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Part 3: Debating Spay and Neuter

sheltered dogSanta Cruz makes a compelling case
Proponents counter by holding up Santa Cruz as an example of what the law could be. The county has had a spay/neuter ordinance in place since 2006 and the local SPCA says its euthanasia rate has dropped 64 percent since then. “We’ve had a tremendous decrease in the number of animals coming in,” says Tricia Geisreiter, a spokesperson for the Santa Cruz Animal Services Authority.

Lake County, Santa Barbara County, and L.A. County have all recently passed similar ordinances. Officials there say it’s too soon to tell if it’s making a dent in the overpopulation problem. But they do note that the program is proceeding smoothly, with none of the big brother elements that critics fear.

“We’re not knocking on the doors of responsible owners saying, let’s see your papers,” says Paula Werner, program manager of Lake County Animal Care and Control. “But if you’re a bad breeder who doesn’t take care of your animals, you bet we’ll be on your doorstep.”

Supporters also dismiss fears that the law would mean the demise of the beloved mutt. At best, they say, the law would cut down on ‘oops’ matings and on litters coming into the shelter. But it’s not going to stop them completely.

“There are still going to be plenty of dogs and cats in California,” reassures Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, one of the bill’s supporters.

Bill reintroduced
AB 1634, or the California Healthy Pets Act, or routinely referred to as the bill, squeaked through the assembly in June of 2007, passing by a single vote. But the following month, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine pulled the bill when it seemed like members of a Senate committee would vote it down. But he didn’t give up on it.

Levine reintroduced the bill to the State assembly two weeks ago. It faces a vote early this spring before the same committee before moving on to the full Senate.

Animal crusader Judie Mancuso is confident that the second go around will be the charm. “We have tons of support, especially with the state experiencing a $14 billion deficit and we’re offering a bill that saves taxpayers’ money,” she says.

If the bill passes and succeeds, Mancuso and her supporters believe other states would be close behind with their own spay/neuter laws. “As California goes, so goes the country. We think it could be pathbreaking animal welfare reform,” says Markarian.

In the meantime, Mancuso’s still meeting with legislators, refining the bill to craft a version that will pass. The same vision that ignited her rescue work, feeds her resolve now. She’s just tired of seeing healthy cats and dogs killed for lack of a home. “It’s going to be an honor to make this bill happen,” she says.

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