Call now to stop costly pet-killing bill in California

September 8, 2009 at 10:38 pm Leave a comment

It’s looking likely that the California State Assembly will vote today on SB 250, a re-worked version of last year’s failed AB 1634, mandatory spay/neuter. This bill is bad for poor people, bad for their pets, and so loaded with punitive and downright regressive provisions that it’s hard to believe Democrats are falling in line to support it.

Why they do is no doubt because it sounds like it should make sense, and even address the reasons why straight-up mandatory spay/neuter went down in flames in 2008 — it looks, on the surface, as though it provides plenty of exemptions, and that almost anyone can get an unaltered pet license and keep it, as long as they don’t abuse or neglect their pets, or let them run loose all the time.

But in reality, SB 250 is mandatory spay/neuter with lipstick on. Its punitive provisions kick in on the basis of such  minor infractions that it’s likely there are only a handful of pet owners in the entire state who haven’t violated one of them from time to time — leash laws, scooper laws, and so on. And if you do violate these laws, not only will you have to sterilize a specific animal, but you can lose your right to have an unaltered pet license for any animal, ever. Permanently.

Making this burden even worse for the poor, and presumably in response to outcry over just how much this was going to cost the state to implement, there’s brand new language designed to pass on the expenses of enforcing it to the pet owners themselves — who will have to pay a hefty load of fines and fees to get their out of the clutches of the state at all, plus, of course, pay for the sterilization surgery.

Which might make sense if not having your pet altered were a phenomenon of the pets of the rich who just couldn’t be bothered, but it’s not. The pets of people who make moderate to high incomes are already sterilized at rates of around 90 percent, while the pets of the poor are sterilized only at around 60 percent. Of the unaltered 40 percent, around half their owners say they want to sterilize their animals but can’t afford it and/or access it.

And while there are spay/neuter assistance programs in many urban areas, the poorest parts of the state, and those hit hardest by the economic crisis, that’s not at all the case. (Central Valley, anyone?)

If you’re a California resident, please call your assemblyman now, and explain politely what’s wrong with this bill and ask for a NO vote on SB 250.


Approaches based on forced spay-neuter, whether as a blanket requirement or this bizarre “surgery as punishment” model,  don’t work. Never have, anywhere. Not even in Santa Cruz.  Everywhere it has been tried it has led to more dead pets and more tax-payer money spent. And yet, the misinformation continues, supported by  well-meaning people who thinking mandating spay-neuter seems like it would work, and yes, a few die-hard haters who refuse to acknowledge that there is a gulf three oceans wide between what reputable, ethical breeders do and what puppy-milling scum do.

The people pushing mandatory spay-neuter also refuse to acknowledge what I have come to understand, as a person who has bred one litter and rescued, fostered, rehabbed and rehomed dozens and dozens of animals in my life: That we are all trying to do what’s best for the animals we love.  Reputable breeders and rescuers alike (and mind you, they are often one in the same). That said, there are plenty of spittle-spewing haters on the extremes of both sides, people who seem to care more about winning than helping.

I have had my fill of them, both the “breeder is a breeder” hater and the black helicopter folks, too.   Frankly, you should all be locked in a room together and someone should lose the key.

While some are busy pushing hate on the other side, others are  trying to reduce killing for overpopulation by building on proven cooperative community-wide no-kill models. And we’re trying to get there by building on common ground. This is what works, not forcing the poor to give up their pets so animal control can kill more of them.

The idea of no-kill communities is catching on.  In just the last few months, these changes from people who know about what works and what doesn’t:

  • The ASPCA does NOT support mandatory spay-neuter.
  • The HSUS has NOT come out in support of the latest version of mandatory spay-neuter in California. (I don’t CARE what you’ve read elsewhere: The HSUS is NOT IN SUPPORT of SB 250.)
  • The AVMA does NOT support mandatory spay-neuter.
  • Advocates for feral cats and no-kill solutions do NOT support mandatory spay-neuter.

Most of these organizations supported mandatory spay-neuter wholeheartedly not long ago. What changed? They saw that it doesn’t work.

The California Department of Finance does NOT support SB 250, either. They’re arguing just on the case of expense, which the state cannot afford.

And yet, because it “seems like a good idea,” last year’s AB 1634 has been recast as this year’s SB 250, and made even worse, since now spaying and neutering is a punishment for all pets, at the whim of animal control officers.

Who will be punished most? The people who are struggling the hardest to keep their pets. Studies show that more than 90 percent of people who can afford it already spay-neuter, and that more than half of people who cannot afford or get to spay-neuter services would have this done if they could.

Instead, mandatory spay-neuter pushes them to give up their pets, to increase the shelter killing. Since people love animals, they’ll pick up another pet, wash, rinse, repeat.

Read Christie’s earlier post on why no Democrat should be voting for this punishment for the poor. And yet, most are. The GOP has given this a party-line thumbs down, mostly because of the cost to tax-payers, I’d guess.

Call now.…

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