ASPCA Commends California Gov. Newsom for Signing Bills to Support Pet Owners

New laws expand access to veterinary telehealth and ensure California families with pets stay safe during extreme weather events
October 9, 2023

SACRAMENTO – The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends California Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing two critical animal protection bills into law to support California pet owners by expanding access to veterinary telehealth (A.B. 1399), and ensuring local governments provide pet-friendly sheltering sites during extreme weather events (A.B. 781). Both bills received near-unanimous, bipartisan support and the new laws will go into effect on January 1, 2024. 

Authored by Assemblymembers Laura Friedman (D-Burbank) and Josh Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), A.B. 1399 empowers licensed veterinarians in the Golden State to establish a veterinarian-client-patient relationship through video technology. Telehealth is a lifeline for pet owners, especially those in remote or underserved areas with few or no veterinarians and those who face financial, or logistical obstacles getting pets to a clinic. Human healthcare has long relied on safe and convenient telehealth technology to help bridge gaps in care caused by workforce shortages, and now, with A.B. 1399, California veterinarians can do the same to provide greater access to veterinary care for California pet owners.

“The benefits of telehealth are clear – when used responsibly, veterinary telehealth can help reduce animal suffering, address barriers to care, keep pets in their homes, and extend the capacity of animal shelters to serve animals and their communities by increasing access to veterinary care,” said Brittany Benesi, senior director of state legislation for the ASPCA’s Western division. “A.B. 1399 makes veterinary care more accessible to California pet owners and we’re grateful to Governor Newsom for signing this lifesaving bill into law to enable California veterinarians to use technology to protect the pets who need it most.”

Pet owners in California are also facing limited access when it comes to pet-friendly emergency shelters, which is enhancing the human risks associated with any emergency response. Those who are denied shelter with their pets may refuse evacuation or attempt to illegally reenter evacuation sites to rescue animals, threatening their own safety and that of first responders. A.B. 781, authored by Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego) will help prevent life-threatening situations by ensuring local governments designate pet-friendly emergency shelters where California families and their pets can stay safely together when disaster strikes.

A recent ASPCA survey of California pet owners revealed that over 50 percent of respondents would only evacuate if they could take their pets with them. However, of pet owners surveyed, 70 percent do not have emergency housing secured, and 76 percent of respondents who reported they would evacuate to a public evacuation shelter plan to bring their pets with them, demonstrating the importance of increasing access to emergency shelters that accommodate pets.

“The rapid increase in wildfires and extreme heat in California is causing significant risk to public health and community safety, and there are still many gaps in providing adequate support for families with companion animals,” said Benesi. “We’re grateful to Assemblymember Maienschein for championing A.B. 781 to ensure Californians and their pets can stay safely together when disaster strikes, and we thank Governor Newsom for signing this measure into law to protect animals and the people who risk their lives to save them.”

For more information about the ASPCA’s work to help keep people and pets together or to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit