Bill to limit pet euthanasia in shelters is tabled by California lawmakers

A bill seeking to limit euthanasia in California animal shelters appears to have been blocked by state lawmakers.

The proposal was in the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, which reviews the fiscal impacts of bills, but was quietly killed Thursday, May 18, through a process called the “suspense file.” It’s a mysterious process through which lawmakers decide — with no explanation — which bills get a chance to become law later this year and which ones should not move forward.

It was one of hundreds of bills that didn’t survive the legislature’s suspense file.

AB 595, dubbed Bowie’s Law, is inspired by a puppy named Bowie that was euthanized in December in Los Angeles County after a rescue group offered to adopt him. The bill would have required animal shelters to provide a public notice 72 hours before euthanizing a dog, cat or rabbit.

“I am disappointed that the Assembly Appropriations Committee killed Bowie’s Law today, hiding behind the closed-door Suspense File process,” Inland Empire Republican Assemblymember and bill author Bill Essayli said in a Thursday evening news release.

Under the bill, the California Department of Food and Agriculture would have conducted a study on animal shelter crowding and explore the idea of a statewide database for dogs and cats.

Essayli, who represents Norco, the Temescal Valley, Lake Elsinore, Menifee and parts of Corona, Eastvale and Riverside, introduced the legislation in February.

However, he is not giving up.

Essayli is determined to bring the bill to the Assembly Floor for a vote next week, the release states.

He plans to “give every Assemblymember the chance to vote up or down on Bowie’s Law,” the release states.

Shawn Lewis, Essayli’s chief of staff, could not be reached Friday afternoon, May 19.

Bills that were held in the Senate and Assembly appropriations committees are not likely to pass this year, with a June 2 deadline looming for legislation to advance from one chamber.

According to Shelter Animals Count, a database for shelter data, about 8% of animals held in California shelters were euthanized in 2022.

About 100 California shelters, rescues and organizations opposed Essayli’s bill, including the nonprofit California Animal Welfare Association. The group’s CEO Jill Tucker has called the bill well intended, but said it wouldn’t solve shelter crowding.

One of two groups that favored the bill included Social Compassion in Legislation, a Laguna Beach-based nonprofit organization that works to protect animals through legislation. The founder of the Laguna Beach organization, Judue Mancuso, has said more animals need to be rescued from euthanasia.

Once bills are voted on in the Senate or Assembly, those that pass will move on to the other chamber. The Legislature has until mid-September to pass bills, then Gov. Gavin Newsom has about a month to reject them or sign them into law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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