Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to repeal a state law that requires animal shelters (search) to hold stray dogs and cats for up to six days before killing them.

Instead, there would be a three-day requirement for strays. Other animals, including birds, hamsters, potbellied pigs, rabbits, snakes and turtles, could be killed immediately.

Schwarzenegger has told the state Legislature that the changes could save local governments that operate shelters up to $14 million.

An estimated 600,000 dogs and cats are put to death each year in California, including 34,000 in Los Angeles alone.

The waiting period has caused overcrowding and forced some shelters to kill off animals simply to make room for new ones, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance.

"Because of space limitations, the shelters are being forced to euthanize animals who are otherwise highly adoptable immediately after the holding time," Palmer said.

Despite Schwarzenegger's huge popularity, some political observers think the proposal will meet stiff resistance.

"There is no organized constituency of cats and dogs, but certainly the pet owners of America will find this reprehensible," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media (search) at California State University, Sacramento.

"Cats and dogs are like mom and apple pie," she said. "Don't mess with the pets. Most people prefer them to other people."

The 1998 law is named for former state Sen. Tom Hayden, who said the governor's proposal "will inflict heartbreak on a lot of owners and people in the animal adoption world."