June 24, 2007

Maddie's Fund press release re: AB 1634

Maddie's Fund
is an extraordinary foundation established by PeopleSoft and Workday Founder Dave Duffield and his wife, Cheryl, in 1999 "to revolutionize the status and wellbeing of companion animals." Through Maddie's Fund --- named for their beloved Miniature Schnauzer --- the Duffields have spent $54 million to save dog and cat lives. You can read about some of the Fund's most recent accomplishments in the annual report, posted here.

An Itchmo forums reader posted the following on June 19th:


Release Date: 15 June 2007

Maddie’s Fund President, Richard Avanzino, has confirmed today that if CA AB 1634 passes into law, no community in the state will be able to benefit from Maddie’s Fund grants.

The California-based Maddie’s Fund, founded by People Soft guru David Duffield and guided by Richard Avanzino, the visionary former president of the San Francisco SPCA, awards millions of dollars through multi-year grants to animal welfare coalitions to end killing of healthy and treatable shelter animals at no cost to taxpayers. Since its founding in 1999, the Fund has gifted over 54 million dollars to humane organizations in 22 states, including an estimated 19 million dollars to California-based charities, educational institutions and animal shelters. Thousands of lives have been saved thanks to Maddie’s Fund grants.

Avanzino clearly addresses the Maddie’s Fund policy on funding government mandates in his statement, “Maddie’s Fund does NOT provide funding for government programs, including state and local animal care and control mandates. This policy applies to mandatory spay/neuter laws, as well as to other requirements imposed by federal, state, and local legislation.” As a government mandated spay/neuter law, CA AB1634 will effectively deny California communities Maddie’s Fund grants.

California’s pets have benefited tremendously from Maddie’s Fund community grants.

* Over 7.9 million dollars in funds to the CVMA Feral Cat Altering Program since 2001. This program subsidized the altering of over 100,000 cats who might otherwise have been destroyed.

* Almost 500 thousand dollars to a collaborative project in Lodi which lowered euthanasia rates over 46% in two years.

* Supplied almost 1 million dollars to found the UC Davis shelter Medicine Program, the first such program in the nation for training veterinarians in the complexities of animal shelter medicine.

These innovative programs are just a few examples of Maddie’s Fund grants in California. The loss of future funds to finance such wonderful and effective programs will be a serious blow indeed.

For months, opponents of Assembly Bill 1634 have been crying out that the unintended consequences of passage of such an overreaching law could be disastrous for animals in the state. The loss of Maddie’s Fund to California will be catastrophic.

To learn more about Maddie’s Fund, their mission, and the programs they have funded, please visit their website at http://www.maddiesfund.org/.

I can't speak to the accuracy of everything in the Itchmo crosspost, but the basic message --- that the passage of AB 1634 will mean the loss of millions of dollars in Maddie's Fund grants --- does appear to be true.

A news release on the Maddie site states:
Maddie's Fund® Response to Internet

A release circulating on the internet states that if AB 1634 becomes law, no California community will be able to benefit from Maddie's Fund grants. If AB 1634 does pass, it could impact Maddie's® support of spay/neuter programs in California. Since our inception, Maddie's Fund has had a policy of not funding government mandated programs. As stated on our website, "This policy applies to mandatory spay/neuter laws, as well as to other requirements imposed by federal, state and local legislation."

Maddie's Fund® does not provide funding for government programs, including state and local animal care and control mandates. This policy applies to mandatory spay/neuter laws, as well as to other requirements imposed by federal, state and local legislation. Reasons for this policy include:

* Maddie’s Fund is committed to supporting volunteerism and encouraging local philanthropy on behalf of animals.

* Maddie’s Fund believes in local solutions for local problems and supports the right of every community to determine its own path.

* Maddie’s Fund feels strongly that accountability is essential to saving more animal lives.

You can read the rest of this excellent policy statement here, and please visit the Maddie's Fund website to learn more about projects and programs that save the lives of shelter animals.

