Part 2: Debating Spay and Neuter

akc

The American Kennel Club objects
When Assemblyman Lloyd Levine introduced the bill (AB 1634, or the California Healthy Pets Act) to the California assembly in February of 2007, it churned up a political storm the likes of which the capitol hadn’t seen since the debate on gay marriage.

“It’s amazing how motivated people are, both for and against,” Assemblyman Anthony Adams told the Capitol Weekly last summer, at the height of the frenzy. “I’ve never been lobbied this hard on anything.”

On the con side were many breeders and the American Kennel Club. Not only does the AKC object to taking the spay/neuter decision out of the owners’ hands, says their spokesperson, Lisa Peterson, they doubt such a law would work. She argues it would still be hard to get backyard breeders to comply with the law, and reputable breeders will end up getting penalized.

“The animals that show up in shelters come from a wide variety of situations, from dogs who’ve been relinquished by their owners to feral cats that are brought in,” says Peterson. “To come up with one solution that only targets one segment of the pet owning population–the responsible owners–doesn’t seem like a good plan.”

Although many animal welfare groups back the bill, at least a few will sit out this legislative round. San Mateo County has one of the oldest mandatory spay-neuter ordinances in the state–of 20 cities in the county, five have required spaying and neutering since the early ’90s–but the head of the local humane society, Scott Delucchi, says he won’t be lobbying for the bill.

“We’ve tried things on our own that we think are far more effective in getting people to alter their pets,” he says, “such as educational outreach and low-cost spay-neuter services.” He adds that when people are forced to spay/neuter their pets, they can become more angry than enlightened. “In some ways, the ordinance hurts us.”

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