California must stop the pet animal overpopulation crisis – Orange County Register

Personal Injury Attorney

I have appreciated the Register’s coverage of the unacceptable dysfunction and high kill rates in our county-run animal shelter, particularly Teri Sforza’s article from May 2023, “More adult dogs dying at OC Animal Care, kennels largely off-limits,” and Steve Greenhut’s op-ed last week, “Animal officials promise compassion, but offer euthanasia.”

As someone who has dedicated the last two decades of my life to tackling the pet overpopulation crisis in California shelters and rescues, I can confirm that the pandemic set us back years.

We cannot accept the worsened shelter situation as the new normal. These animals have no voice. It’s up to us to speak for them.

As Mr. Greenhut notes, the current situation isn’t just limited to affecting the lives of animals. Morale is low and turnover is high among veterinarians and staff. Watching healthy and loving dogs and cats get relinquished, then euthanized, is demoralizing and demotivating. Anyone with a heart would be impacted.

Alternatives to relinquishment exist. Many pet owners don’t know about them. Or they go the selfish route, dropping a family member off at a shelter and getting on with their lives.

Mr. Greenhut’s proposal to end pandemic-related restrictions in shelters would be a step in the right direction. With the worst of Covid behind us, shelters should make every reasonable effort to keep the doors open for walk-ins and set up meet-and-greets with potential adopters.

The more unnecessary hoops individuals and families have to jump through, the likelier they are to decide it’s not worth dealing with the bureaucracy and to turn to a breeder instead.

Which brings me to the other root of the problem: Breeders and those who buy from them. As long as people keep allowing their dogs and cats to reproduce, whether out of ignorance, lack of funds for sterilization or because they want to make money selling the puppies and kittens, the pet overpopulation problem will remain dire.

When I founded my nonprofit, Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL), back in 2007, California shelters were taking in a million animals a year and euthanizing over half of them, all at taxpayer expense.

We’ve been working relentlessly to bring those numbers down by broadening access to spay and neuter programs and choking off the supply of animals from commercial breeders.

The Pet Lover’s specialty license plate program we set up in 2014 has generated close to $2 million to pay for spay and neuter surgeries.

In 2017, we sponsored a bill that made California the first state in the nation to ban the sale of mill-bred animals in pet stores (AB 485, O’Donnell).

This year, with support from veterinarians, elected officials, rescue groups and animal lovers across the state, including Priscilla Presley, we sponsored Assembly Concurrent Resolution 86 (Kalra). It encourages a multi-pronged approach to the pet overpopulation crisis, notably measures to facilitate the development of readily accessible high-volume spay and neuter programs.

SCIL has another major bill addressing this specific issue in the pipeline for 2024.

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