This California Bill – AB1634 – A Bill aimed at mandatory spay neuter of all animals by 4 months of age is highly controversial. It’s called the California Healthy Pets Act and touts “Healthier Pets. Safer Community. Taxpayer Savings” as it’s tagline.

This bill was authored and was introduced by Assembly member Lloyd Levine and mandates that all dogs and cats be spayed or neutered by the age of four months. Pet owners who did not comply would be cited and given time to comply before being fined.

There are exemptions to the bill (some of these exemptions are newly added as of the May 3, 2007 update to the bill);

  • Purebred dogs and cats whose owners obtain a permit
  • Dogs who work as guide dogs, service dogs, or signal dogs
  • Dogs who are used by law enforcement agencies for law enforcement or rescue activities
  • Dogs and cats whose veterinarian determines that due to age, poor health, or illness it is unsafe to spay or neuter them
  • Non-resident show dogs and dogs brought into the state for exhibition

There is a long list of supporters for this bill.

But does this make is right?? For all the proponents, there are opponents. Before you choose sides, listen, learn and research both sides!

Opponents cite Health Considerations such as:

There is also the consideration that one of the largest groups that consistently abuse, neglect and visit cruelties upon animals, Puppy Mills, is not covered by this piece of legislation. They would be exempt as ‘breeders’.

Industrial breeders are exempt and AB 1634 would actually promote “puppy mills,” most likely adding to the numbers of unwanted, unhealthy dogs in shelters. We will see an upsurge of expensive mall pet store puppies, bred by commercial operations in the Midwest . These pets are not sold with the lifetime support of the breeder, such as local hobby breeders usually provide. We will see an increase in sick puppies smuggled in from other countries, sold out of the backs of pickup trucks. (The Problem with Puppy Smuggling, Baltimore Sun, May 8, 2006. )

There are many other opposition reasons as well. One thing I have noticed in reading the text (updated as of May 3, 2007) of the bill is that there have been many changes to try to take in consideration some of the opponent reasons against this bill.

They’ve covered the concern about loss revenues by adding the ‘Non-resident show dogs and dogs brought into the state for exhibition’ exemption.

A couple of the problems that I see are that people who breed occasionally (non-licensed breeders), to keep a line intact or for many reasons, people who are responsible breeders, will die out. If you have a purbred dog that doesn’t meet certain qualifications;

(2) The owner sufficiently demonstrates that his or her cat or dog is a valid breed that is recognized by an approved registry or association, as determined in the discretion of the local jurisdiction or its authorized animal control
agency, and complies with at least one of the following:
(A) His or her cat or dog is used to show or compete and has
competed in at least one legitimate show or sporting competition
hosted by, or under the approval of, a recognized registry
or association, within he last two years, or by whatever proof is
requested by the authorized local animal control agency that the
cat or dog is being trained to show or compete and is too young
to have yet competed.
(B) The cat or dog has earned, or is in the process of earning, a
conformation, obedience, agility, carting, herding, protection, rally,
sporting, working, or other legitimate title from an approved purebred
registry or association. (AB1634)

You cannot get an exemption for your pet.

Ok, take part B, sounds like it adequately covers ‘working dogs’, right? Well, not necessarily. Learn a bit more about the breeding and raising of ‘working dogs’ and this covers some of the following;

  • Tracking/trailing Search & Rescue dog
  • Airscent Search & Rescue dog
  • Urban Search & Rescue dog
  • Water search dog (drowning victims)
  • Water rescue dog (retrieve swimmers in distress)
  • Avalanche dog
  • Guide dog for the blind
  • Signal dog for the deaf
  • Mobility assistance dog
  • Service dog for the disabled
  • Police service dog
  • Police trailing dog
  • Dual purpose police dog
  • Evidence dog
  • Narcotics detection dog
  • Explosives detection dog
  • Guard dog
  • Watch dog
  • Accelerant (Arson) detection dog
  • Military working dog
  • Cadaver dog / Human remains detection dog
  • Termite detection dog
  • Mine detection dog
  • Natural gas detection dog
  • Lost pet search dog
  • Sled dog
  • Sighthound
  • Wildlife detection dog
  • Cancer detection dog
  • Seizure alert dog
  • Livestock herding dog
  • Livestock guardian dog
  • Multipurpose farm dog
  • Agricultural produce detection dog
  • Terrier
  • Upland hunting dog – pointer
  • Upland hunting dog – spaniel
  • Hunting retriever

Working abilities in dogs are generally not apparent until dogs are about 1 – 2 years of age, and sometimes even older. Dogs need to mentally and physically mature into adults before their working abilities are established. It’s also necessary to wait until a dog is an adult to do many important genetic health screening tests for breeding purposes, including orthopedic tests of hip soundness.