Howling mad over AB 1634

The Legislature is barking up the wrong tree by suggesting that California dogs and cats be spayed and neutered, hundreds of impassioned pet owners told State Sen. Joe Simitian in Palo Alto on Saturday.

Some 300 distraught pet owners packed Palo Alto City Hall, where they gave the Democrat from Palo Alto an earful for more than five hours. They were howling mad about the legislation and wanted Simitian -- who, perhaps wisely, has not said whether he supports the bill -- to know it.

"This is a medical decision that should be made between a veterinarian and a client, not a political decision," said veterinarian Miles Rogers of Campbell.

Amen. Read the entire SF Gate article here.

I'm a Democrat --- a liberal, politically active Democrat --- and a latina, yay me, and I'm delighted that a growing number of Dems are voting against AB 1634. "It will save Californians $250 million a year"? Please. The A. C. budget in Santa Cruz has gone up. It will "reduce the death rate of adoptable dogs and cats"? Be real: neutering Borzois and West Highland White Terriers won't reduce the number of homeless cats and unwanted pit bulls that make up the majority of animals in our shelters.

And no, the big issue isn't really about "muzzl[ing] the highly refined world of dog breeding." Every knowledgeable dog person I know is opposed to AB 1634. My traditional vet, my holistic vet, the local ACOs: they all oppose it, and not one of them breeds dogs or cats. They oppose the bill because it won't help homeless cats and unwanted dogs, and because mandating a major, potentially life-threatening surgical procedure on companion animals is a horrific government intrusion into the lives of law-abiding citizens. Don't compare AB 1634 to motorcycle-helmet and seat-belt laws: no one faces greater risk of osteosarcoma or prostate cancer from wearing a seat belt. My aunt lost her favorite dog, her heart dog, due to complications during spay surgery. Putting on a motorcycle helmet doesn't begin to involve the same risks.

From the Border Collie Boards:

"The following State Senators have Constituents Surveys on their web sites regarding AB1634. Select "AB 1634 2008 California Healthy Pets Act" from the menu. Be sure to click the Oppose button. The link to the survey page is listed just below the name. Each Senator's district is listed below the links. [Note: to find your state senator, CLICK HERE.] If you're a constituent in one of these districts, please fill out your survey ASAP and call to express your opposition. If you're not a constituent, CALL all these Senators and express your opposition now.

"I called Senator Patricia Wiggins' office this afternoon to inquire about her position on AB1634. The staff said the Senator has no position yet, and asked if I was calling to support or oppose the legislation. She then asked what city I was calling from, my name and my position re AB1634. It didn't seem to matter that I was not a constituent. So, everybody - start calling all these Senators."

State Senator Sam Aanestad (Rep) Tel: 916-651-4004 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD04

State Senator Dave Cogdill (Rep) Tel: 916-651-4014 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD14

State Senator Dave Cox (Rep) Tel: 916-651-400 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD01

State Senator Jeff Denham (Rep) Tel: 916-651-4012 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD12

State Senator Christine Kehoe (Dem) Tel: 916-651-4039 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD39

State Senator Abel Maldonado (Rep) Tel: 916-651-4015 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD15

State Senator Bob Margett (Rep) Tel: 916-651-4029 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD29

State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod (Dem) Tel: 916-651-4032 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD32

State Senator Jenny Oropeza (Dem) Tel: 916-651-4028 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD28

State Senator Don Perata (Dem) Tel: 916-651-4009 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD09

State Senator Patricia Wiggins (Dem) Tel: 916-651-4002 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD02

State Senator Mark Wyland (Rep) Tel: 916-651-4038 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD38

State Senator Leland Yee, Ph.D. (Dem) Tel: 916-651-4008 http://legplcms01.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.aspx?district=SD08

June 23, 2007

Drawing blood

See that little dog in the photo? I'm crazy about her. (The snapshot was taken at an AHBA trial in Jamul last November. You can click on the photo for a larger view.)

