Animal Advocacy Day in Sacramento rallies support for bills that address crisis level access to care and veterinary shortages in California

State lawmakers, animal welfare leaders and other advocates gathered in Sacramento today to raise awareness about legislative efforts to help address critical issues surrounding access to veterinary care and keeping pets and people together in California.

The Animal Advocacy Day in Sacramento was designed to rally support for several bills making their way through the State Legislature. One of those bills, AB 1399, jointly authored by Friedman and Assemblymember Josh Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), will allow for the use of veterinary telemedicine in California.

Because of California’s outdated laws, pet owners are currently forced to wait for hard-to-get appointments so that veterinarians can perform in-person physical examinations of an animal as a prerequisite to providing almost any medical recommendations.

AB 1399 will make veterinary care more accessible for all pet owners, especially for people in remote or under-served areas with few or no veterinarians and those who face financial, geographic and logistical obstacles getting pets to a clinic.

“Telemedicine can help significantly reduce animal suffering, alleviate financial and logistical barriers to veterinary care and extend the capacity of shelters to serve animals and their communities,” said Assemblymember Lowenthal. “We need to pursue this common-sense solution that can have immediate benefits for our animals and their families.”

The time for action on these issues is now. More than 344,000 California shelter animals do not have adequate access to veterinary professionals, according to a recent survey that highlights how veterinarian shortages are profoundly impacting California’s most vulnerable animals. As a result, shelters are becoming overcrowded, illness is rising, and animals are suffering.

“We are facing a crisis in California when it comes to caring for our most vulnerable cats, dogs and other pets,” said State Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Burbank). “Veterinarian shortages are leading to overcrowded and unsafe conditions at our state’s shelters, imperiling the health of our animals. Telemedicine is a proven and safe means for delivering care, and with AB 1399 it can be part of the solution to the crisis.”

Other state legislative efforts being put forth to wrestle with these issues are AB 781 and AB 1215.

AB 781, sponsored by Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego), will require that when a city or county designates an emergency shelter, it must also designate an emergency shelter that can accommodate persons with pets. This will apply to emergency cooling and heating centers, including notifications that must include whether those facilities can accommodate pets. The bill will help ensure California residents are able to both seek safety and stay with their pet.

“No Californian should have to choose between safely evacuating during an emergency and staying with their animals,” said Assemblymember Brian Maienschein. “That’s why I introduced AB 781, which will make sure that all counties in California have designated emergency centers that can accommodate pet owners and their companions.”

AB 1215, authored by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) will create the Pet Assistance and Support Program (PAWS) to award grants to qualified homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters. The grants to homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters will provide shelter, food and veterinary services for pets owned by people experiencing homelessness or escaping domestic violence. This bill will result in fewer animals being relinquished to shelters dealing with overcrowded conditions.

“People with pets who are experiencing homelessness or trauma related to domestic violence often have a difficult time finding housing due to shelters or programs not allowing animals,” said Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo. “AB 1215, the PAWS Act, takes a compassionate

approach to ensure those seeking shelter are not turned away because they have a pet. The human connection to a pet is undeniable and can provide hope and emotional support amid someone’s most stressful moments. This policy as well as the $30 million state budget allocation to support veterinary services and programs will enhance state and local efforts to find solutions to our homelessness crisis.”

The Animal Advocacy Day is sponsored by welfare organizations throughout California, including the San Francisco SPCA, Marin Humane Society, the Humane Society of the United States, the California Animal Welfare Association (CalAnimals), and the ASPCA.