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If Jennifer Fearing & HSUS have their way, your beloved cats can be given to someone else the moment they enter the shelter, with no right of reclaim.

As many of you know, for the last couple of weeks, we’ve been fighting California’s AB 2343, an HSUS bill which would eliminate the right of people to reclaim their cats if those cats did not have identification because a breakaway collar fell off, a microchip scan failed to read a chip, or simply because the cat never had ID. In other words, a shelter can give someone’s cat away 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.

In addition, because of the sloppy and unprofessional way Jennifer Fearing, HSUS’ lobbyist, wrote the bill, it would have also given for-profit companies the right to dogs and cats in shelters in order to sell them for any reason and, after the first year, eliminated holding periods in some jurisdictions, allowing shelters to kill dogs and cats immediately, without offering them for adoption, reclaim, or transfer to rescue.

Read “Mike Gatto’s AB 2343 Betrays Dogs, Cats & The People Who Love Them” by clicking here.

Despite these major problems which would have set animal welfare in California back half a century, Wayne Pacelle and others at HSUS publicly urged people to support the bill, falsely claiming much of this was already the law. It was not and privately, they knew they were lying. In response to a massive backlash by thousands of California animal lovers who flooded Gatto and the Local Government Committee hearing the bill with emails in opposition, HSUS and Gatto have changed the language of the bill. Yesterday, they released amendments to the bill that I believe were an attempt to fix these mistakes but, due to their utter incompetence, do not actually fully do so. While the “for-profit” language was removed, the amendments to Fearing’s bill still allow shelters to immediately give cats without identification to groups that are not registered as non-profit organizations, as well as other cats and dogs at various times. Moreover, the bill does not guarantee future funding and, as such, would not be enforceable after the first year. Fearing and HSUS are seeking to pass a law they know shelters will be allowed to ignore.

Worse, Fearing and Mike Gatto, the Assembly Member sponsoring the HSUS bill, are still intent on stripping people of their right to reclaim their cats in California shelters. That has not been amended, even though Gatto promised he would do so. In response to thousands of emails sent to his office, Gatto replied that,

“You may rest assured that I have already publicly committed to making sure that no one’s companion, including cats, will be adopted before their guardian can claim them.”

But even as he was sending this out, his legislative assistant was assuring HSUS they would not amend this part of the bill and they haven’t: the bill still allows cats to be given to others with no reclaim period of any kind. As I wrote in The Huffington Post,

To be fair, families with cats should have the same amount of time as families with dogs to reclaim their animals. But if Gatto is intent on reducing cats to second class status, there is a way to do this without breaking up families: allow shelters to place cats in the care of non-profit rescue groups immediately, but give families the same right of reclaim for the first 72 hours as if the cats were still in the shelter, with a mechanism for people knowing that their cats are still in the legal custody of the shelter.

Both Gatto and HSUS refuse to do this and that shows what little regard they have for people who love cats. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: that not allowing people any time to reclaim their cats is an obvious threat to the deep and meaningful relationship between people and their cats 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.

When it comes to fundraising, HSUS is happy to celebrate the special bond you and your animal share. But when it comes to legislation, they want to empower shelters with the ability to destroy that relationship. HSUS’ legislation has also lost sight of one of the reasons taxpayer funded shelters exist in the first place: to provide a haven for lost animals and a place where people can go to reclaim them when they become lost.

These concerns are aside from those involving other fiscal issues, as well as the incompetent way it is written (in some provisions, AB 2343 applies to animals who are “admitted” into shelters; in others “impounded”). It is aside from the fact that the bill is designed to subvert the lifesaving shelter reforms of the 1998 Animal Shelter Law through what appears to be a backdoor deal between HSUS and the Governor’s Office. In short, despite the amendments, it remains a badly written bill which would cause a lot of confusion and a lot of turmoil for animals and animal lovers.

The bill is scheduled for a vote a week from tomorrow. Please voice your continued opposition to Mike Gatto and to the Assembly Local Government Commitment and let them know that AB 2343 as it is written is still a terrible bill, one that seeks to subvert the very purpose of the shelters you pay for with your taxes while destroying families and breaking hearts. Remind Gatto that he promised he would amend this part of the bill, but has failed to do so.

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.  Thank you.

Please also email Mike Gatto and tell him you still oppose his bill, despite the amendments: Assemblymember.Gatto@assembly.ca.gov. Tell him, he promised to allow people with cats the same right of reclaim as people with dogs, but has not amended this part of the bill: “You may rest assured that I have already publicly committed to making sure that no one’s companion, including cats, will be adopted before their guardian can claim them.”

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Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902