Let me count the reasons I love the landshark:
  • She's bold on stock.
  • She is resilient as steel.
  • She's mad keen.
  • She's fast as a whippet, and fast collies rock.
  • She listens to me.
  • Her walk-up is straight as a die.
  • She watches sheep when they're 200 yards away.
  • She has a full-mouthed, cowdog grip.
  • She is patient and gentle with new lambs.
  • She can lock eyes with a dog-pounding wether, and will him to retreat.
She's an assertive, happy little animal, and she has a personality larger by several orders of magnitude than most dogs I've met. "So you don't think she's a whippet/Jack Russell cross?" I asked Jack Knox after he worked her, and Jack said, "Oh, no -- she's got some breeding."

Heartbreaking, a bit, that I'll never know more about her pedigree than what Jack said: "She's got some breeding."

No one expects to find a genuinely useful stockdog in a pound or shelter or rescue, but I knew the first time I saw this little dog that she would work. She was a terrified stray with a badly broken foot --- she'd been hit by a car --- but I knew she'd work livestock, and I knew that she'd be my girl forever. I just knew. Did I mention that I love her tons?

Over the past couple months my little dog has held sheep for the shearer, for shots, for drenching, and for more shots. Last week a vet and I were drawing blood for CL testing, and my girl had to walk straight in and press sheep against us, then release the pressure a bit and keep things calm and still while the needles were in play. My Cheviots have stared dogs out of the pasture, and a few of the ewes will try to hammer my other border collies, but they don't challenge this one. It was mostly close work, and my girl was was a peach. (All the blood samples were negative for CL, according to the Davis lab. I tested my ewes because a Boer goat on the property, part of a student 4-H herd, had tested positive for the disease.)

I was especially happy that my little dog moved sheep with such confidence around a couple busy strangers, and that she was willing to let the vet pat her while she sat in the water trough after we were done. Not bad for a stray that used to be terrified of people. I hope she'll do an 800 yard outrun on a USBCHA Open course someday --- but she's my good right hand on the farm now, and I'm feeling the love ;~)

(No, the blue neoprene thingy on the landshark's collar isn't an anti-bark shock device. [People have asked.] And the slip collar wasn't for training, but to prevent her from bolting in a blind panic if she got spooked. As I said, she used to be terrified of people. My dogs usually don't wear collars in the house or at work on the farm.)

June 11, 2007

How to create a working stockdog

The border collie above is Norma Brice's Jill. [Photograph by Denise Wall - used with permission.] You can click on the photo for a larger view.

From the Science Section of today's NY Times --- Dog Breeders Apply Precision to an Old Art:

Many breeders hope this new effort to corral nature will weed out the numerous recessive diseases that plague purebred dogs after generations of human-imposed inbreeding. But some question the wisdom of escalating intervention. Mark Derr, an author who has written about the history of dog breeding, urges everyone to reconsider the goal of genetic purity.

“I always use dogs as the example of why we don’t want to be mucking around with our own genome,” Mr. Derr said. “These people are trying to use DNA tests to solve problems of their own making.”

Still, some proponents of using the DNA palette are proposing to go even further. Dr. Neff, the University of California researcher, has proposed screening successive generations of dogs with DNA tests and breeding only those with genes for traits like stamina and scent detection to create a new breed of dogs to patrol subways and airports. It could be done within a few years, he said, instead of the centuries it took shepherds to breed the sheepdogs that patrol their flocks.

If Dr. Neff imagines that DNA testing might have reduced the development of the working sheepdog from several centuries to a few generations, I'm afraid I have bad news for him. "Herding" isn't a single behavior, or three, or four, or two dozen.

