Shelter Policy and Legal Services (Shelter PALS) establishes a new area of law and policy to empower California shelters with legal support and education to bring compassionate care to companion animals.

The current state of shelter law and policy is insufficient to address important companion animal welfare issues in California.

The SF SPCA Shelter Policy and Legal Services (Shelter PALS) provides legal and policy aid to California shelters through collaborative efforts of in-house and pro-bono attorneys and other experts.

While we are currently working with a handful of shelters across the state, we aim to roll this effort out statewide.  We are currently accepting donations to extend this life saving legal effort.

Shelter PALS is the country’s first and only legal aid organization dedicated exclusively to the needs of animal shelters. 

Shelter PALS leverages the expertise of the best minds in animal welfare, and channels significant legal aid to animal shelters. We champion policy change and counsel shelter clients to reduce imbalances of expertise and resources that result in poor outcomes for animals.

We believe it’s possible for every animal shelter to get access to quality legal help. Join us as Shelter PALS improves the lives of animals in California and creates a roadmap for change nationwide.

Looking for our COVID-19 Protocols for California Animals Shelters? Click here.

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San Francisco SPCA Advocacy Highlights

2012-2014

  • Bear & Bobcat Hounding Ban (SB 1221)
  • Abolish Cruel Wildlife Killing (AB 789)
  • Non-lead Ammunition (AB 711)
  • Stockton Ordinances & Litigation

2016

  • CO2 Gas Chamber Ban (AB 2505)
  • Support Animal Tenants’ Rights (AB 2760)
  • Vicious Dog Definition (AB 1825)

2018

  • Pets in Divorce (AB 2274)
  • Underage Kitten/Puppy Rescue (AB 2791)
  • First Aid to Pets (SB 1305)
  • Prevent Cruelty California (Prop 12)

2015

  • SF Wild Animals Performance Ban
  • Bullhook Ban (SB 716)
  • Ivory & Rhino Horn Ban (AB 96)

2017

  • Pet Store Sales Ban (AB 485)
  • Deceptive Online Pet Ads (AB 1138)
  • Pets & Housing Developments (AB 1137)
  • Stockton Sustainability Plan

2019

  • $5MM Grants for Homeless & Pets
  • Public Transit & Pet Evacuation (SB 397)
  • Domestic Violence & Pets (AB 415)
  • Underage Kitten Adoption (AB 1565)

TEAM

  • Project Management
  • Issue Prioritization
  • Shelter Recruitment
  • Attorney Onboarding
  • Marketing
  • Fundraising

Brandy Kuentzel
General Counsel

Lindsay Tang
Associate General Counsel

  • Research & Communication

Lindsay Tang serves as Associate General Counsel and oversees all legal matters at the SF SPCA. 

After earning her J.D. from Northwestern University, Lindsay began her career in-house at a leading technology company where she had a broad international corporate governance practice.  She then practiced at national law firms in Silicon Valley, counseling clients on intellectual property issues in mergers and acquisitions.  In her current role, Lindsay applies her corporate experience by handling governance issues and working directly with the SF SPCA Board of Directors.  She also handles litigation, trust and estate matters, and manages outside counsel.  In her role with Shelter PALS, Lindsay identifies California shelters in need of assistance, coordinates joint efforts with other progressive animal welfare organizations, and assists pro bono counsel in drafting template legal documents.

Lindsay has five dogs, two of which she adopted from the SF SPCA, and several small pets.  In addition to rescuing animals, she enjoys cooking, traveling, and studying foreign languages.

Bruce Wagman
Attorney

  • Target Expert Legal Content/Strategy

For almost three decades, Bruce Wagman has been using his legal education and well-honed skills to help animals in all sectors of society, and benefit both society and the animals themselves.

He is the only lawyer running an exclusive animal law practice in a major United States firm. He litigates, drafts animal-friendly legislation, oversees rescue operations, and consults clients who care for and protect animals. He has published two major works, the leading casebook for law schools nationwide — Animal Law: Cases and Materials — and a global survey of animal laws, A Worldview of Animal Law, the only global survey of animal law. Bruce also founded Project Chimps, a chimpanzee sanctuary that is home to chimpanzees retired from a research laboratory.

