BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






                             SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
                         Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, Chair
                              2013-2014 Regular Session


          AB 1810 (Maienschein)
          As Amended June 2, 2014
          Hearing Date: June 10, 2014
          Fiscal: No
          Urgency: No
          NR


                                        SUBJECT
                                           
                       Deposits for keeping: abandoned animals

                                      DESCRIPTION  

          Existing law requires a veterinarian or animal care facility to  
          try and find a new owner for an abandoned animal, as specified,  
          for a period of not less than 10 days.  If the veterinarian or  
          facility cannot find a new owner for the animal, it must  
          humanely destroy the abandoned animal.

          This bill would authorize veterinarians and animal care  
          facilities to turn the abandoned animal over to a public animal  
          control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty  
          to animals shelter, humane society shelter, or nonprofit animal  
          rescue group, provided that the shelter or group has been  
          contacted and has agreed to take the animal.  If unable to place  
          the animal with a new owner, shelter, or group, this bill would  
          permit, instead of require, the facility or veterinarian to have  
          the animal euthanized.

                                      BACKGROUND  

          During the past 15 years, many California communities have made  
          meaningful strides to reduce the deaths of homeless and  
          abandoned animals. Public and private sources have funded  
          affordable programs for dog and cat spaying and neutering,  
          public education campaigns have promoted the importance of  
          adopting pets, and a growing number of private rescue groups  
          have been formed to increase assistance to shelters in finding  
          new homes for animals.  However, according to the Humane Society  
          of the United States, approximately three to four million  
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          animals are still euthanized each year.  (California Sheltering  
          Report, Charting a Path Forward: Reaching California's policy to  
          save all adoptable and treatable animals, April 30, 2014.)

          In 2012, Governor Brown proposed repealing certain existing  
          state laws affecting animal shelters in California due to  
          budget-related issues, prompting the formation of a diverse  
          group of stakeholders.  This group sought to identify meaningful  
          ways to realize California's policy "that no adoptable [or  
          treatable] animal should be euthanized if it can be adopted into  
          a suitable home." (Civ. Code Sec. 1834.4.) The resulting  
          legislative recommendations addressed misunderstandings of what  
          is and is not permissible under current law, and suggested  
          clarifications to better help California achieve its goal of  
          ending the euthanasia of adoptable pets. These recommendations  
          relied heavily on permissive language rather than mandatory  
          language to give communities flexibility to pursue additional  
          life-saving tactics for animals that might currently be  
          prohibited by state law.

          Similarly, this bill seeks to provide veterinarians and animal  
          care facilities with the flexibility to place abandoned animals  
          in shelters or rescue groups if a new owner cannot be found, and  
          would make euthanasia of such animals permissive rather than  
          mandatory.  

                                CHANGES TO EXISTING LAW
           
           1.Existing law  requires a depositary of living animals to  
            provide the animals with necessary and prompt veterinary care,  
            nutrition, shelter, and to treat them kindly. A depository  
            that fails to perform those duties may be liable for civil  
            damages.  (Civ. Code Sec. 1834.)

             Existing law  provides that it is the policy of the State that  
            no adoptable animal should be euthanized if it can be adopted  
            into a suitable home and no treatable animal should be  
            euthanized, if the animal could become adoptable with  
            reasonable efforts.  (Civ. Code Sec. 1834.4.)

             Existing law  deems an animal "abandoned" if an animal is  
            delivered to any veterinarian, dog kennel, cat kennel,  
            pet-grooming parlor, animal hospital, or any other animal care  
            facility pursuant to a written or oral agreement and the owner  
            does not pick up the animal within 14 calendar days after the  
            day the animal was due to be picked up.  (Civ. Code Sec.  
                                                                      



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            1834.5.)

             Existing law  requires the animal care facility or veterinarian  
            into whose care the abandoned animal was placed to first try  
            for a period of not less than 10 days to find a new owner for  
            the animal, and, if unable to place the animal with a new  
            owner, humanely destroy the animal.  (Civ. Code Sec. 1834.5.) 

             This bill  would authorize the animal care facility or  
            veterinarian into whose care the animal was placed to turn the  
            animal over to a public animal control agency or shelter,  
            society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter,  
            humane society shelter, or nonprofit animal rescue group, if  
            the shelter or group has been contacted and agreed to take the  
            animal. 

             This bill  would permit, instead of require, the animal care  
            facility or veterinarian into whose care the animal was  
            placed, if unable to place the animal with a new owner,  
            shelter, or group, to have the animal euthanized. 

           2.Existing law specifies that an abandoned animal, as specified,  
            cannot be used for scientific or any other kind of  
            experimentation and may not be turned over to a pound or  
            animal or regulation department of a public agency. (Civ. Code  
            Sec. 1834.6.)

             This bill  would instead provide that an abandoned animal shall  
            not be used for scientific or any other type of  
            experimentation. 