It isn't a crouch: many of the finest stockdogs are upright workers. It isn't the famous border collie "eye": some of the best working dogs are "loose-eyed." "Herding" isn't simply truncated prey drive: one of the most popular working sires two [dog] generations ago was a lamb-killer, and if he were still alive, I'd breed the right bitch to him in a heartbeat. It isn't pure speed, though some collies seem as fast as greyhounds. "Herding" isn't trainability: golden retrievers have that, and no one sends goldens half a mile for range ewes or expects them to manage cow/calf pairs. "Herding" isn't a willingness to grip, or the lack of a grip. It isn't an excess of drive: pit bulls and Iditarod sled dogs are as keen to do their work as border collies, but who would send a racing sled dog for sheep?

"Herding" has nothing to do with coat length --- but it may have something to do with coat color. It may be related to genes that produce lax hip joints in puppies. "Herding" may be linked to the recently discovered gene for CEA [Collie Eye Anomaly], a disease which can result in blindness. It may be related somehow to the genes responsible for noise sensitivity and a terror of thunderstorms.

"Herding," in other words, is an extraordinarily complex mix of genes regulating a large number of traits, some of which appear at first glance to have nothing to do with working stock at all.

But what might happen to the border collie's working ability if a DNA test allowed breeders to eliminate dogs with sensitivity to loud noises? What working traits might change or disappear?

From a 1994 article on the genetics of border collie behavior:
Imagine, if that simple quiet crouch behind the sheep depends on four separate genes, what must be involved in the entire collection of herding behavior: eye, balance, power, biddability, etc. And what must the chances be of accidentally combining the right factors to remake a herding dog, if those combinations are ever lost?

The complexity of the genetics of behavior is probably not a surprise, but it is the basis of the entire argument that the performance dog must be bred for performance at every generation. The more genes are involved, the more different combinations are possible, the more easily they become separated and lost.

Sheepdog breeding is as much of an art these days as ever. Want a great border collie? Talk to the men and women who've worked generations of their good dogs on stock. Be familiar with the science, but put your trust in the Scots shepherd and the North Dakota rancher.

June 10, 2007

Do you know where your dogs are?

I love sheep.

My first border collie showed promise as a stockdog, and I got my first sheep for her. We needed practice for sheepdog trials, and the better she got, the more important it seemed to have our own stock close at hand. My first sheep were culls --- three wicked range ewes, Suffolk crosses, one of them half-blind --- and they were free, a gift from a commercial sheepman who was also kind enough to give help and valuable advice to a novice shepherd. That was twenty years ago. I've been keeping sheep on a twenty-acre farm on the edge of town ever since.

I never planned to fall in love with sheep, but shepherding gets under your skin. These days I'd keep sheep even if (God forbid) I had no dogs to help me tend them, and I hope to have sheep for the rest of my life. My favorites of all the ones I've kept or worked are Cheviots. (Those are Cheviots in the photo above.) My Cheviots are very canny --- they can bolt like gazelles in every direction if the mood strikes, or stand and stare a weak dog out of the pasture. They are bold, smart, independent sheep, and beautiful.

Back in the day, the groves around the farm were a favorite dumping-ground for dogs whose owners were too stupid or too cowardly to take their unwanted animals to the local shelter. (My first pit bull, my heart dog, was one of a litter of pups dumped in the orange grove across the street from the farm.) Sometimes these hungry, abandonded dogs would pack up and run out of the groves and into the pastures while the sheep were grazing, causing a fierce amount of shouting and rock-throwing on my part: the threat of a dog attack can turn the mildest-mannered flock guardian into a mother grizzly.

Stray dogs are always a worry at the farm, but the dogs that cause the most trouble are the ones that belong to neighbors and visitors.

There was a black chow that belonged to a grove-owning family nearby: he was always loose because family members left the gate at the foot of their drive open. Animal Control invited me along one day when the dog was being returned to his family for, like, the million thousandth time, and the owner told us, "Our other dog was killed by a car --- we thought that would teach this one [the chow] not to leave the property." The ACO was a patient man with years of experience dealing with the public, and the family did keep the gate closed after that visit.

The owner of a big Akita knew someone who worked at the farm, and whenever he came to visit he would bring his dog along and turn it loose.