Because of the need to selectively breed from among the best working dogs, and because there’s no reliable way to select dogs for working dog breeding when they are puppies, it’s mandatory to keep many more working dogs sexually intact into adulthood than end up being bred. These intact dogs are for the most part owned by working dog handlers, not breeders. This way, there is an adequate pool of intact working dogs from which to select the best breeding candidates. This time-proven process cannot work if only a tiny percentage of dog owners are allowed to keep intact dogs on account of mandatory spay/neuter laws and limited access to “intact permits”. (Save Our Dogs)

 

Now obviously when you read the wording of the text ‘The cat or dog has earned, or is in the process of earning, a conformation, obedience, agility, carting, herding, protection, rally, sporting, working, or other legitimate title from an approved purebred registry or association’, it doesn’t adequately cover ‘working dogs’. For more information on the impact this bill would have on working dogs please check out – Impact of AB 1634 on Working Dogs.

With shelter rates steadily decreasing, opponents say that shelter and euthanisation rates will increase (many pet owners will ‘give up’ their pets because they may not be able to afford to comply) if this bill is enacted and enforcement costs will increase as well due to the fact that it will take greatly increased manpower to enforce the bill, a statement they seem to be able to back up very easily statistically. Another downside – many dog and cat owners will fail to comply with licensing and vaccination to avoid ‘detection’.

  • San Mateo County California* – dog euthanasia rates increased by 126%, dog licenses declined by 35%
  • Los Angeles City, California – enforcement costs rose 269%, from $6.7 million to $18 million; and compliance to mandatory dog licensing declined
  • Fort Worth, TX — ended its mandatory spay/neuter program. Rabies vaccination and licensing compliance declined after passage of the ordinance. This led to an increase in rabies in the city
  • Montgomery County, MD – repealed its mandatory spay/neuter law. Euthanasia rates declined more slowly than they had been prior to the mandatory spay/neuter law; licensing compliance declined by 50%
  • King County, WA — euthanasia rates fell at a slower rate after mandatory spay/neuter. License compliance has decreased. Animal control expenses have increased 56.8% and revenues only 43.2%
  • Camden County, NJ — mandatory spay/neuter ordinance hasn’t stopped it from being called ‘consistently one of the leading, if not the leading killers of animals in the state of New Jersey’ (ref: PAWS NJ)
  • Aurora, CO – euthanasia and shelter intake rates increased. Licensing compliance dropped dramatically, compliance costs have increased 75% with revenue increasing only 13%

* in unincorporated areas of the county which are the areas covered by the ordinance.

A study Exploring the Cat and Dog Surplus Problem listed the top 10 reasons that dogs are relinquished to shelters as

  1. Moving
  2. Landlord issues
  3. Cost of pet maintenance
  4. No time for pet
  5. Inadequate facilities
  6. Too many pets in home
  7. Pet illness(es)
  8. Personal problems
  9. Biting
  10. No homes for littermates

In general, these do not look like problems that a spay/neuter problem are going to fix. Most dogs relinquished to shelters are adult dogs for one reason or another.

In closing and through much research and reading about this bill, I like to say that I feel that CA legislators are trying in the only way they feel will work to handle the dog and cat overpopulation problem. But I have to disagree with their solution. There are far too many things that are not being taken into consideration. So one final word from Save Our Dogs

What AB 1634 will do is reduce the number of responsible dog breeders. They are the ones who license their dogs in their county, socialize their puppies, vaccinate their puppies, research their puppy buyers carefully, do health checks on their breeding stock, and carefully select mates for their breeding dogs. Many of these people will not be able to afford “intact permits”. In many cases they won’t be eligible for them at any price under AB 1634.

 

Because there will be fewer responsible breeders in California, the supply of well-bred puppies will decrease. Since the demand will still be there, puppies imported from Mexico or from other states for sale at pet shops and sold over the Internet will fill the supply gap. These puppies will for the most part be from large-scale commercial breeders. With an increase of poorly-bred pets who suffer many more health and temperament defects, the problems with dog bite statistics in California will. increase. Even more dogs will get dumped in California shelters. And even more dogs will have to be euthanized each year in California shelters. Just as we’ve seen where mandatory spay/neuter laws have been implemented elsewhere, AB 1634 can backfire, and make the shelter euthanasia problem it seeks to address worse.

SourcesCalifornia Healthy Pets Act, Opposition to California Healthy Pet Act, AB 1634, Save Our Dogs and many other miscellaneous sources too numerous to name.

You can find some very interesting statistics here regarding the effects of early spay/neuter programs.

And if you want more information just do a search engine query, type in AB1634, and check out the results. Be sure to read information from both sides, there’s plenty out there, and keep in mind that many organizations, even some of the very best ones, have underlying agendas that you may not know about.

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