Bruce’s forte is the kind of creative lawyering it takes to fit animal interests into the legal world, and his clients regularly applaud his ability to model solutions and take on the toughest problems. His practice covers a broad range of animal-related legal issues — including cases involving the use of animals in entertainment, biomedical research, animal agriculture/food production, animal cruelty, and wildlife control. He has a long history of wide-ranging “impact litigation,” but he also loves to work with individuals on cases involving dog bites, animal custody disputes, and injuries to, and caused by, animals. Bruce brings an undeniable passion for each of his cases, a dedication to both his human clients and the animals involved, and he has a proven ability to turn that passion into winning arguments both in and out of the courtroom. He takes an “eyes on the prize” approach to all of his matters.

Bruce’s clients include numerous animal protection organizations as well as private individuals. He has worked on behalf of many species, including alpacas, bears, birds, cats, chickens, chinchillas, chimpanzees, cows, deer, dogs, dolphins, ducks, elephants, elk, ferrets, geese, goats, gorillas, horses (domestic and wild), lions, mice, monkeys, pigs, rabbits, sharks, turkeys, whales, and wolves.

Jon Lovvorn
Attorney

  • Advisor / Strategy

Jonathan Lovvorn is Faculty Co-Director of the Law, Ethics & Animals Program at Yale Law School, a Senior Research Scholar, and Lecturer in Law.

Lovvorn’s teaching and scholarship focuses on the intersection of animal law, environmental law, and food policy, and the search for practical legal solutions that advance diverse public interest causes. Lovvorn and Professor Doug Kysar co-teach the Climate, Animal, Food, and Environmental Law & Policy Lab, which provides a creative space for students, faculty, outside experts, and non-governmental organizations to devise and propagate novel legal and policy strategies to compel industrial animal agriculture to pay the uncounted and externalized costs these operations saddle upon animals, workers, communities, and the environment.

He has taught courses on animal and environmental law at Harvard, Georgetown, and NYU law schools, and litigated extensively on behalf of animals and the environment. Lovvorn also serves Chief Counsel for Animal Protection Litigation for the Humane Society of the United States, and as a board member and/or legal advisor to other animal and environmental protection organizations. He holds an LL.M. in Environmental Law from Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College, and a J.D. from University of California Hastings College of the Law.

Jennifer Fearing
Lobbyist

  • Advisor / Lobbyist

Jennifer Fearing opened Fearless Advocacy in November 2014. Jennifer has helped pursue more than one hundred positive state and local legislative and regulatory outcomes and has led – with creativity and tenacity – many high-profile successes. She maintains deep relationships and broad networks with key decisionmakers in the legislature, the executive branch and with key stakeholders. In 2016 and 2017, Jennifer was named by Capitol Weekly as one of the 100 most powerful people in the California capitol community. In 2019, she was honored with a Golden Bear Legislative Award for “Public Interest Lobbyist of the Year.”

Jennifer has led efforts to recruit and activate citizen advocates, developed a new legislative caucus, prepared multiple voter scorecards, produced myriad lobby days, and helped with the formation of a new Assembly select committee on the nonprofit sector. A chapter Jennifer authored on nonprofit lobbying is included in a new textbook published by Kendall-Hunt entitled “A Practitioner’s Guide to Lobbying and Advocacy in California.” She has authored numerous opinion editorials published by the Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and other newspapers and frequently engages local, state and national media (earned and editorial). Jennifer earned her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Economics from UC Davis and her masters degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in Public Policy. She is a regular guest speaker at schools like McGeorge, UC Berkeley, UC Davis and Hastings law schools, California State University, California Lutheran University and NYU.

Shelter PALS Advocacy Wins

Register Your Shelter

For California Shelters:
Download our COVID-19 Operational Protocols

Adoptions Protocols

Foster Protocols

Exposed Animals Protocol

Transport Protocols

Frequently Asked Questions regarding
California Animal Care Workers as Essential Critical Infrastructure

Yes.  And workers at any business (including a nonprofit) that operates a physical facility, and that provides basic daily care for animals, and/or veterinary care, are covered.  So both private and municipal shelters are included, and their workers are exempt from the “shelter in place” orders because they are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.

Yes. And workers at any animal rescue group that operates a physical facility, and that provides basic daily care for animals, and/or veterinary care, are exempt from the “shelter in place” orders because they are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.

