The Newly Proposed “Bowie’s Amendment” Needs Your Support
This potential legislation could save the lives of countless shelter dogs. Here’s how you can help.
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Last year, a three-month old puppy named Bowie went into a municipal shelter in Los Angeles. A rescue group quickly agreed to accept Bowie into their foster and adoption program, and it seemed like his story would have a happy ending: The group would intervene to care for him and free up shelter space, and Bowie would eventually be adopted into a loving home. Instead, due to the private nature of the shelter and some far-too-rapidly moving policies, Bowie was euthanized — and the rescue group didn’t find out about his death until it was too late.
Enter: Bowie’s Law
Gutted by the news of such a senseless death, assembly member Bill Essayli of the California State Legislature authored AB 595, previously known as Bowie’s Law. Essayli is now championing the legislation as an amendment. “My law is simple: It just requires three days’ public notice that an animal is going to be euthanized before euthanizing them,” Essayli told local news network KTLA in an interview last week. “So, if they’re healthy and adoptable, give the public and rescues three days’ notice so they can activate and get them out of there if possible.” It’s a policy that, in the months since their tragic error, has already been adopted by the shelter that put down Bowie, and Essayli wants to see all shelters across California make the same changes.
When asked why the bill doesn’t go as far as to outlaw euthanization altogether, Essayli stresses that a no-kill future is his end-goal — but it’s an important step in the right direction.
“The bill also asks for a two-year study so the state of California can come out with concrete policy recommendations for how we make California a no-kill state,” Essayli told KTLA. “[No-kill is] the goal, but the shelters are overwhelmed. There’s overpopulation, there’s not enough spays and neuters. If there was a way to make them all no-kill I would do it today.”
How Bowie’s Law Was Struck Down
Essayli’s bill passed unanimously in the policy committee, despite what Essayli describes as “hard opposition” by California shelters. “CalAnimals is the organization that represents animal shelters, and they worked overtime to kill this bill,” he told KTLA. After passing in the policy committee, AB 595, went on to the appropriations committee, where there is, unfortunately far less transparency, and it did not make it to the House floor after that. “There’s no hearing; there’s no votes; they just make an announcement by the chair on which bills are going to move forward and which aren’t,” Essayli says of the process. “Bowie was killed in secret without notice, and now they killed this bill in secret without notice. I can only assume that the lobbyists for the animal shelters orchestrated that effort.”
Why did shelters work so hard to end Bowie’s Law? According to Essayli, money isn’t the only motivation. Although the proposed bill would require shelters to find some way to communicate pending euthanizations to the public, Essayli points out that most shelters already have websites and argues that “it takes less money and energy to post on a website than it does to kill a dog.”
Plus, Essayli is in contact with nonprofits and software companies that would provide services free of charge. “I’ll tell you what I think this is really about: It’s about transparency and control,” Essayli told KTLA. “The shelters do not want the public to know and see all the animals that are being put down all the time.” California euthanizes 100,000 animals a year, outpaced only by the state of Texas.
The Fight For “Bowie’s Amendment” Continues
But Essayli hasn’t given up. His new plan is to bring a motion to add what he is now calling “Bowie’s Amendment” to an existing bill that did make it to the floor. This way, every member on the floor will have to vote on the bill and will be forced to publicly support or reject the amendment. This creates transparency for the public — and most importantly, it gives everyday people an opportunity to make their voices heard and apply pressure to their representatives.
If you want to encourage your assembly member to support Bowie’s Amendment, you can go here for more information. Essayli urges all California residents to call or email their representatives to ask them to support the passage of Bowie’s Amendment, which will be voted on by the end of this week. It won’t end euthanizations in California, but it will ensure that the public is given the opportunity to step in for puppies like Bowie, who would have been rescued if the shelter system had been more transparent. Plus, hopefully, it will help map out a future where California pups are never in such precarious positions to begin with.
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Sio Hornbuckle is a writer living in New York City with their cat, Toni Collette.