Stray kittens and puppies get a better chance at life in animal shelters under new law

Kittens and puppies could be immediately released from shelters to rescue groups, overturning the current three-day waiting period, under legislation signed this month by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Currently, kittens and puppies are required to stay in public shelters for three days in case their owners claim them, but animal welfare organizations and shelters have pointed out that during the three-day period, the undeveloped immune systems of the animals leave them susceptible to disease. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the sponsor of the bill, also believes that very few, if any, kittens and puppies that enter shelters have owners.

Assembly Bill 2791, authored by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, would allow rescue groups, who often are able to provide more specialized care and have more space, to immediately request the animals shortly after or before they enter shelters.

The bill aims to reduce the number of euthanizations for kittens and puppies, the ASPCA said. Currently, unweaned kittens may be immediately euthanized if they enter the shelter without their mothers or if their diseases and injuries require it.

“The euthanasia rate for animals is very high, but this young population that the bill targets is especially vulnerable,” said Susan Riggs, a spokeswoman for ASPCA. “This is really about saving thousands of lives every year. It was a very easy fix. Shelters were very much in support of this clarification in the law, and we’re very excited to have this tool now.”

“The goal of the bill is to help stray kittens survive and get adopted,” said Kerry Townsend Jacob, a spokeswoman for Muratsuchi. “Kittens and puppies get sick because they’re so little.”

The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2019.

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