The term “animals” is broadly defined under California law and the listing of workers does not differentiate between species, so the workers at any physical facility that provides basic daily care, and/or veterinary care, for any species of animals, are exempt from the “shelter in place” orders because they are essential critical infrastructure workers.  For example, in addition to facilities housing dogs and cats and other small animals, this would include facilities where horses are kept, or where wildlife care is done.

•  While animal care facilities including shelters should reduce or eliminate all non-essential activities at this time, adoptions are essential life-saving activities, and important functions of these facilities. Adoptions benefit the public health and safety by reducing the chances of disease transmission to both the public and the animal community.  Adoptions also prevent other problems associated with longer term stays in shelters that could lead to negative impacts on the human community, as well as the lives of the animals in those facilities.  And adoptions allow shelters to be available to take in animals who are rendered homeless, or whose owners cannot care for them, because of COVID-19.  Adoptions are essential activities for the entire community, and a vital part of the mission of many animal care facilities’ work. 

•  Workers at any business (including a nonprofit) that operates a physical facility, and that provides basic daily care for animals, and/or veterinary care, are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers and therefore exempt from the “shelter in place” orders, and can continue adoptions if they desire.

•  The Executive Order exempts workers at these facilities, and therefore the important work that is done there. The Executive Order also allows for individuals who need to access services at these facilities to venture out of their homes on a limited and cautious basis to obtain these services.  Adoptions should be done, as much as possible, without in-person interactions.  Any possible use of the internet or telephone for essential activities should be considered.  For example, adoptions can be done by appointment or mainly on the internet with video visits and telephone interviews, so that the number of interactions between individuals is limited to a bare minimum. 

•  To the extent any in-person activities are required as part of an adoption, at all times, strict social distancing norms should be observed, all precautions and protocols should emphasize public health and safety, and sanitation and hygiene should be increased.

•  The SF SPCA has developed written protocols for adoptions during this period, which are available on the SF SPCA website.

•  In order to access essential activities, members of the public can travel to shelters for essential activities, including adoptions-by-appointment, with strict adherence to social distancing rules and any additional protocols designed for these situations.

•  See above response re adoptions for additional important information.

•  The SF SPCA has developed written protocols for adoptions during this period, which are available on the SF SPCA website.

Yes.  The Executive Order recognizes and approves the work of animal shelters as part of the critical infrastructure and exempts Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers at these facilities, and allows for individuals who need to access services at these facilities to venture out of their homes.  See above response re adoptions for additional important information.

Yes.  All individuals in all of the essential infrastructure sectors are identified as “workers” and so as long as they are “working” (whether as a volunteer, employee, contractor, management or otherwise), they are exempt pursuant to the Executive Order and the Governor’s list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.

Yes.  All individuals working (in whatever capacity) at a shelter or animal care facility that provides veterinary and/or basic daily care are exempt pursuant to the Executive Order and the Governor’s list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.  Workers involved in the infrastructure needed to run essential activities are therefore included.

Yes.  Volunteers are workers and so volunteers are exempt Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.  Nothing in the Executive Order prohibits fostering of animals by members of the public or workers, especially where fostering is necessary to continue the work of animal care facilities that benefits the public health and safety, as well as the lives of animals, and that is related to the daily work of such facilities.

•  Yes. Workers involved in animal transport that is related to the business of animal care facilities (including adoptions, veterinary and/or basic daily care for shelter animals) are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers, and are exempt from the Executive Order.  Transport should be limited to what is necessary to continue the work of animal care facilities that benefits the public health and safety, as well as the lives of animals, and that is related to the daily work of such facilities.  Participants should comply with strict social distancing rules and any additional protocols designed for these situations. 

•  While there may be sufficient need in your local community to limit your activities there, as of the time these answers were written, moving within the state, across state lines, or through different areas with different orders is acceptable, as long as the transport is necessary to continue the work of animal care facilities that benefits the public health and safety, as well as the lives of animals, and that is related to the daily work of such facilities.  Since new orders may come into effect, we recommend you check to see if the states and/or counties that you are accessing have any special rules.

•  The SF SPCA has developed written protocols for transport and adoptions during this period, which are available on the SF SPCA website.

