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Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues Stockton Animal Shelter over Ongoing Abuses
STOCKTON — Today, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit against the city of Stockton, California and its animal shelter for violation of state and local laws. The lawsuit describes an ongoing pattern and practice of animal abuse at the Stockton Animal Shelter—a facility that euthanizes animals earlier than legally permitted, denies access to animals who could be saved by the public or rescuers, does not provide adequate veterinary care, keeps adoptable animals away from the public, and fails to maintain records that could facilitate adoption. The shelter is also charged with violating the California Public Records Act, which requires full disclosure of public records. Along with individual California taxpayers, ALDF—represented by the law firm DLA Piper—is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed in California Superior Court in San Joaquin County.
Why are advocates stepping in for Stockton’s homeless animals? Stockton Municipal Code requires an arriving animal to be held for a minimum of six business days, not including the day of impoundment. California’s Hayden Act mandates the kind and humane treatment of shelter animals and that shelters provide proper veterinary care by a licensed veterinarian. However, an investigation of the shelter’s records revealed that the facility routinely violates state and local laws. According to the complaint, while the shelter failed to euthanize suffering animals, it prematurely killed more than 1500 cats and dogs between October 2012 and October 2013. Records show that in a six month period in 2013, for example, the shelter euthanized 266 healthy animals, 246 with minor or treatable issues, and 187 feral cats—well before the end of the minimum waiting period. Furthermore, public access to adoptable animals is made unnecessarily difficult, and the lawsuit aims to force the shelter to comply with the law.
“Stockton’s pattern of animal abuse has denied local residents the chance to adopt animals in need of loving homes,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “This publicly funded shelter has a duty to help, not harm, homeless dogs and cats.”
Copies of the lawsuit are available by request.
March 11, 2014