/neuter deposits for dogs and cats being raised to $200 to match the much higher rates for surgical sterilization in today’s economy. 

A CLOSER LOOK AT AB 2265 

In the past few weeks we have seen countries such as England, Wales, Scotland and India joining those which ban Pit Bull, XL and XXL Bullys and other dangerous dogs in order to stop the trafficking of dangerous breeds, provide safety for communities and stop the horrific attacks and deaths of innocent children and adults whose lives are ended by other people’s “protection dogs” or “rescued” pets with a known history of violent behavior. 

AB 2265 – A RISK CALIFORNIA CANNOT TAKE

 

There is value in telling the truth about dog behavior and the greatest is in public and personal safety. What weird whim—other than personal aggrandizement or a strong campaign supporter—would cause Senator McCarthy to encourage ignoring violent past history and risk human and animal lives on a gamble that a dog with a known history of unprovoked aggression will suddenly act differently? 

If we want canines to continue to be known as man’s (or woman’s) best friends, we need—just as we do with humans—to assure they have earned that trust by not misusing their innate strength and survival skills to harm those who trust and love them. 

CHANGING THE STATE’S EUTHANASIA GOAL 

This bill, AB 2265, introduced on February 8, 2024, drastically changes the State’s animal shelter euthanasia goal—from ending euthanasia of adoptable animals to ending euthanasia of any animal. That includes vicious dogs, wild and/or dangerous animals, prohibited animals and regulated animals. 

This would create chaotic danger for adopters and pet owners and innocent residents/neighbors throughout California, while ALSO negatively and disastrously affecting the insurance and veterinary industries, according to experts. 

The only exceptions in the bill that allow a dangerous animal to be euthanized are very narrow categories for medical and behavior issues: 

1)  those that are irremediably suffering, which is defined as those for which “severe, unremitting physical pain” cannot be relieved by any medical means without regard to cost or local availability of that level of care; and 

2)  Those that have been declared “vicious” under the State’s regulatory scheme, which few agencies use, and which assumes that a hearing was held after an owner contested that declaration. 

According to Fast Track Democracy, “Existing law prohibits animals that are irremediably suffering from a serious illness or severe injury from being held for owner redemption or adoption. This bill would instead declare it the policy of the state that no animal be euthanized by a public animal control agency or shelter or a private entity that contracts with a public animal control agency or shelter for animal care and control services, except as provided.” 

“Existing law prohibits a stray dog or cat impounded by a public or private shelter from being euthanized before 6 business days after the stray dog or cat is impounded, not including the day of impoundment, and requires that the stray dog or cat, except those irremediably suffering, be released to a nonprofit animal rescue or adoption organization before the scheduled euthanasia of the stray dog or cat if requested by the organization, as specified.” The analysis summarizes the Bill (see Fast Track Democracy). 

Existing law prohibits a stray dog or cat impounded by a public or private shelter from being euthanized before 6 business days after the stray dog or cat is impounded, not including the day of impoundment, and requires that the stray dog or cat, except those irremediably suffering, be released to a nonprofit animal rescue or adoption organization before the scheduled euthanasia of the stray dog or cat if requested by the organization, as specified.

WARNINGS ABOUT THIS ‘NO KILL’ PLAN FOR DANGEROUS DOGS

 

A California animal-control specialist offered the following thoughts based on his personal and professional experience. 

(The following is not to be taken as legal advice, but merely as guidance in further considering some issues that appear to not have been considered in pursuing these severe changes to animal sheltering under existing California laws and practices.) 

“This Bill would absolutely eviscerate Food and Agricultural Code Section 31683, which allows counties and cities to have their own regulatory process for dangerous dogs, and it would force everyone to use the very-flawed State process.” 

AND he summarized that: 

