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1998 Animal Shelter Law (S.B.1785: Hayden Bill)


I. Creates a statewide policy preference for adoption and owner-redemption. (Civil Code Sec. 1834.4; Food and Agricultural Code Sec. 17005; Penal Code Sec. 599d.)

II. Emphasizes that public shelters are "depositories of living animals" (Civil Code Secs. 1815, 1816) responsible for treating those animals "kindly." (Civil Code Sec. 1834.) Shelters already had responsibilities for humane treatment, including reasonable veterinary care, under the Penal Code anti-cruelty statutes. The Civil Code has been made to correspond to those duties, although the standard of "kind" treatment may be higher than "humane" treatment.

III. Provides a list of records that must be kept so that shelters will be able to track animals in the system. (Food and Agricultural Code Sec. 32003.) Please see the statute for a list of the records. Those records must be held for 3 years.

IV. Allows nonprofit animal rescue and adoption groups to obtain shelter animals who are about to be killed (Food and Agricultural Code Secs. 31108, 31752, 31752.5, 31753, 31754), if a group requests the animal at any time before the killing. Groups cannot demand an animal before the hold period is up, and they might not have preference over someone who is interested in adopting the pet. However, the shelter cannot kill an animal if a nonprofit group has requested the animal. The group may, at the discretion of the shelter, be required to pay the same fee that any other adopting person would have paid for that animal.

V. Requires shelters to maintain lost/found lists and to provide the names and addresses of other shelters in the area. (Food and Agricultural Code Sec. 32001.)

VI. Requires shelters to use all reasonable means of checking for owner-identification on strays. (Penal Code Sec. 597.1(l).)

VII. Allows involuntary gratuitous depositories to accept freely offered rewards. (Civil Code Sec. 1846.) "Involuntary depositories" are people, groups, or organizations that voluntarily pick up an animal "deposited" (lost) involuntarily by the animal's owner. If the owner has advertised or freely offers a reward, the person or group or shelter is entitled to receive the reward.

VIII. Allows a judge to prohibit a convicted animal abuser from having other animals as a condition of probation. (Penal Code Sec.597.1.)

IX. Requires the provision of pre- or post-seizure (of one's pet) hearings if an owner requests one. (Penal Code Sec. 597.1.)

X. Provides for a holding period that enables working people an opportunity to adopt animals or to redeem their pets during non-working hours (Food and Agricultural Code Secs. 31108, 31752, 31753):

  1. 4 days, not including the day of impoundment, if the animal is made available at least one weekday evening until 7 p.m. or one weekend day; or,

  2. 6 days if the shelter does not make the animal available under the user-friendly hours above (3 days for owner-redemption, 3 days for immediate adoption or owner-redemption); or,

  3. 4 days if the shelter has fewer than 3 employees or is not open regular business hours and the shelter provides an individualized appointment system for owners to look for and/or redeem their pets.

Please note: The holding periods of the 1998 Animal Shelter Law do not change the extensive Food and Agricultural Code provisions that enable shelters to deal with vicious dogs. (Food and Agricultural Code Secs. 31601-31681.)

XI. Provides for holding "owner"-relinquished pets for owner-redemption and adoption rather than killing adoptable pets immediately. (Food and Agricultural Code Sec. 31754). The pet is held for one day, not including the day of impoundment, for owner-redemption in case someone has turned him in other than the owner or the owner regrets having turned the pet in. The pet is held for another day for immediate adoption or owner-redemption before the animal can be killed. After July 1, 2001, the holding period for owner-relinquished pets rises to the same time period as that provided for strays, except that the period for owner-redemption will be only one day, with immediate adoption by someone other than the owner possible after that one day.

Please note: Chapter 57 of the Statutes of 2000 (A.B. 1786) allows puppies or kittens relinquished by the owner to be made immediately available for adoption. The holding periods of the 1998 Animal Shelter Law apply in all other respects.

XII. Provides the same conditions of holding and care for pets other than cats and dogs. (Food and Agricultural Code Sec. 31753.)

XIII. Provides that feral cats can be "owned" and redeemed or adopted and that a standardized protocol be used to determine whether a cat is truly feral (Food and Agricultural Code Sec. 31752.5) before killing the cat at the three day mark. Under previous law, all stray cats were to be held for 72 hours regardless of how shy they were. Under the 1998 Animal Shelter Law, stray cats who test as "feral" at the end of 3 days do not have to be held for the rest of the stray cat holding period (4 or 6 days). However, a nonprofit rescue and adoption group can adopt the cat before the cat is killed.

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