June 19, 2008

On the demise of a terrible bill

Thank you, thank you, thank you, State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, for driving a stake through the rotten heart of AB 1634, the so-called "Healthy Pets" Act. The name is dead and the bill is, too:
A completely revised AB1634, now co-authored by Senator Negrete McLeod, Chairman of the Local Government Committee, can be found here.

Under this version, there is no mandatory spay and neuter, except as a remedy for dogs about whom complaints, which cannot be barking dog complaints, have been made to animal control. Presumably this would include loose and roaming dogs but would be more inclusive. At the third complaint for dogs, the owner would be required to have the dog altered at his expense. Further the fines for complaints are increased. Many of us would agree that a dog that is constantly roaming the neighborhood is probably not owned by responsible dog owners.

At a minimum, Senator Negrete McLeod has removed the dangerous health effects of early spay and neuter.
The question has also been raised about whether the bill can be turned back into its former language. The answer to that is that with Negrete McLeod as a principal co-author that will not happen. [Source]
Contact information for the Local Government Committee can also be found at the CDOC site. More coverage: Pet Connection, Save Our Dogs, Capitol Weekly, and of course an announcement from Judy Mancuso.

AB 1634 may not have been the most pathologically dishonest campaign in the history of legislation, but it was certainly up there. Here is a link to posts I wrote about the bill.

Nathan Winograd, in an article opposing AB 1634, wrote:
Better to kill a bad bill, than to kill the dogs and cats its proponents are willing to sacrifice at the altar of punitive legislation, diverting scarce resources away from lifesaving programs, diverting attention from their own failures, and reaching the national limelight.
AB 1634 richly deserved its demise.

What follows is a post I wrote a year ago, an open letter of sorts to bill supporter Patt Morrison of the L.A. Times:

Patt, I've been a fan forever. You are a smart, brave, big-hearted woman, and I love you for looking out for lost and unloved dogs. But your take on AB 1634 was a huge disappointment.

Reporters are supposed to be demons for research and crusaders for truth, and that may be a joke for many but I never thought it would be a joke for you. You haven't read the bill, Patt. You don't know enough about dogs to understand why people like me oppose it, and you couldn't take the trouble to find out.

Pity, because if AB 1634 passes, the shelter situation is going to get a lot worse.

You rail about "all those backyard puppy mills churning out defective Dalmatians or border collies or whatever purse-sized dog happens to be hot. My vet took in an abandoned puppy-mill Chihuahua — Scooter, born without front legs because of overbreeding."

AB 1634 sanctions all that. Puppy mills get a free pass. Any chucklehead willing to jump through the hoops will be able breed his dog, and it doesn't have to be a temperamentally sound dog or even a particularly healthy one. (We know there won't be any hip dysplasia screening.) Inbreeding? No problem! And California pet stores will go right on selling misery puppies born by the hundreds of thousands in Midwest puppy mills.

This store just opened not far from me. Are you cool with that? AB 1634 is.

You wrote,
I'm one of those who cleans up your messes. Every dog I've rescued and found a home for is one you flicked aside like an empty Arrowhead bottle [...] I'm tired of cleaning up after you. California is tired too; its cities and counties have no room or money to keep all the homeless kittens and puppies, all the old dogs and cats you allow to overbreed or leave out on the street like an old refrigerator. And so they have to kill them.

Patt. This bill won't stop a single Californian from relinquishing a dog because "we're moving" or "he barks" or "I'm having a baby." And the mouth-breathing dropout who chains his poor pit bull bitch in the garage and breeds her on every heat is not an L.A. Times reader.

That dropout doesn't know AB 1634 exists. He doesn't license or vacccinate his dogs now, and he won't get them neutered if this bill passes. The dogs he produces --- pit bulls and pit bull mixes --- make up 80% or more of the dogs in some California shelters and the great majority of dogs euthanized in the state. Last year in L.A., 39% of the dogs euthanized were pit bulls or pit mixes. (Those rescue organizations you support? Not a pit bull in sight.)

Bay Area and OC rescues make regular runs to the Central Valley in search of non-pits for people to adopt back home. Some people like to say that 25% of the dogs in our shelters are purebreds, but what they don't say is that most of those purebreds are pit bulls.

Patt, I know all this because unlike the great majority of people wringing their hands over the plight of shelter animals, I have a pit bull. In fact, I have two --- both adopted from the local pound. I've supported pit bull rescue for twenty years.

AB 1634 won't make a single Californian adopt a pit bull. (Have you adopted one? Thousands of wonderful pit bulls need good homes.) AB 1634 will encourage -- no, it will mandate -- careless breeding. It will not make dogs healthier. It will not save the state a cent.

What AB1634 will do is sanction "just one litter;" force many law-abiding Californians to neuter their dogs before it is best for the animal; allow puppy mills and pet shops to flourish; and create such a burden of veterinary paperwork, criminal background checks, home inspections and record-keeping that our already overworked and underpaid ACOs will have no time left to play testicle police.

