Best Friends Blog

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget seeks to tighten noose around neck of shelter animals

In 1998, California passed what has become widely known as the Hayden Bill after its sponsor, State Senator Tom Hayden. The language of the bill, which was largely crafted by law professor and no-kill advocate Taimie Bryant, constituted a re-envisioning of the role and responsibilities of animal shelters and control agencies, both municipal and private. Hayden represented a significant step out of the dark ages of animal sheltering, which is sadly still evident in many jurisdictions around the country.

In the last few years, the Hayden Law has become identified as a model for shelter access bills, but in fact it was much more than that. It constituted thorough shelter reform legislation that didn’t simply mandate rescue access to shelter animals, but amounted to a significant shift toward more humane management standards for California shelters and, by example, the rest of the country. For example, it required prompt and necessary veterinary care for shelter animals, extended stray hold time from 72 hours to six days (four days if certain conditions were met), and obligated shelters to keep accurate records of all animals taken in, including data about medical care and final outcome (the name of the adopter or the name of the individual conducting euthanasia). It also mandated a more proactive role on the part of shelters in reuniting lost pets with their families. And, of course, Hayden required the release of any animal scheduled for death to a 501(c)3 rescue organization that requested it. This last provision is the only significant element of the law that Governor Jerry Brown does not seek to undo.

The repeal would set the dog holding time back to 72 hours, the standard of shelter care in 1921 when that hold time was established. It would eliminate the requirement to provide necessary and prompt veterinary care. It would end any transparency in shelter operations by dropping the need for shelters to keep public records of the care and outcomes of the animals they take in. The repeal would also make it easy for shelters to arbitrarily declare a cat feral and kill the feline and would completely wipe away any consideration for rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, potbellied pigs and reptiles.

The proposed gutting of the Hayden Law is tucked into what is known as a budget trailer bill along with proposed revisions to a variety of laws unrelated to animals, but which, like Hayden, have unfunded mandate provisions or obligate the state to reimburse local municipalities for cost-incurring compliance.

The trailer bill is an attempt to shave state expenditures at the expense of shelter animals and other constituencies perceived to be easy targets. Elder abuse training for law enforcement, SIDS training for firefighters, AIDS testing for prison inmates, and so on are also being targeted.

The obvious conclusion is that it’s easier for the governor to propose killing more homeless pets and further marginalizing weaker interests than establish the needed legislative consensus to balance the state’s budget legitimately — not what I would call a profile in courage.

These same provisions in the Hayden Law have been temporarily suspended in the past to help with budget crisis. Gov. Schwarzenegger once proposed a repeal, but ultimately did the right thing, supposedly at his daughter’s urging. He later suspended many of Hayden’s provisions but did not attempt another repeal.

Gov. Brown could likewise suspend the cost-incurring provisions of Hayden, but instead has opted for a permanent repeal — an action that would require a massive effort to undo.

The consequences of the repeal of Hayden would be disastrous for shelter animals. It would also degrade shelter operations, as well as the morale and ultimately the character of shelter workers, by altering the mandated focus of animal control agencies from lifesaving back to the failed catch-and-kill orientation of the bad old days.

The trailer has gone from the governor to the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees simultaneously for review, where any revision will be made before it is sent back to the governor.

If you are a California resident, your voice needs to heard to save our shelter animals from this devastating blow. Take action now.

To read a joint press release from animal welfare organizations, click here.

Francis Battista
Co-Founder, Best Friends Animal Society

  • If he repeals this, i’m calling for a revote to get him out of office!

  • Momma_bear_roma

    only stupidity or a desperate act would cause anyone to think they can fix a budget by justifying animal cruelty and abuse and the murder of innocent animals and family pets 

  • Lynnegood1

    Its a sad world to live in when budget issues become a reason to kill animals. I think Gov. Brown should be the one to do all the killing if this is his solution to save money.

  • Vsotovaldez

    Why? Why do they always choose to single out the defenseless?

  • Abby

    I pray for California’s governor that he will not repeal the Hayden law but will, instead, strengthen it.

  • Barbiespear

    Listen people, I am sick about this possibily just as you are but we must take some responsibility for this and not place all the responsibility on Brown.  He is just a man grappling with a broken State.  We need revenue people, the deficit is not the problem, revenue in this state is the problem.  Vote!  Vote to legalise and tax marajuana.  Vote to tax the ultra rich and mega billion dollar corporations that skirt on paying taxes due to subsidies and loopholes.  Vote for regulation to protect and ensure these programs do not get cut!  We have families on the streets thrown out of their homes by the very same banks we bailed out for screwing us.  It is your vote that has brought this threat to our animal friends and countrymen.  Here’s a novel idea, spay and neuter your pets, how’s that!  Take responsibility for this nightmare people, inevidably it is all due to the choices we have made!   Please Governor Brown, do not sell out our shelters in the name of all that is precious, crack down on spay-neuter laws forcing careless pet owners to pay hefti fines for bringing unwanted pets into this world.  Propose a tax to help cover the expenses, we will pay it gladly!

  • H. Poore

    I have been semi-abled since an accident occuring while I worked at the Salvation Army. Since they fall  under the umbrella of a “religious institution”, they were not liable for any workmen’s compensation, rehabilitation, or anything else. Therefore, I subside on SSI, and Medi-Cal. I oppose changes to the Hayden Bill. My pets are my true comfort. Yes, I support pets on my meager income. Animal abuse should be regarded as a crime likened to rape, kidnapping and torture. (All of which I have suffered earlier in my life.) Save the animals and execute those guilty of the aforementioned crimes. Yes, I support the death penalty….for humans who commit evil deeds!