•  Yes.  Workers involved in animal transport that is related to the business of animal care facilities (including adoptions and veterinary and/or basic daily care for shelter animals) are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers, and are exempt from the Executive Order.  Transport should be limited to what is necessary to continue the work of animal care facilities that benefits the public health and safety, as well as the lives of animals, and that is related to the daily work of such facilities.  Any of these activities should be undertaken with strict adherence to social distancing rules and any additional protocols designed for these situations.

•  The SF SPCA has developed written protocols for transport during this period, which are available on the SF SPCA website.

Yes.  See answers regarding adoptions and transport for additional important information, and the SF SPCA’s protocols.

California law requires the spaying/neutering of all animals transferred from shelters or rescues to private citizens, and so spay/neuter embodies a strong California state public policy, and is part of the necessary work of any animal care facility in the state.  Because the spay-neuter requirement is mandatory under state law, it is one of the essential activities of animal shelters and must be done before any adoptions.  And while this limited amount of spay-neuter activities are essential, shelters and veterinarians should self-monitor to ensure the safety of the public and shelter staff and conserve the use of personal protective equipment at all times, in order to ensure the human health care system has access to as much equipment and supplies as possible.

•  Because the spay-neuter requirement is mandatory under state law, it is one of the essential activities of animal shelters and must be done before any adoptions.

•  Foster-to-adopt programs can continue as part of the work of animal care facilities, and animals do not have to be sterilized to go into a foster-to-adopt situation.

•  The “veterinary certification” exemption from spay/neuter requirements does not apply in most cases for animals adopted from shelters and rescues, because it is only applicable to animals who are too sick or injured to have the surgery, or where the surgery would be detrimental to the animal’s health.

Yes.  While rabies vaccinations should be administered whenever possible, and a rabies vaccination is required for all animals in California, ensuring that an animal is vaccinated is typically the requirement of the owner, as opposed to the source (such as shelter or rescue) of the animal.

Yes.  For example, dogs can be walked and exercised outside of the shelter, as long as strict social distancing protocols are followed and as long as outdoor activities are limited to those that members of the public are allowed to engage in with their animals.  This would include animal care facilities outside of the shelter context, such as stables.

Yes, pet stores are essential as to supplying necessities for pet owners and may remain open if they are selling pet food and other health-related items (supplements, flea & tick treatments etc.). An adequate supply and availability of nutritional and supportive care for pets is vital for members of the community to be able to care for their animals during “shelter in place” orders.

According to the California Department of Public Health, retail sales of dogs, cats, and bunnies in pet stores, are nonessential and should be stopped during this period. We recommend that sales of other pets in pet stores also stop during this period.

•  While there is no specific listing of nonessential activities, the sheltering community is very responsive and proactive to concerns regarding the need for protection of the public during the COVID-19 response.  So each shelter should make its own decision with respect to what is nonessential.

•  Some examples of nonessential activities that have been suggested include grooming for aesthetic reasons, retail sales of other than food and health-related products, licensing of pets, non-urgent owner surrenders of animals, and non-urgent animal control activities.

The answer depends on the language of your local order and the nature of your facility.  While local municipalities can enter orders that are more restrictive than the Executive Order issued by the state, we are not aware of any local orders that limit the work of animal care facilities that provide veterinary and/or basic daily care for animals.  As long as your local order is not more restrictive on this issue, the answers with respect to the state rules provided here apply.  We recommend that you consult a lawyer or your local authorities to confirm compliance with both the Executive Order and any local orders that supplement the Executive Order.

•  In San Francisco and the cities and counties subject to orders identical to the Bay Area order, workers in shelters and other animal care facilities that provide veterinary and/or basic daily care for animals are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers and therefore exempt from the “shelter in place” Executive Order. This work includes the types of essential activities necessary to maintain public health and safety and provide important supportive productive infrastructure elements to California citizens during the COVID-19 response period.

•  The Bay Area Order is more restrictive than the Executive Order to the extent it provides greater consideration of the public health and safety factors related to animal care. Shelters and covered animal care facilities in San Francisco and those cities that adopted the Bay Area Order are authorized to continue operations, but should determine independently what activities are essential, and limit operations to those activities.

•  Of course, social distancing norms should be observed, and all precautions and protocols should emphasize public health and safety, sanitation and hygiene should be increased, and any possible use of the internet or telephone for essential activities should be considered.

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