Last year, Julian Castro – former Mayor, Cabinet Secretary, and then-candidate for the President of the United States – promised the creation of a No Kill nation if elected. I noted then that when a cause becomes so popular that those running for the highest office in the land begin to incorporate promises about it into their campaign platform, that cause has arrived.

Yesterday, we truly became a potent force for change. At a press conference, Gavin Newsom – the Governor of the nation’s most populous state, the new center of its wealth, and the economic engine of the country (if California was its own nation, it would be the fifth largest economy in the world) – unveiled a $50,000,000 grant to help California end killing. “We want to be a no-kill state,” he said.

The plan calls for helping communities “achieve the state’s policy goal that no adoptable or treatable dog or cat should be euthanized,” citing language of the 1998 Animal Shelter Law; a law I was intimately involved with.

Last March, I wrote the Governor on behalf of the No Kill Advocacy Center. I told him that California kills more animals than almost every other U.S. state and we don’t have to. It’s uncivilized and inhumane, it wastes taxpayer dollars, provides no public safety benefit or value, and it is absolute, irreversible, and irreparable.

I explained that for far too many years, this killing has been done in the name of pet overpopulation and under the false premise that alternatives to killing were not feasible, practical, or affordable. In other words, the killing has proceeded under the false belief that the problem of shelter killing was not solvable.

The problem of shelter killing – a problem that not only robs animals of their lives but breaks the hearts of compassionate Californians – has a fix: change how shelters are run. We know how to end the killing. And experience proves we can. I closed by asking him to stand up for the 166,000 animals slated to lose their lives in a California kill shelter this year. Yesterday, he did.

Unfortunately, the “solution” proposed by Governor Newsom is at odds with the nature of the problem. Although a better use of the budgetary allocation would have been to fund the 1998 Animal Shelter Law, which his two predecessors refused to do, a one time grant isn’t going to get us to the goal line, because animals in California shelters are not dying because of lack of money. They are dying because many local municipalities continue to run their shelters on a failed, flawed, reactive, anachronistic 19th Century model that seeks to impound and kill animals at the lowest possible cost, without regard for long-term costs, broader economic benefits, or ethics. They have historically fought any effort to modernize operations, choosing to hide behind worn out cliches about “public irresponsibility” and the need to kill. And they hide behind out of state organizations such as PETA, the ASPCA, and the Humane Society of the United States, which, though large, wealthy, and influential, continue to champion outdated, ineffective models to those in positions of decision-making authority.

As such, what is still needed is comprehensive shelter reform legislation. I hope to convince him of that in the coming weeks and months as we meet with his point staff on this issue. I am not naive, but I am cautiously optimistic. Since taking office, the Governor has signed numerous pro-animal bills into law. He has allocated millions of dollars to provide free veterinary care for the pets of homeless people. And he has now signaled his willingness to look at ways to get shelters to live up to their dictionary definition as a haven; a refuge.

Governor Newsom may not know it yet, but the road that leads to that brighter future is paved not with dollars, but shelter reform legislation.

An end to (pet) housing discrimination, an issue he is already passionate about, couldn’t hurt, either.

Stay tuned.


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