"I can call him back anytime," he'd say.

Except he couldn't.

He would shout and shout and the dog would ignore him and keep right on chasing ground squirrels or barn cats until finally, when there was nothing better to do, he would turn and amble back to his beet-faced owner. My sheep are kept in a secure pen when I'm not at the farm, but I hated to think that someday I'd have them out grazing in the pasture and the Akita would show up. "Don't worry --- he's perfectly friendly," the owner used to say.

No, you idiot. That has nothing to do with it.

The friendliest dog, the best family dog, the most perfect dog you've ever known, would love nothing better than to chase and kill livestock. Any normal, healthy dog with a shred of prey drive will chase sheep --- and kill them, if he can. This doesn't mean that the kids are next, or that once he's tasted blood he'll always want more, or that he's "turned into Charles Manson" [as a Vogue magazine essayist wrote of the family's golden retriever after it was allowed to run loose in the country and killed half a dozen sheep]. All it means is that he's a normal, healthy dog. Dogs are predators. They chase livestock. Or will, if their owners are irresponsible nitwits.

And unless he's a trained stockdog, I don't care how perfectly behaved he is, how many "herding titles" he's won or how gently he plays with the family cat: please keep your dog leashed when he's at the farm. I love my sheep --- and if I have to hit someone's loose dog over the head with a board to save them from harm, I'll swing for the bleachers. And then I'll go after the owner.

The second dog attack in as many days decimated a flock of sheep in a pasture in Wiscasset on Monday, said police and game wardens.

West Alna Road residents found carcasses scattered throughout the neighborhood after the attack, which killed 14 sheep in the same pasture where more than a dozen sheep died the night before.

"Somebody has to know whose dog it is," said Lee Straw, 52, of Newcastle, a farmer who owns hundreds of sheep.

Police and game wardens spent much of Monday searching for clues to help find the dogs that are suspected of killing 29 sheep since Saturday night.
My heart goes out to the shepherd.

The measure of a life, in dog days

Terrific essay by novelist Arthur Phillips in today's NY Times:

My little guy is growing up fast. He’s toilet-trained, he goes uncomplainingly to sleep and he no longer chews on his playmates’ faces until they bleed. He is 8 months old, and I know, years from now, that I will always remember this summer as the time he and I fell in love.

Between this summer and next, this latest beagle — the third of my adult life — will age from zero to 1 (or zero to 7), on a fast track to reduce me to mourning sometime in my early 50s.

Read the rest here. And Happy Birthday to Piper, in the photo above, who turned thirteen this weekend.

June 7, 2007

The moral "majority" -- and the other 86%

Columnist Dan Bernstein in the Riverside Press-Enterprise has a great take on AB 1634.
RivCo's Animal Services estimates there are more than 422K dogs in the county. The number of dogs licensed as required by law: 59,854 or about 14 percent. This is worse than voter turnout -- even though most dogs are several links above politicians on the old food chain [...]

Which brings us to the other 86 percent. Are people who can't be bothered to buy a three-year dog license ($19 for "altered" pets and $150 for "unaltereds" in RivCo) going to obey a law to sterilize their pets? In a word: Are you crazy?

Read the whole thing here.

"If owners of mixed breeds are entitled to permits, then the legislation is useless"

How our words come back to haunt us ;~)

The title quote comes from the blooper-based "white paper" published on the AB 1634 official site during the last weekend in May (and hastily removed). Read about it here.

"If owners of mixed breeds are entitled to permits, then the legislation is useless."

From today's SF Gate article: "Levine said on the Assembly floor that he planned to amend the bill to allow families with a mutt who want to allow their pet to reproduce to get an exemption allowing for one litter." One litter each year, according to the Associated Press.

It's unanimous! AB 1634 is a supremely useless piece of legislation.


