As I posted here and here, Jennifer Fearing, a lobbyist for HSUS, is proposing a bill which threatens to take cats from their families and give them to for-profit companies, including potentially, companies who sell animals to research labs. If passed, AB 2343 (the Fearing Bill) would allow (and in some cases require) shelters to give dogs and cats to for-profit companies to sell for any reason whatsoever. In the case of cats entering shelters without ID, shelters can adopt them out or give them to individuals who sell them the very moment the cat enters a shelter, the very day that animal becomes lost, and before a family even has the opportunity to recognize that their cat it missing.
How does it do this? Sec. 31752(b)(1)(B) of the proposed bill says that stray cats without identification can be adopted or transferred to a “rescue group” immediately. Subsection (g) then changes the definition of a “rescue group” to be for-profit or nonprofit. It can be a 501(c)(3) or an “entity” or a collaboration of individuals who sell dogs and cats. There is no requirement that the sale be for purposes of companionship. There are no standards of any kind for these for-profit individuals. What might they sell animals for? According to one legal analysis, since state law preempts local laws, the Fearing Bill would potentially undo local laws that prevent shelter animals from being sold to research labs, thus allowing “bunchers” to do so.
Fearing and her enablers at HSUS claim California law already allows this, but this is just profound ignorance. What Jennifer Fearing did was take a definition from the Vincent bill passed in 1998 to ensure animals were neutered before placement and placed it into her bill which addresses the right of rescue groups to animals in shelters. The purpose of the definition was to make sure all animals were sterilized before they were placed by anyone if those animals came from shelters. It was not part of the Hayden bill passed the same year for purposes of giving animals from shelters to non-profit rescue groups. Fearing is now proposing that the spay/neuter definition be applied to the “rescue” provision which would mean, for the first time ever, anyone who calls themselves an “entity” or two or more people who sell dogs and cats “for profit” (and for any reason whatsoever) will be given the right to take animals out of shelters. Currently, that specific law empowers only non-profit animal adoption or rescue groups. As any lawyer can tell you, you cannot take a definition from one law and place it in another law without consequences.
As I write in my letter on behalf of the No Kill Advocacy Center and as explained in the analysis by the UCLA law professor, as it is now written, California law mandates the transfer of animals on death row at shelters only after the holding period (given families an opportunity to reclaim their animal companions) and only to non-profit organizations recognized under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). These organizations must have a mission of prevention of cruelty to animals and be adopting animals for purposes of adoption. Such requirements serve important policy considerations. For one, the requirement that they have a mission of animal protection and adoption speaks for itself. Without such a provision, animals could be sold to others for potentially harmful purposes. Second, the IRS requirement provides oversight by promoting professionalism. For example, they must register with the federal government, and with several state agencies, including the Department of State and Attorney General, as well as requiring that they have an independent Board of Directors. Moreover, experience in California has shown that it results in more individual rescuers incorporating and in fact, statewide surveys in two states found that virtually all rescuers who want to save animals from shelters but are not 501(c)(3) organizations would become so if a similar law were enacted, effectively increasing the professionalism, capacity, and oversight of rescue organizations. This is good for those organizations and it is good for animals.
Yet, under the Fearing Bill, the following would also be considered “rescue groups” for purposes of this law and thus have a mandatory right of access: any individual calling himself an “entity” or two or more individuals, whose purpose includes “the sale or placement of any dog/cat.” Under the express terms of the language, they could be non-profit or for-profit. There is no requirement that the individuals be licensed, have any sort of corporate status, or have standards of any kind. As written, they do not even have to sell animals to be companions, but can be in the business of selling dogs or cats for any purpose whatsoever. If passed, for the first time, companies which sell animals for any purpose would have rights to animals in California shelters. Moreover, it would give them more rights to cats than the families of those cats. That is not only dead wrong, it is pernicious.