                                        COMMENT
           
           1.Stated need for the bill
           
          According to the author: 

            Current law does not reflect our modern view of animal  
            sheltering and requires that adoptable animals be euthanized  
            if the animal care facility cannot find them a home in a  
            pre-determined amount of time.  [This bill] would authorize  
            animal care facilities to turn over an abandoned animal to  
            animal control, humane society or society for the prevention  
            of cruelty to animals, provided that the shelter has been  
            contacted and has not refused to take the animal, and would  
            repeal the requirement that an animal care facility "shall"  
                                                                      



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            euthanize an abandoned animal after 24 days, granting  
            facilities more flexibility to find a new home beyond those  
            initial 24 days while retaining their current authority.

           2.Would provide veterinarians and animal care facilities with  
            alternatives to euthanizing abandoned animals
          
          Existing law requires that veterinarians and animal care  
          facilities in possession of an abandoned animal must try, for a  
          period of 10 days, to find a new owner for the animal.  If a new  
          owner cannot be found within that 10-day period, the  
          veterinarian or facility is required to have the animal humanely  
          destroyed.  This bill would authorize veterinarians and  
          facilities to additionally release abandoned animals to  
          agencies, shelters, or groups, and would allow the veterinarian  
          or facility time beyond the 10-day period to find an owner or  
          placement for the animal. 

          Arguably, since the governing statute was last amended in 1971,  
          many alternatives have been created for abandoned animals,  
          including animal rescue groups and humane society shelters, and  
          the expansion of pet adoption. The American Kennel Club writes  
          in support that they "believe AB 1810 more accurately reflects  
          the care Californians want to provide to the animals in the  
          community and will allow veterinarians and animal care  
          facilities the ability to make the appropriate decision for each  
          situation."
           3.Would clarify when an animal is abandoned
           
          Under existing law, an animal is considered abandoned if the  
          animal is not retrieved within 14 days after it was due to be  
          picked up.  The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA)  
          contends that this statute has been widely misinterpreted to  
          allow for the 14-day time period to start anew after each  
          contact with a veterinarian or animal care facility.  CVMA  
          writes that people "will wait until day 13 for example, call the  
          veterinarian to claim they will retrieve the animal soon, and  
          then allow the 14 day 'clock' to restart so that they can  
          prolong paying the bill and retrieve the animal.  In many cases,  
          this abuse of the 14-day 'resetting' allows owners to put off  
          claiming the animal for many months, or they may never claim the  
          animal."  The California Veterinary Medical Board, the  
          regulatory and licensing entity overseeing the veterinary  
          profession, has posted the following interpretation of the  
          statute which raises questions about the timing of the 14-day  
          period upon recontact by a pet owner:  
                                                                      



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            An animal cannot be considered to be abandoned if the owner  
            contacts the veterinary facility or gives notice of intent to  
            retrieve the animal within the initial 14-day period, even  
            though the veterinarian's bill has not been paid. If, however,  
            the animal is considered abandoned and the owner contacted the  
            veterinarian, the 14-day period begins to run from the day,  
            arranged during the recontact, on which the animal was to be  
            picked up. (  
            as of May 21, 2014>)

          In an effort to better understand how the statute should be  
          applied, CVMA requested an opinion from Legislative Counsel  
          clarifying the 14-day period. Legislative Counsel issued an  
          opinion explaining that a unilateral communication from a pet  
          owner should not begin the 14-day period anew.  In relevant  
          part, the opinion reads: 

            In the event that the owner of an animal and an animal care  
            facility have agreed that the owner will pick up the animal on  
            a particular date, such that this 14-day period has commenced,  
            you asked whether, under Civil Code Section 1834.5, a new  
            14-day period commences if the owner of the animal contacts  
            the facility during the original 14-day period and conveys an  
            intent to pick up the animal, but the owner and the facility  
            did not reach a new agreement for the animal to be picked up  
            at a later date.  

            In our view, based upon the plain meaning of Civil Code  
            Section 1834.5, the unilateral communication you describe  
            would not be deemed a new agreement between the animal owner  
            and the animal care facility; consequently, that communication  
            would not cause a new 14-day period to commence pursuant to  
            this section.

          Consistent with that opinion, this bill would further clarify  
          that recontact from an owner does not start the 14-day period  
          anew by stating that if an owner does not pick up an animal  
          within 14 days from the date the animal was initially due to be  
          picked up, that animal is deemed abandoned. 
           Support  :  American Kennel Club; California Veterinary Medical  
          Association

           Opposition  :  None Known

                                        HISTORY
                                                                      



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           Source  :  American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to  
          Animals (ASPCA)

           Related Pending Legislation : None Known 

           Prior Legislation  :  AB 1279 (Fletcher, 2011), would have changed  
          and deleted obsolete terminology dealing with the seizure,  
          impounding, rescue, adoption, and euthanasia of abandoned and  
          surrendered animals by animal shelters and rescue organizations.  
           This bill was held at the Senate Desk.  

           Prior Vote  :

          Assembly Floor (Ayes 71, Noes 0)
          Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee  
          (Ayes 14, Noes 0)

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