Sabre is a twelve year old border collie --- his birthday was back in February. He belongs to my trainer, Anna, who says he's as keen to work as ever, though he doesn't hear as well as he used to. [Neither do I, for that matter. As a friend says whenever she buys a new horse, "God knows I'd never vet."] These shots were taken at Anna's place in San Diego County. (You can click on the top photo for a larger view.)

And after moving some stock, nothing feels better than a hop in a cool trough.

It's great to see a twelve year old in such fine shape. Thanks to Anna for sharing these photos of her good ol' boy.

June 6, 2007


Far be it from me to contradict Rhonda Evans, "a professor of criminal justice at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, who has written extensively on dog fighting," but I'm gonna, and on no more basis than having spent the better part of two decades lurking extensively on the [virtual] edge of the "square."

In a New York Times Select article on the relationship between pro athletes and pit bulls, Professor Evans states, "[Pit bulls] fight to the death. None of them would turn away from the fight unless the owner calls it. Turning away is considered the response of a cur, a coward. The definition of stopping is a cur. They fight until the owner calls the fight or they die.”

Fighting pit bulls actually "cur out" all the time, to the anger/despair/embarrassment of their owners.

It isn't easy to breed an animal whose drives completely override his instincts for self-preservation: Iditarod dogs are bred to love running, for example, but most aren't eager to leave checkpoints after pulling a sled seven or eight hundred miles in under a week. And many a keen stockdog, bred to withstand thirst, sore pads, tempermental cows and long, hot days, will head for the water trough rather than work to the point of heat stroke.

Fighting pit bulls are bred to be dog-aggressive, just as authentic border collies are bred to be the keenest stockdogs imaginable. But the pit bull's capacity for gameness, or the will to keep fighting to the last breath, can be lost, just as a well-bred stockdog pup's working drive can be damaged by poor handling.

Dogfighters debate gameness much as stockdog people argue about "mechanical" workers. Which dog is "mechanical"? Which dog is game? Experienced dogmen say the only proven game dog is a dead-game dog: one that dies fighting in the pit. The reason? Any gamebred dog rolled too hard at too young an age or matched too often, or matched with too little down-time between fights, will learn to associate a match --- no matter the outcome --- with a dreadful world of hurt. Dogfighters say the gamest dog on earth will quit eventually, if fought often enough.

The trick, for those who are serious about this pastime [warning: graphic photos], is to bring a promising dog along carefully, allowing him to win as a youngster (against other pit bulls rather than "cur" breeds, since a dog won't hone any skills fighting a cur); give him sufficient recovery time after his first serious test; and plan his subsequent matches with care. A rigorous conditioning program is a given. Steroids are common.

And in spite of it all, many pit bulls will still "cur out." Pit bull rescue BAD RAP states, "Many APBTs that show up with scars in local shelters are assumed to 'have been fought' and are given an automatic death sentence. In many cases, this may be an unfair judgment call." BAD RAP points out that a dog with fight scars may have been doing everything in its power to get away.

I have a weakness for gamebred/gamebred-type pit bulls: they're a perfect size [under forty or even thirty lb is common] and they tend to have wonderful, human-friendly temperaments --- typical pit bull temperaments.

Which brings me to my good girl in the photo up above. There is a reason pit bull defenders are so ardent: in a lifetime spent with terrific dogs, I thought I knew what a great, friendly, bomb-proof temperament was. But honestly? Until I met that mud puddle-loving creature in the photo, I didn't have a clue.

She adores people, and is completely and utterly useless as a watchdog. She has never barked at a stranger. People with dachshunds and beagles have offered to trade me their own dogs for her. (In fun perhaps, but still.) She carries some scars, but isn't a bit dog-aggressive. She's glorious with puppies and a supremely diplomatic playmate to everything else. If she's nipped in play [by a witchy border collie, say --- not that I know any such creatures], she'll cry and retreat.

Gamebred? Who knows?

Perfect? Absolutely.