While I consider many provisions of the Fearing Bill to be potentially disastrous, that is to say, there are many harmful aspects of the law above and beyond the changes to rescue access that is now the focus of so much attention, and while I believe that these other changes were entirely deliberate, I do not believe that the rescue access change was. I believe it was a giant, unintended blunder by Fearing because she’s in over her head, ignorant of basic legal principals, ignorant of California’s shelter laws, has never worked in a shelter, and is not an attorney. Nonetheless, the blunder is one she now simply refuses to correct because to do so would be to admit to a mistake so potentially mortifying that she would rather continue to argue that her language doesn’t do exactly what it does in order for her to save face. In other words, she values her own reputation more than the lives and well being of animals. She’d rather keep a dangerous law in the California legislative hopper than face the consequences resulting from her own incompetence. But even if this aspect of the Fearing Bill is amended, it should still be opposed. The Fearing Bill places holding periods at risks and is unfair to families who deeply love their cats. Coupled with the fact that California’s stray holding period is already among the lowest in the nation, breaking up families by having them lose all rights in their animal with no reclaim period of any kind is draconian. The Fearing Bill loses sight of what, in fact, is one of the primary functions and mandates of a taxpayer funded, municipal animal shelter: to provide a safe haven for the lost animals of local people and a place where they can go to find them.
That this must be pointed out to groups like HSUS which have grown astronomically wealthy trumpeting the value of the “human-animal bond” adds another layer of absurdity to the already bewildering necessity of this discussion, one based on their astounding assertion that the citizens of California should immediately lose claims to their animals—often cherished family members—should they ever accidentally end up at a shelter they fund in part expressly for such purpose.
To read the analysis by a UCLA law professor, click here.
To read the No Kill Advocacy Center letter, click here.
Call to action: Please email the following legislators and implore them to reject AB 2343 (cut and paste the following to your “to” line of your email and ask for a “No” vote):
Assemblymember.Achadjian@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Levine@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Alejo@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Bradford@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Gordon@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Melendez@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Mullin@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Rendon@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Waldron@assembly.ca.gov
Here is sample language you can use (please feel free to cut and paste to your email):
I am writing to urge you to vote No on AB 2343. AB 2343 loses sight of what is, in fact, one of the primary functions and mandates of a taxpayer funded, municipal animal shelter: to provide a safe haven for the lost animals of local people and a place where they can go to find them. Since their taxes pay for these services, families with cats deserve the same amount of time as families who share their homes with dogs to reclaim their companions. At the same time that the bill immediately divests a family of their cat, it allows shelters to immediately give these cats to others who could then sell them for a profit and sell them for any reason whatsoever, not just for purposes of companionship. This will put animals in harm’s way. Thank you.
As wrong as it is to talk of cats as “property,” given their current legal status as such and without the benefits that would come with having other legally guaranteed rights at this time in history, in this limited circumstance, their legal status as property confers a protection where no others currently exist: the express intent of the proposal being put forth is to divest a person of his “title” without any reasonable proceeding for that purpose and would manifestly be a taking of property without due process of law. Under the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and of Section 1, Article 1, such taking would not be within the power of the state or municipality, and the statute purporting to provide therefore would be void. Currently, approximately 7,818 families a year reclaim their cats from California shelters. Consider that unless those cats have identification, the Fearing Bill would potentially divest that number of Californians from their “property” without due process of law. Given that these animals are often beloved family members, it is naïve to assume that none of those people will step forward to challenge the constitutionality of that law. In fact, it is fair to assume that many of them are likely to do so. To help them, the No Kill Advocacy Center will file a lawsuit against any shelter, any municipality, and any receiving organization which illegal takes a family’s beloved companion to give to others.
Please note: You may have received an alert from Wayne Pacelle of HSUS asking you to support the bill. He either sent that alert without reading the bill or he is more uncaring than any of us could have imagined, which is saying a lot given his many misdeeds and his embrace of the most notorious dog abuser of our generation. For more information about Pacelle’s alert, click here.
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Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902
And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902