Capitol Tracker: New California law makes it easier to adopt kittens

Ruth Schneider, Eureka Times-Standard

A new California law aims to make it easier to offer forever homes to kittens. The bill is among the first signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“I was surprised to learn that shelters are required to hold kittens for three days before turning them over to qualified individuals for adoption,” Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), the author of AB 1565, said in a prepared statement. “These tiny animals require 24-hour care, and limitations at shelters mean that a lot kittens, are sadly, being unnecessarily euthanized.”

The new law limits the amount of time a kitten is required to be held before it can be adopted out.

Quirk said being a pet owner himself played a role in his authoring the legislation.

“I have adopted three dogs and know shelters work very hard to adopt the animals in their care,” he said. “However, sometimes their ability to do so is constrained by odd laws. I’m thrilled that with the signing of my bill, shelters will now be able to immediately find caring homes for kittens that require around-the-clock care in order to grow into healthy adult cats.”

Andre Hale, animal control and facilities manager at the Humboldt County Animal Shelter, doesn’t think the new law will have much of an impact locally, primarily because it bumps up against another state law mandating animals up for adoption be spayed or neutered before being placed in homes. For kittens, that means waiting until the little balls of fur are two months old.

“For us, any kitten that is less than 8 weeks old, we place them into a foster home until they are big enough that they can be spayed or neutered,” Hale said Monday. “I don’t know that (the new law) will have a positive or negative impact. When the kitten remains in the foster home, they still legally belong to the shelter. I can make sure it gets spayed or neutered. We can’t spay or neuter them under 8 weeks.”

She added that euthanasia rates locally for cats is the lowest it’s been in years — something she attributes in part to local efforts to spay and neuter feral cat populations.

“We have been reducing our euthanization rate on cats over the past several years,” Hale said. “This year, the euthanasia rate on cats was 10 percent. That’s the lowest it’s been since the shelter opened.”

Last year, she said, there were 450 cats brought in. Of those, 57 were transferred to other rescue groups and 42 were euthanized.

She said euthanasia is a last resort for the shelter. Even testing positive for feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus is not a death sentence.

“Those early young kitten tests aren’t always a true positive,” she said. “We put them in a foster home and wait to test them again.”

She added that while kittens can pick up respiratory infections — something specifically mentioned in the bill — that’s not a reason the local shelter would euthanize a kitten.

“Primarily what gets euthanized are those that have an illness and we cannot fix it,” Hale said, adding that sometimes adoptability and temperament are factors.

Pets available for adoption at the Humboldt County Animal Shelter in McKinleyville can be found listed at A handful of other local shelters also advertise available pets through Pet Harbor.