Increased licensing and Spay and Neuter Legislation Would Reduce Animal Deaths and Costs
By Judie Mancuso
Special to the OC Voice
Since 2006, we have been working on statewide legislation to help curb the massive pet overpopulation problem in California. Our non-profit volunteer organization Social Compassion in Legislation (SCiL) works to help craft and lobby state legislation that will reduce pet euthanasia through increased licensing and spay and neuter.
California shelters see about one million dogs and cats coming through the front door every year, and they euthanize (kill) over 500,000 of them who were not lucky enough to be adopted or redeemed by their family. The cost to California taxpayers is a whopping $300 million dollars each year, and it is on the rise.
We receive support letters from every nook and cranny of the state for our legislation. Over 5,000 individuals and organizations have sent support letters just in the past few months for Senate Bill 250, the Pet Responsibility Act. Sponsored by SCiL and authored by Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, the bill enacts a proven method to reduce shelter overpopulation.
Guess which area of the state has provided the most support for our bill? Right here at home, Orange County. Dogs and cats are a major part of life in the OC and pet lovers are not happy about the numbers killed in our shelters.
Even the OC Grand Jury got on board in 2008, releasing a 12 page report on spay and neuter laws. The report exposed Orange County’s animal overpopulation problem, pointing out that “animals brought to the County Shelter have less than a 50/50 chance of survival,” and that “the tragedy of euthanasia is the typical, not the occasional, situation.”
In response to our previous statewide spay and neuter bill, the Grand Jury concluded that “since all counties and most cities adopt their animal regulations from the California Codes, the proposed law would help ease Orange County’s animal overpopulation and reduce the operating cost of the County Animal Shelter.”
You would think that after such a comprehensive report OC elected officials would wake up and take a look at spay and neuter laws, right? Nope. The OC Board of Supervisors refuses to take a position. In fact, my OC Supervisor, Pat Bates won’t even take a call or a meeting on the issue.
OC’s so-called “fiscally responsible” state representatives in the Assembly and Senate won’t go near the legislation, even though tens of millions of dollars and countless pets will be saved statewide as shelter population would be reduced.
Why not? Personally, I think for OC Republicans it is easier to talk fiscal responsibility than to walk it. They say things like “the state has no business telling people what to do with their pets,” when California is already involved to the tune of $300 million dollars each year.
There’s one more piece to the puzzle: underground pet breeding. In California today, anyone selling more than two pets per year must obtain a seller’s permit and pay sales and income tax on the profits. And, most cities require breeders to get a business and kennel license. But as you might guess, virtually no backyard pet breeders follow these laws. There are thousands of underground breeders spread across California, cheating the state out of millions of tax dollars while producing excess animals that take homes away from pets awaiting adoption. Worse still, they dump their unsold “product” in our shelters.
In Sacramento, where SB 250 recently had a hearing, over 200 backyard breeders showed up to protest the bill. They feel that our law will bring scrutiny on their activities, and give animal control a tool to locate them and force them to comply with current law.
Underground breeders have even worked themselves up into a frenzy on blogs and chat rooms, convincing themselves in a bizarre echo chamber that spay and neuter laws don’t work and are actually meant to eliminate pets forever. Never mind that in the numerous jurisdictions with similar laws, including Santa Cruz and New York City, the only thing that has been eliminated is a large percentage of unnecessary euthanasia. There is a large body of proof that spay and neuter laws are effective by helping to prevent a large percentage of the homeless pets going from being put to death.
A statewide Zogby poll taken in 2008 found that “California voters are strongly in support of a law that would enforce the spaying and neutering of pets” and “voters are three times more likely to say they would vote for a legislator who supports a spaying and neutering bill than they would be to vote against him or her”.
The same poll found that 80 percent of the public are supportive of spay and neuter laws. “Even majorities of those groups that might be considered anti-regulation…say they are in support of such legislation.”
So why do the backyard pet breeders have the ear of our Republican representatives, instead of the good pet lovers supporting these laws? It may be that on issues they feel are controversial, the Republicans stick with the status quo because it’s easier.
There are glimmers of hope. Conservative Republicans in the Laguna Hills City Council have passed a resolution in support of SB 250, joining the bi-partisan army of cities and counties across California who has officially endorsed the bill.
So although I am not the first, let me add my voice to the large chorus of Orange County voters asking our State Legislators to step up to the plate and support life saving, money saving, spay and neuter laws like SB 250. This is not a partisan issue for OC citizens, and it should not be for our elected officials.
Editor’s note: SB 250 was recently defeated, but proponents are working to bring the bill back to the California State Assembly in January, 2010
Judie Mancuso is president of Social Compassion in Legislation based in Laguna Beach
For more information about SB 250 visit www.YESonSB250.com.