It breaks my heart that bad breeding, cross-breeding and breeding for human-aggression over the past few decades have damaged the temperament (in some cases) and the reputation of what was once a famously people-friendly family dog. But shelters and rescues around the country are still filled with many wonderful pit bulls: my good girl is from the local pound.

Want a great family dog? Go to a good rescue like BAD RAP and adopt a pit bull. I've spent many years with the breed, and the experience has convinced me that if you are a responsible individual, and if you enjoy investing time in a dog that is more than two degrees north of stuffed, you can't do better than a pit bull. The good ones (and there are countless good ones) have huge, happy, rock-stable personalities. They're not complicated in the way that, oh, let's say, a border collie is complex ;~) Not for nothing was Petey the Little Rascals' best pal.


Thanks to Gina at Pet Connection for posting part of the NY Times article [along with a photo of a very non-gamebred looking pit bull], and for keeping us updated all day on the AB 1634 vote. Serious about helping shelter animals? Adopt a pit bull. You may as well get used to my saying this, because you're going to hear it a lot. Adopt a pit bull. Adopt a pit bull.

June 5, 2007

Former CVMA President opposes AB 1634

And has he ever written a great letter.


Even if it was possible to "turn off the faucet," as Assemblyman Levine likes to say, there would be little reduction in the cost of shelter operation. As hospital owners know, most costs are fixed (facilities, administration, trucks, equipment, etc.) The shelter can’t even reduce staff as we can in private business. Unfortunately, a reduction in the numbers of animals entering the shelter will only effect a small reduction in the overall cost to the taxpayer. This is demonstrated by the steady increase in animal control budgets over the last two decades despite the number of animals entering the shelters and the number of animals euthanized decreasing significantly.

The method of accounting, linking the overall cost of animal control to the number of animals euthanized, exploited by the sponsors of this bill is very misleading. Using this method, the cost of each euthanasia goes up as the number of euthanized animals goes down. The use of this tactic is dishonest, disingenuous or, at best, misinformed.

"Dishonest, disingenuous, or, at best, misinformed": that's as accurate and concise a description of the authors and supporters of this bill as you'll find anywhere.

Read Dr. Hamil's entire letter, reprinted with his permission, over at the Pet Connection Blog.

June 3, 2007

In-depth analysis of a bad bill

(The dog is a Huntaway ---a great variety of stockdog from New Zealand. AB 1634 threatens their existence in California. This one is Smoke, from Kiwi Kennels in Redding.)

AB 1634: more spin from the "No-Birth" crew

Check out the "Talking Points" on the AB 1634 official site [which is not a government web page, despite the state seal].

(Continuing a pattern of slip-ups, "Talking Point" #1 was changed overnight --- the original claims regarding which puppy-sellers are required to have a seller's permit, keep tax records and so forth were deleted.)

New Claim #1: AB 1634 will not result in a shortage of pets.

The truth: The bill's authors and supporters want more than a no-kill nation --- they want a "no-birth" nation. Our state's shelters aren't filled with homeless Borzois, Spanish mastiffs, Gordon setters, Welsh terriers, salukis, Belgian tervuren, foxhounds, kelpies and working border collies, but never mind: as the bill's campaign director states in a video on the bill's home page, "If you have an intact animal, you're part of the problem."

The bill does give puppy mills and pet shops a free pass, though, so there'll be no shortage of badly-bred misery puppies.

Claim #3: AB 1634 has no relationship to animal extremists.

The truth: Not as visible a relationship, let's say, now that the link to PETA Board Member Billl Maher's video has been removed from the bill's official home page. And PETA's name has been removed from the official site's list of supporters.

Also from Claim #3: "AB 1634 was originated by local animal control directors across the state, who realize that the ethical and fiscal burden caused by the overpopulation crisis needs a state-wide solution."

