Stockton’s Shelter Dogs Finally Get Their Day in Court

Posted by Jenni James, ALDF Litigation Fellow on March 11, 2014

Today the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed suit against the City of Stockton to bring an end to the suffering of the City’s forgotten shelter animals. In January 2013, ALDF alerted the City to various violations of state and local laws that require proper veterinary care and a meaningful chance at adoption for the City’s shelter animals. Demand letters sent by ALDF’s pro bono attorneys were answered first by silence, then by denials, and finally by excuses. We got the message loud and clear—the City doesn’t intend to follow the law.


Stock photo of shelter dog.

At the heart of our dispute is California’s Hayden Act, which aims to facilitate the adoption of healthy animals. The Act requires the humane treatment of all shelter animals and promises veterinary care to suffering animals. Yet a review of Shelter records shows that veterinary treatment there is inconsistent, increasing with an animal’s likelihood of adoption. As a result, during a six‑month period in 2013, 246 animals with minor or treatable conditions were euthanized instead of adopted. People like ALDF’s co‑plaintiffs, who opt to adopt less popular breeds, bear the burden of providing veterinary care themselves.

The City also violates its own municipal code, which sets the minimum holding period for animals that enter the Shelter. This holding period is meant to allow ample time for cats and dogs to connect with a family. It starts at six business days but can be reduced to four if an animal is made available to the public on the weekend or late on a weekday. Since the Shelter is never open late on a weekday, this shorter period seldom applies. According to the City’s law, animals may not be euthanized before the holding period expires. According to the City’s lawyers, the holding period is more a suggestion than a rule.

As the City shirked its duties, 1,500 animals were prematurely euthanized in one year alone. Dogs labeled “pit bull” have the highest euthanasia rates—80% die after they are left to languish in the Shelter’s back room, separated from the public by a locked door, rarely getting a chance to find a forever home. These dogs deserve better, and so do the people of Stockton.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund has sued to enforce the Hayden Act and other shelter laws in the past. In April 2011, ALDF sued the City of Palm Springs, California, for violations at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, where euthanasia rates were high and record keeping was poor. Since settling the dispute in June 2012, the Palm Springs Animal Shelter has become a no-kill facility worth bragging about. We look forward to the same positive change in Stockton.

16 thoughts on “Stockton’s Shelter Dogs Finally Get Their Day in Court

  1. Christine says:

    These people should be kept in conditions like that and should be fired and imprisoned or given a very large fine.

  2. Pam Scholl says:

    What about Devore?????

  3. This kind of betrayal to both the animals and the community should not go unchallenged or unpunished.
    Thank you to the ADLF for holding those responsible accountable.
    I salute and support your efforts.

  4. Christina Warrington says:

    Animal Legal Defense Fund, you are a balm to the hearts of all that break over these abused & ignored pets. Thank you so very much for not giving up, you are heros!!!!

  5. Klara Larsen says:

    If they cant take care of the shelter, they need help.Contact other shelters, ask for help. Don’t let the animals suffer.

  6. Hali Burton says:

    Thank you, ALDF!!!!
    Los Angeles County shelter system, next, please. Conditions for both CATS and DOGS is deplorable. Downey is killing killing cats faster than ever – shelter is basically empty and they care killing daily.

  7. Nancy Armeli says:

    Why? Because dogs don’t vote! Vote for them by making sure your public official oversee these under managed shelters full of uncaring employees. It starts at the top. Ask your city council why they do nothing!

  8. gloria says:

    Thankyou ADLF for making these people accountable for all the abused and ignored animals. Thanks for not giving up on these prescious animals. So glad there are people out there fighting for there rites because they have no voice. So I am eternally greatful for all you do.

  9. Rana Adamchick says:

    CLAP, CLAP, CLAP…ALDF! It’s about time someone stood up to the masses of BS artists in the shelter system. If you want a hand with anything, feel free to ask. I am at your disposal. You’ve already seen some of my art work, since I submitted it to you via various sites you deal with, and you’ve seen some of my work with animals too (training, advice, assistance with gathering info via legalities). Feel free to contact me if I can assist in any manner.

  10. Brian says:

    It’s great to see that the case against the Palm’s Springs Animal Shelter prompted real, tangible change. If you wave a big enough stick, they’ll be forced to take notice. Kudos.

  11. Joe Preston says:

    The city should be ashamed of itself. This just goes to show their “True Colors” and their level of compassion towards our fellow living beings.

  12. Joan Gatlin says:

    Thank you so much for this action!! These shelters must be made to treat these poor sweet animals humanely and they must be given time to be rescued or adopted. There is another one in California, Devore, in San Bernardino Ca. and San Bernardino City also. Please start working on their treatment of these animals, because they are NOT GETTING THE PROPER TREATMENT AND CARE EITHER. THANK YOU AGAIN AND KEEP ON WORKING ON ALL OF THEM!!

  13. So, so happy to hear that something will be done and it’s being done!! Animals do suffer so much unnecessary because there are too many animal abusers! The law should add them to abusers list like the sex offenders list and make them known public, why not? This is cruelty to the poor defenseless animals. .all they ask for is love and a loving family!!! Thank you for supporting such actions.

  14. Justice is served thanks to ALDF! My heart goes out to the dogs who were helplessly euthanized. It brings such comfort to know there are still organizations out there who are passionate of the welfare of animals, who stands strong and are willing to fight for that cause. I hope to see more organizations formed by ordinary citizen with extraordinary passion for animal welfare than organizations founded and supported by government who moves for political gains.

  15. Mary Pachas says:

    Heartbreaking is the only possible reply.
    But,as stated,change is possible.
    Will do whatever necessary,anytime,to I prove the situation for dogs.This is my life’s passion.Others with this concern are sorely needed.

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