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A dog gets taken on “the last walk” to the back where he was put to death at Los Angeles County’s Dept. of Animal Care & Control. LACDACC spearheaded a regulatory effort that succeeded in reducing the holding period in California from four days to 72 hours.

Today, an animal entering a shelter in this country has just shy of a one in two chance of being killed, with millions of animals—the vast majority of whom are healthy or treatable—losing their lives every year. The reason for this statistic is as shocking as the statistic itself In the typical American animal shelter, animals are being killed for two primary reasons: habit and convenience.

Even when there are empty cages.

Sometimes within minutes of being walked in the door.

Without ever being offered for adoption.

Despite rescue groups ready, willing and able to save them.

Despite a whole host of programs and services that would provide those shelters alternatives to killing if only shelters would implement them.

Unfortunately, most now simply refuse to do so. In most American shelters today, killing is easy, killing is convenient, and killing has therefore become the default.

One of the few protections animals have in shelters is the holding period. For many animals entering shelters, the holding period is the only thing standing between them and a lethal injection. Holding periods buy shelter animals the most precious of all commodities—time. Time for their families to reclaim them, time for them to be adopted, time for them to be saved by a rescue group.

Indeed, rather than shortening the stray holding period, we should be adding a holding period for “owner relinquished” animals who have no holding period of any kind. Right now, such animals can simply be taken directly from the front counter where they are surrendered to the killing room without ever being offered for adoption. And we should be making those holding periods smarter so that they allow animals to go to rescue groups sooner, but not be killed.

In short, we should be INCREASING protections for animals not DECREASING them. But tragically, groups like the Humane Society of the United States, the Michigan Humane Society, and even Best Friends are jumping on the bandwagon and pushing legislation to allow shelters to kill animals faster. In Arizona, for example, HSUS is supporting a bill to reduce the holding period from 72 hours to a paltry 48. At 72 hours, Arizona is already among the bottom few states in the country.

At the same time, when my organization, the No Kill Advocacy Center, works with activists nationwide to pass legislation to add more protections, such as making it illegal for shelters to kill animals when rescue groups are willing to save them, these groups fight us, as HSUS has done in Minnesota and Best Friends did in New York.

Tragically, these groups have become lobbyists for animal shelters, rather than lobbyists for the animals those shelters kill. And despite their willful blindness to that fact, there is an immense, and life impacting, difference.

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