The truth: which part of the official site are we supposed to believe? AB 1634's home page provides a link to an OC Register story, The Woman Behind the Bill:

As the [Katrina] rescue effort wound down, Los Angeles Animal Services General Manager Ed Boks held a press conference [...] [AB 1634 campaign director Judie] Mancuso knew Boks had a "no-kill" philosophy [...] Here was her chance. She showed up at the press conference, introduced herself to Boks and asked if he would do a spay-and-neuter bill with her. Over the next year, the two birthed the California Healthy Pets Act.

Claim #4: This is not a "local government" issue.

"The bill was actually originated by local government entities who realize that a state-wide solution is the only way to combat this problem."

The truth: see the OC Register excerpt above. AB 1634 will create a patchwork nightmare of differing laws, with each element contingent upon the approval of the "local jurisdiction or its authorized local animal control agency." "State-wide solution"? Please.

Claim #5: Pets are routinely safely and successfully altered at 4 months of age. Vets can delay the procedure if they feel it is in the animal’s best interest.

The truth: AB 1634 makes waivers contingent on illness or age. "Safely altered"? Sure, it might be "safely" done, but how does it affect your pet? Try this: go to PubMed and type neutered + cancer in the search box. The first result you should see is this: A population study of neutering status as a risk factor for canine prostate cancer. I'm not a vet --- but the authors of this May 2007 study are. For a summary of other articles relating to spay/neuter, read this. When --- or whether --- to spay or neuter a pet is a decision best left to responsible owners and their veterinarians, not politicians.

I'll give the last word to Christie Keith:

The answer [to the problem of homeless cats and dogs] is not some bitterly divisive, hard to enforce, punitive legislation that doesn’t solve the problem in the first place and tramples on people’s dreams, goals, and relationship with their animals. The day I let a politician or animal control officer force me to perform a medical procedure on my dog or cat against my will be a cold day in hell. All my current pets are altered so it’s all hypothetical, but I would never, ever comply with this legislation. I find it profoundly offensive, and if you can find someone who loves animals more than I do, I have no idea who it is. [Boldface added.]

June 1, 2007

AB 1634 to stockdogs: "Drop dead."

Sheepdog Trial at Zamora

The latest revision [5/31] of California Assembly Bill 1634 is up: you can find it here. It's worse than ever.

Better writers have already discussed the many reasons this bill will harm, rather than help, the state's law dogs, service dogs, show dogs, companion dogs --- and shelter dogs.

So let me speak up on behalf of the finest working dogs in the state: dogs with more brains, drive and talent than any dog you can imagine. Someone needs to speak up, because AB 1634, if enforced as written, will mean the extinction of stockdogs and livestock guardian dogs in California.

Here's why:

Some of the best working stockdogs and livestock guardian dogs are not registered. Registration is required for an "intact permit."

Some of the best working stockdogs do not compete in sheepdog trials. Competition is required for an "intact permit."

The most important sanctioning body for cattledog and sheepdog trials in North America does not grant “herding titles.” Titles are required for an "intact permit."

As the Directors of the American Border Collie Association have written, “If AB 1634 is enacted, the amazing sheepdogs and cattledogs of California will have been legislated out of existence, at enormous cost to the livestock producers and livestock industry of the state.”

California has more sheep than most other states combined, and cattle ranchers contribute over a billion dollars to the state's economy each year. One rancher in Northern California wrote last month, "We could not get the work done without [our border collies]. We have a line that we have been breeding for many years and if this bill passes we will no longer be able to continue this line. They are registered but my husband's ranch dogs do not compete as he and they are too busy working."

I'm sure PETA Board Member Bill Maher --- who promotes AB 1634 in a video on the official website --- would enjoy mocking my friend's dogs and her family's livelihood.

But I know how special, and how important, her dogs are. And for the life of me I can't figure out how the eradication of those dogs --- and all the other great stockdogs and LGDs in the state --- is supposed to reduce the number of homeless animals in California shelters.

AB 1634 is a terrible bill. If you live in California and happen to read this post early enough on June 1st, call your assembly member, your senator, the governor. Ask them to oppose this badly-written, divisive, unworkable piece of legislation.