Mandatory spay, neuter law back in Sacramento
Genevieve Bookwalter - Sentinel staff writer
Article Launched: 06/27/2008 01:34:29 AM PDT
SANTA CRUZ -- Three strikes and Fido's neutered.
That's what a state legislator is now proposing for California dogs, after his bill that would have required all California cats and dogs older than four months to be spayed or neutered failed last year.
But county animal workers say the problem with last year's bill, which was based on rules similar to those in Santa Cruz County, was not its sterilization requirement, but its lack of exceptions for those who can't fathom castrating their kitties. Now, the workers are not too confident the newest version, which requires animals that receive three citations be fixed, will succeed either.
AB 1634 caused an uproar among pet owners across California last year after
Assemblyman Lloyd E. Levine, D-Van Nuys, proposed that nearly all cats and dogs in the state be spayed and neutered under state law.
On the surface, the proposed rules were similar to -- and said to be based upon -- those in place in Santa Cruz County; those rules require Spot and Fluffy to be spayed and neutered. Many animal services workers credit local rules with cutting the number of impounded animals here by two-thirds.
But the state version did not allow the exceptions easily available in Santa Cruz County to those who feel strongly against sterilizing their pets, and carried other, stricter rules than those that govern cats and dogs on the Central Coast, said Susan Pearlman, interim general manager for Santa Cruz County Animal Services.
Spay and neuter exemptions for breeders and other pet owners, Pearlman said, were crucial in winning support for the county regulation when it passed in 1995. Without those allowances, county Animal Services declined to lend their support to Levine's bill last year, Pearlman said.
"We begged, if you guys are going to call this the Santa Cruz model, then you need to have the Santa Cruz model," Pearlman said. "This will allow the passage, this will defuse the criticism."
The bill passed the Assembly but was pulled before reaching the Senate.
Few animal lovers deny the overcrowding problem facing many shelters in California.
According to Levine's office, California spent $300 million last year to care for and ultimately euthanize 500,000 dogs and cats.
Santa Cruz County's mandatory spay and neuter rule helped reduce the number of animals in county shelters from more than 15,000 before the law took effect to 5,500 last year, said Tricia Geisreiter, county animal services coordinator.
In an effort to emulate those results, Levine's bill is back, in amended form, and once again winding its way through the state Capitol. Levine said Thursday he is confident it will pass -- even though it looks even less like the Santa Cruz model it was once based on.
"We've gotten what we term, 'three strikes you're out' for dogs and 'two strikes you're out' for cats," Levine said.
In other words, if an animal control officer cites a dog owner three times or a cat owner twice -- for whatever reason -- the pet must be sterilized. In addition, fines for the first offense are $50 and for the second offense, $100.
The bill passed the Assembly's Local Government Committee on Wednesday on a 3-2 vote.
But like the previous version, the state bill does not go as far as the county's law in allowing for those who don't believe the state should control pet reproduction.
San Jose resident Karen Johnson with the National Pet Alliance, which opposed the bill last year, said forces again are rallying to defeat the newest version, which has no appeals process for pet owners who receive citations and could affect expensive show cats and work dogs, among other animals.
County Animal Services workers support this year's bill, Pearlman said, because the rules would not be stricter than those imposed by the county. Still she expects controversy, especially if the state does not provide low-cost spay and neuter programs to help residents comply.
Contact G. Bookwalter at 706-3286 or gbookwalter@....
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Bless the Bullys