  • This bill eliminates the limitation by the 1998 Hayden-Bill mandate and requires shelters to advertise for release even those dogs that have mauled or killed a person, and forces animal control agencies (government and humane societies with animal control contracts) to announce the pending euthanasia of any of these dogs to “rescues,” so they can take them, often placing them in unsuspecting homes. 
  • Even if the bill does not require that owner-relinquished dogs that are too vicious for placement even with a rescue be released to anyone who asks for it, the mere requirement that they be advertised creates unnecessary conflict and invites protest and even litigation over the decision not to release them. 
  • What is a “qualified” nonprofit animal rescue or adoption organization? The term “qualified” is not defined in the bill. In light of an appellate court interpretation of the Hayden mandate to release stray dogs facing euthanasia to a “qualified” rescue, it is vital to have that defined.  If “qualified” means any corporation that has obtained its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status—which is what many will assume—then animal control will have no way to ensure that the most vicious dogs are not placed in “foster” in unsuspecting neighborhoods by people who have no idea how dangerous they are. 
  • Why must it be a nonprofit organization? This bill defines an animal rescue organization to include for-profit corporations. So why are they excluded from this Bill? A nonprofit organization can pay a high number of “employees” very exorbitant salaries. A nonprofit business model is no guarantee that more of the organization’s budget will go to help animals than other business models. 
  • This Bill targets only municipal shelters and humane societies that have government contracts to provide animal control services. Those are the only organizations that cannot fully control their intake, and on which there are mandates to admit animals. They are the very organizations that most need the ability to engage in euthanasia for legitimate health and safety reasons, and for which the greatest levels of leniency and understanding are justified. Yet, any other organization can euthanize healthy, adoptable animals with impunity. 

Although there are many other factors considered in the analysis, this article is intended merely to present some of the dangers of creating laws and policies at any legislative level without having a thorough analysis and discussion with leaders in the field of animal control and sheltering. There is information at the end of this article if anyone wishes to read more of this analysis. 

FUNDRAISING – THE POWER OF THE ALMIGHTY DOLLAR

 

There is no better way to reach the wallets of animal lovers than through their heart strings, and sadly millions of dollars are going into pockets of executives in organizations that do not directly care for or protect animals and, of course, nothing speaks louder than donations at the lobbying and legislative level. 

But, the needs of homeless animals should not be creating slush funds for campaigns nor playing on the emotions of those who are continually confronted by TV commercials and mailers, saying that just a few more dollars will save them all. 

There are also human lives and safety to be considered and this is a primary responsibility of animal shelters and humane societies. It is important that they are asked what will help them do this thankless and seemingly hopeless job. 

Pets are too often obtained as a short-term experience with little commitment and then abandoned within or outside these facilities that do not benefit from the money that is raised by large organizations or politicians ostensibly to help them. 

Instead, these promises set unreachable goals and promote “feel-good” programs that overburden their staffing and emotions, without asking what they need to do this very difficult job from a realistic perspective. 

THE BEST INDICATOR OF AN ANIMAL’S FUTURE BEHAVIOR IS ITS PAST

 

Not all animals are adoptable, nor should they be placed in homes where they are likely to harm, or be harmed because certain behavior is endemic to the breed. The AKC thrives on the fact that bloodlines of dogs determine or influence their predictable behavior. 

Why is it this is so clear that it causes millions of people to buy purebreds for certain reasons; yet, animal shelters are expected to take in dogs with documented histories of anti-social behavior and attacks and rehome them with promises they will be “good family members” just to keep them alive? 

LISTEN BEFORE VOTING, SACRAMENTO 

Legislators need to listen to experts in animal control—not self-appointed voices for animals—many of whom have never worked in a shelter, before even considering new legislation. 

They also need to ask their own community, “Do you feel safe from dog attacks? And/or “have you been a victim of an attack or live in fear of neighborhood animals?” They may be surprised at the number of injuries that have been suffered but didn’t make the press and how many victims may have permanent, life-limiting, disabilities for which they were never compensated. 

Assembly Member McCarthy needs to walk through animal shelters in his district and ask those who work there or have been long-term volunteers, and those who take the responsibility for determining policies and the endless, sad challenges of management, “what will help you help them?” 

DON’T WAIT FOR AN IRREVERSIBLE TRAGEDY

 

California has been very liberal (or very foolish) in allowing dogs known to have a history of aggression to be removed from shelters for adoption, but lawsuits and tragic, injuries or deaths of innocent victims have imposed limitations as to what can be tolerated philosophically and financially. 

The safety of the dog itself must also be a consideration. People understandably react violently to dog attacks, using any weapon to inflict sufficient injury to stop the dog and save their own or another’s life. 

Euthanasia can be the most humane option when it is indicated or determined that the animal poses a consistent threat to humans or animals in general, or poses a recurrent uncontrollable risk to the public’s and its own safety. 

(Author’s note: If anyone would like to see more of the informal critique of the proposed CA law AB 2265, quoted in part in this article, you can contact me through the editor of CityWatchLA: ([email protected].)

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former Los Angeles City employee, an animal activist and a contributor to CityWatch.