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Governor Dodges Dogfight

June 28, 2004

Someone may be running for his life in Sacramento this week, but it's not a golden retriever.

Surely the author of the 32-page puppy-killer section in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget now realizes what he's done to his boss. The politician-actor who stood up to the teachers union, struck a tough deal with the universities, bargained a billion dollars from casino-owning Indian tribes and forced a deal with the Legislature on workers' compensation was struck to his knees Friday by the pet lobby. It happened just hours after Times writer Robert Salladay revealed that the governor's budget, in order to save $14 million, would permit animal shelters to euthanize lost dogs and cats after three days, instead of up to six days as current law provides. The three-day rule would have applied even over three-day holidays when many shelters were closed.

It wasn't a very smart proposal in a state where several localities, including West Hollywood, now statutorily describe pet owners as "guardians"; where courts have been forced to decide pet custody issues in nasty divorces and veterinarians get sued for malpractice; where otherwise sane people hold doggie costume parties in doggie parks, catered by the doggie bakery.

A smarter idea would be to raise dog license fees to cover more costs, and start requiring cats to be licensed. Other places do it, including Houston.

The governor also wanted to let shelters kill animals without offering them to rescue groups and allow convicted animal abusers to duck their victims' veterinary bills. We missed how that helps the state budget.

The bottom line on this budget proposal: You just don't mess with pet owners. They've got their own version of the line, "If you want my Hummer, you'll have to pry the steering wheel from my cold, dead hands." Credit Schwarzenegger, owner of three dogs, with learning that quickly.

"I love animals," he warbled to a Times reporter in a Capitol hallway minutes after caving in. It was fun seeing him come to a new understanding about the political powers in this state.

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