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 KEY STRATEGIES

1

Develop animal shelter law and policy to serve as a foundation for all actions and educate the legal community and key stakeholders.

2

Provide legal and policy support and education to California shelters. 

3

Improve the lives of shelter animals by resolving priority legal issues.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Sign up to get email updates about important law and policy issues affecting pets in CA.

For California Shelters:
Download our COVID-19 Operational Protocols

SF SPCA Protocol for Adoptions of Shelter Animals During the
COVID-19 Outbreak

SF SPCA Foster Protocol for Transition from Shelter to Foster Home During the COVID-19 Outbreak

SF SPCA Acceptance & Handling of Returned Animals Exposed to COVID-19 in Foster or Adoptive Homes

SF SPCA Transport Protocol During COVID-19 Outbreak

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.

Latest Shelter PALS Updates

Significant

Opportunities Exist

  • Aside from the SF SPCA, no shelter in California has an attorney on staff steeped in shelter law. 
  • Nowhere in the country is this type of groundbreaking assistance to shelters being provided.
  • The scalable and sustainable model is well positioned for national impact. 

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 Asst. GC
  • Research & Communication

Bruce Wagman Attorney
  • Target Expert Legal Content/Strategy

Jon Lovvorn Attorney
  • Advisor / Strategy

Jennifer Fearing Lobbyist
  • Advisor / Lobbyist

Chris Hollinger
Vol Attorney
  • Advisor / Strategy

Get Involved

Join Our Advocacy-Only Email List

Stay up to the date on our advocacy work, and receive notifications when we need public support for legislation!

Note: This list is for advocacy only. You won’t receive marketing emails, and you can unsubscribe anytime.

Copyright © SF SPCA 2019

Terms & Conditions 

SF SPCA – Mission Campus

201 Alabama Street
San Francisco CA 94103
415.554.3000

SF SPCA – Pacific Heights Campus

2343 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
415.554.3000

Ready To Adopt?