Majority Leader Hertzberg Introduces Legislation to Provide Care and Services to Homeless Community and Their Pets

Building on the success of the Pet Assistance and Support (PAS) Program of 2019, SB 344 maintains a standard of dignity and companionship for California’s most vulnerable communities.

February 9, 2021

SACRAMENTO – Today, Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) introduced new legislation establishing a permanent grant program for homeless shelters to provide shelter and food to our unhoused neighbors and their animal companions – an effort lauded as “supporting both ends of the leash.”

SB 344 builds on the success of the Pet Assistance and Support (PAS) Program of 2019, and requires homeless shelters to establish rules of conduct and responsibility regarding pets and their owners, provide crating or kenneling near bunks or in a separate area, and supply food for both people and their pets. Participating shelters are also required to provide access to veterinary services, including spaying and neutering.

According to the nonprofit Pets of the Homeless, an estimated five to ten percent of Americans  experiencing homelessness own a dog or a cat. Further, the British Journal of Occupational Therapy stipulates pets provide warmth, security, and companionship to many unsheltered people. Some research also suggests caring for a pet provides a much-needed feeling of normalcy; for many people, the simple act of providing food and water to their pet may even help keep their humanity intact.

“Providing shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness and their pets is a simple, common-sense solution to this extraordinary human crisis we are facing,” said Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys). “It is cost-effective, humane, and proven to work.”

Here are what many organizations are saying in support of SB 344, including;

“Hope of the Valley is incredibly thankful for Senator Herzberg's legislation to provide meaningful and essential resources for pets of people experiencing homelessness,” said Ken Craft, CEO of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, located in the 18th Senate District. “When a person experiencing homelessness is faced with a decision to give up their pet as a criteria to enter a shelter, they will stay on the streets.  Senator Hertzberg’s pet assistance legislation has allowed Hope of the Valley to welcome clients and their pets with the resources to provide food, collars, leashes, kennels and veterinary care to what often is the most meaningful relationship our homeless guests have.  Thank you for empowering us to assist clients, and their support animals, at their point of need.”

“No human should have to choose between shelter and their best friend,” said Iliana Belinc, Founder and Executive Director of PalsNPets, located in the 18th Senate District. “Thanks to the Pet Assistance and Support funds from last year, many unsheltered pet owners did not have to make this choice. These funds enabled us to properly support pet owners, with their pets, in our partner co-shelters. Our programs provide essential services vital for pet owner entrance, including onsite veterinary care and pet food, dedicated trained onsite pet staff, and in-shelter pet parenting education. With more funding for critical programs like these, each co-shelter can easily increase pet owner intake to 15% of total shelter beds. This would make a significant difference in our unsheltered pet owning population, which has been long overlooked in our communities.”

"All pets in California should have access to food, shelter, and basic veterinary care,” said San Francisco SPCA President Dr. Jennifer Scarlett. “The Pet Assistance and Support Program helps ensure that all California pets remain happy and healthy with the people who love them. Expanding veterinary access throughout our state is core to the San Francisco SPCA’s vision, and we applaud Senator Hertzberg for leading compassionately on this issue.”

“Keeping pets with their families is a priority, because we know that people will not accept services that they need if their pets can’t be accommodated,” said Gary Weitzman, CEO and President of the San Diego Humane Society. “For those experiencing homelessness, sometimes a pet is all they have and gives them a purpose to live. In San Diego, we often encounter people who choose to live in their car or on the streets for lack of pet friendly shelters or transitional housing and we appreciate the state’s commitment to providing resources to the community-based organizations who want to welcome the whole family.” 

“Knowing how compassionate my neighbors in the San Fernando Valley are, it comes as no surprise to me that they have continued to support Senator Hertzberg’s pursuit of state funding so that homeless shelters can provide shelter, food, and veterinary services for pets owned by individuals experiencing homelessness,” said Elizabeth Oreck, a long-time 18th Senate district resident and a national manager with Best Friends Animal Society. “These programs are community-based partnerships that are critical to meeting our shared priorities of combatting homelessness, caring for our unhoused neighbors, and keeping families intact.”

“Pets are incredible sources of love and companionship in our lives, especially during these stressful times, and financial circumstances alone do not reflect an individual’s capacity to love and care for a companion animal,” said Susan Lea Riggs with the ASPCA. “The ASPCA believes that pets and people belong together, and we thank Senator Hertzberg for introducing legislation to remove housing barriers for pet owners experiencing homelessness.”

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals experiencing homelessness is creating a “crisis within a crisis” for our state’s most vulnerable communities. On any given night in California, at least 150,000 people are without a home. Additionally, a 2020 homeless point-in-time count estimates 66,436 homeless people are living within Los Angeles County, and 41,290 are living within the City of Los Angeles. These are increases of 12.7 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively, from 2019.

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Media Contact: Cindy Baker
Cindy.Baker@sen.ca.gov
Communications Director
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 313
(530)966-4143