    • Verykarry2003

      I’m so sorry to hear, that while you were working for a CHARITABLE institutition, they decided to put their charity from you.  Shame on them!  What has this world become? 

  • Panam357

    I agree with informedmorethanmost. I have heard that Gov. Brown is collecting 4 pensions from the state of Calif. Maybe they should have a rule that you can only get one pension. That might save some money.

  • Gov. Brown – don’t do it, liberals won’t stand for it!!  Only the ignorant treat animals poorly.

  • Wanda Yates

    California is the state that sets precedents on animal right’s issues.  Don’t muck this up Gov. Brown. 

  • lovefelines2003

    Have been networking this for weeks here in Los Angeles, signing petitions, making calls, and begging Best Friends to put up a blog about this.  Thank you for doing so.  The thought of this repeal being approved makes me want to weep and hang my head in shame.  And I thought the great state of CA lead the way in so many areas……….

  • HeelingHandsLLC

    Gov. Brown: Do NOT repeal the Hayden Law! You got a second chance, didn’t you? Don’t make us regret it.

  • Sarah Johnson

    This ort of thing takes us backward, not foreward!  We have come a long way in advocating for animals and we cannot allow all our work to be wiped away because of MONEY!!

  • Cateyes396

    Seriously!!!! Its time people to get rid of Jerry Brown once and for all. No one needs someone that is heartless and doesn’t listen to the people in office. Get priorities straight Jerry Brown!!!!

  • Informedmorethanmost

    Hey how about this! Stop giving inmates (which include child rapists, murders etc) top of the line medical care on the California tax payers dime. Stop giving welfare to illegal aliens. Maybe try re-vamping the entire welfare system and get rid of the generations and generations who continually abuse the welfare system. Exclude those who have been convicted of a crime from benefiting. Especially those who don’t work, get free welfare and yet still feel the need to steal. 

    If California’s citizens only knew! This is only the tip of the iceberg. But no instead take from someone who has no choice in the matter, has never stolen, never raped or murdered anyone and never benefited from taxpayers dollars. That only seems logical..(sarcasm)

    I hope people that possess the political power needed can stop Brown from.. for lack of a better word “screwing over” shelters.    

    • texas

      agree 100%

    • sandy

      i agree with you. people on death row get a clean place to live , tv . etc. and stay on death  row for yrs. is this right?  and animals are put ddown after 72 hours?   dont think so. what has these animals done to deserve this  NOTHING.

    • Rachel

      I’m totally against cutting corners for shelter animals, but I really don’t think we need to take it out on prisoners.  They are still humans.  Many of them were arrested for non-violent crimes, and treating them horribly then returning them back to society is a recipe for disaster.  Have you ever seen the Brazilian documentary Bus 174?  Just an example of what happens to people when they are forced to endure inhumane conditions.

  • Judy

    Sounds like Brown has seen better days and time for him to be put out of “our” misery.  You are supposed to stick up for those who can’t help themselves…….you do it for all the illegals who only take………..the little guys in the shelter only know how to “give” unconditionally !!!!

  • “The trailer bill is an attempt to shave state expenditures at the
    expense of shelter animals and other constituencies perceived to be easy

    To be honest, many of you should come to realize the effects of spending money you don’t have. I am a big animal advocate but hurtful cuts like this are just the beginning. A lot of damage, overzealous and severely wasteful spending creates the inevitable need for consequences just as severe to remedy the issue.

    People, stop voting for spending-freaks in our statehouses and these issues will not arise.

    I will pass this along but Jerry Brown’s predecessors own just as much fault as he does.

  • Catsam23

    Get out of the dark ages! Its about time we recognize these animals as living things , that are loving and devoted.

  • Bill Doron

    Governor Brown:  Please do not gut the Hayden law.  It is sensible, and from one who helps operate a non-profit dog shelter in Yreka, I can tell you that lower standards are not acceptable.  The tight budget is no excuse!  I suggest you look at the salaries of college and university administrators and find useful ways to cut them or reduce their pay.  You can influence the Board of Regents at U.C. or the Board of Governors at the Cal State system.  You can also work to reduce the huge number of state commissions and boards that are unnnessary.  Another option is to push for your proposed tax increase for wealthy Californians.  Our motto at the Rescuer Ranch in Yreka is, “We speak for those creatures who cannot speak for themselves.”  I suggest that you take that motto to heart

    Bill Doron       . 

  • Done and shared with six animal loving friends!

  • BubbeHatch

    So he wants to balance the budget on the weakest residents of the state.  Shame on you Jerry Brown!  

  • Julian993

    Governor Brown: Are you having acid flashbacks??  Remember your hippie glory days?  You are as wrong and anchronstic now as you were then.  Leave the animals alone… you know about karma!!

  • Thank you for spreading the word about this potential, horrible, change. I am wondering what else Best Friends will be doing on a political level, especially considering you now have a shelter in California. I’m sure many of us would also like to do more, but BFAS has more political weight than one individual. Will there be anything else apart from the action alert above? Adding your political weight to the support of us individuals could lead to change.

    Animals already suffer because shelters do not follow even the pieces of Hayden not suspended, but at least there was recourse. It would be a sad day when the animals don’t even have that. 

    • Anonymous


      Right now the biggest thing we’re doing it trying to mobilize all of our supporters in California. There is real power in a constituent contacting their representative directly.

      We are in contact with other organizations who are also working towards the same goal and trying to understand how we can best work together to make sure the Hayden law isn’t gutted!


      Jon Dunn
      Best Friends Animal Society

  • Linda Muntner

    disgusting and horrific……these wonderful animals all deserve the best of care and a forever home.

  • Lynnebohan

    Someone should have tied a noose around the neck of that loser years ago. He can’t leave California,  because no other state wants him. I can’t believe he would do that to shelter animals.