LOS ANGELES — Shelter animals would get a reprieve from euthanasia under a new California bill called Bowie’s Law. California Assemblyman Bill Essayli introduced AB 595 Friday to require 72 hours’ public notice before animals can be put down.
“Our animal shelters in California are facing a crisis,” Assemblyman Essayli said at an event outside the Corona Animal Shelter, with the husky he rescued by his side. “They’re overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed. Every adoptable pet deserves the chance to find a loving home. Unfortunately, far too often, perfectly healthy, loving animals are euthanized before they have a chance to be adopted.”
Shelter animal euthanization is the result of the overcrowding crisis, he said, adding that AB 595 would also require a statewide study to determine the underlying causes and shelters’ reactions to having too many animals in their care.
Under the current system, “some shelters give notice, some give very little and some give no notice at all” before euthanizing an animal, the Assemblyman said. “Shelters can’t adopt animals on their own. They have to work with rescues and the public to get dogs adopted or fostered, and if they’re not communicating with the public, that’s a problem.”
A first-time Assemblyman who took office in January, Essayli represents the 63rd District in the California Legislature, including Norco, Menifee, Lake Elsinore and Canyon Lake. AB 595 is one of the first bills he has introduced.
Bowie’s Law takes its name from a dog who was euthanized at a shelter after an animal rescue had agreed to take him last year.
“Dogs are not disposable. They’re not garbage. They’re living, breathing, intelligent beings who, if given the opportunity, can change our lives far more than we can ever change theirs,” said Shoshi Gamliel, founder of the Underdog Heroes Rescue in Riverside, which had agreed to take Bowie from the Baldwin Park Animal Shelter in Los Angeles County.
Despite a volunteer from the rescue sending a written commitment to pick up Bowie, the shelter instead euthanized the dog due to what it said was fearful behavior.
“This was outrageous, unnecessary and sadly happens far too often,” said Gamliel, who is supporting AB 595 because “it will give members of the public, potential adopters and rescues like myself a small window to step in and save an animal’s life,” and “hold animal control and shelter employees fully accountable for their actions should they fail to follow simple protocol.”
About 100,000 animals are euthanized at animal shelters in California each year, according to the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California-Davis. While that's a significant decrease from the 500,000 shelter animals that were put down statewide in 1998 before California committed to being no kill, Essayli said more can still be done.
AB 595 is waiting for referral by the Assembly Rules Committee and will have its first policy committee hearing within the next few months.