You write: "The objections to Levine's bill run from the selfish to the ridiculous."

Not if you've read the bill, Patt. Not if you've read the bill.


Dave C said...

I think the bill was a success in that it raised awareness of the issues around the animal control issues in CA. Plus, it prompted the Board of Equalization to remind all animal sellers to submit sale tax for the animals they sell. In fact, I think you would do a huge service to the pet community if you could spread this message far and wide.

Luisa said...

After all the time I spent researching and fact-checking and writing post after heartfelt post, along comes Dave to explain that my problem with AB 1634 was really... a sales tax thing. Apparently I am a puppy-miller. Also, I spread messages of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. [In two lenguajes, because I'm a thug, ese!]

Dave. I am not in the business, or hobby, of breeding. I share my home with three terrific dogs from the local pound. My dogs' health matters hugely to me. Truth matters hugely. Working dogs and shelter dogs matter hugely. Ergo, I hated AB 1634 with the burning fire of a thousand suns. Lloyd Levine and Judy Mancuso produced a clusterFUD of major proportions, and I am glad it went down in flames.

Are you serious about helping companion animals? If you are, you will run as fast and as far as you can from the AB 1634 chuckleheads. Then read this. And this. And this.

Rather than criminalize a dog’s sexual status, communities must call owners to account, and enforce leash and licensing laws, anti-cruelty laws, and anti-dog fighting laws; and offer a variety of services, including spaying and neutering, along with advice on proper pet care and training.

"Cooperation and compassion, not compulsion." What a concept! And it works.

Dave C said...

I made no such claims about you, Luisa. I've no doubt you're one of the good ones; if I didn't I wouldn't have bothered posting a comment to your blog. But I'm sure your blog--with its erudite observations--has readers far and wide, and I'm just hoping to get this important word out to your community of animal enthusiasts.

The people that the CA Board of Equalization are targeting are the irresponsible breeders out there who are ruining things for all of us. And while I'm sure there are great debates we could have on the merits of AB 1634, it seems a bit moot at this point. As you pointed out yourself, the bill is effectively dead.

So all I'm trying to do is move forward and educate the animal community on a topic of fiscal responsibility; one that I (and no doubt others) wasn't aware of until a month ago: underground breeders are depriving CA of $14 million of tax dollars.

Luisa said...

Dave, I admire your zeal, but most regular readers of this blog are dog owners that have never bred a litter in their lives.

Bad Rap can show you how to set up a Shots Fair and get involved in your local community, if you'd like to reach people who may be unfamiliar with the tax code and are overwhelmed with litters of the breed du jour.

Unknown said...

Luisa, you might want to review the new AB1634 again. As currently written, it now states that when someone complains about an intact dog or cat (3 times for dogs, 2 times for cats), they must be spayed or neutered - and the surgery is paid for by the animal's owner OR caretaker. Without any proof that the complaint is valid, or the chance to defend in court.

Think about the fun criminals are going to have! All they have to do is call in a (non-substantiated) complaint 3 times about a K9 officer and voila! Instant neutered police dog. Or drug sniffing dog. Or search-and-rescue dog.

This current bill now allows anyone who hates feral cat colonies to call in 2 complaints - and out of their own pocket, the feral colony caretaker will have to pay for spays/neuters instead of using city or county programs created to help, or drop the animals off at the local shelter. Hey, Grandma - we don't like you feeding the neighborhood cats.

Rescue groups? They'll be hit hard by this new version of the bill too. Are you fostering an intact dog with severe medical problems caused by abuse? Don't let your dog-hating neighbor find out. There is no 'pass' for medically fragile or old animals. No veterinary excuses accepted.

Don't forget petsitters! Owners and those caring for animals are both subject to this complaint system. If someone doesn't like the family watching your dog for the weekend - snip, snip!

Nope, the new AB1634 Snitch Bill isn't better than the old version - it's worse. Time to put this one to sleep for good.

Luisa said...

Not worse by any measure, IMHO. I agree with the analysis posted on the Concerned Dog Owners of California site:

Dog owners in opposition to AB1634 were vocal in their concern that it unfairly penalized "responsible dog owners" and Assemblyman Levine decried his inability to find the bad owners. This version attempts to remedy this. While it has flaws, which can hopefully be addressed in amendments, it provides a mechanism to keep dogs that wander repeatedly out of the breeding pool. Many dog owners are not familiar with the Vincent Bill, which is already law and which, in its original version, would have required sterilization of dogs on a three strike basis.

While all dog owners can conjure up a terrible scenario where a disgruntled neighbor or a careless gardener can put their animal at risk, few truly responsible dog owners leave this to chance.

CDOC would like to see 'complaint' changed to 'citation' to eliminate risk from frivolous complains and 'conviction' would be ever better as that allows people to take advantage of the due process available in local jurisdictions if they feel they are singled out unfairly. We would like to see a reference to due process in the bill language.

Visit this link for CDOC's complete analysis, with updates.