Monday, March 23, 2009

Proposed animal population law is a bad idea

Proposed animal population law is a bad idea

Editorial • March 4, 2009

A bill recently introduced by State Sen. Dean Florez, D-Bakersfield, would be bad law.

SB 250 would require mandatory spay and neutering of all animals unless the owner applied for and was granted a license to own an unaltered animal.

Don't have an animal and don't care? Well, you should because this law would hit you in the pocketbook if anyone decided to enforce it.

The state financial analyst estimated a similar bill that was defeated a year ago would cost millions, all of which would be borne at the local level. This law also would create more bureaucracy to review and decide on the licenses and would place a heavier burden on local shelters in terms of enforcement and housing animals who were surrendered when their owner could not pay the license fee or the spay/neuter fee.

The sad part about proposed laws such as this is they are not necessary. There are solutions that have worked in other places, and they could work in California.

One of those places is Canada's Calgary. The Calgary municipal shelter cut euthanasia rates from 50 percent to a handful of the 5,000 dogs picked up annually. It was done mostly by making spaying/neutering economically feasible, especially for poor people, and by educating people about pet ownership.

They started by focusing on dogs and are now focusing on cats.

The Calgary solution is one that should continue to be successful without heavy-handed enforcement.

It has succeeded in bringing together people who love mutts and people who love purebreds, and has reduced the problem with strays.

Animal control officers are viewed with respect and affection and referred to as Animal Courtesy Officers.

In contrast, bills such as the one introduced by Florez set up adversarial situations between pet owners and animal control. It is not clear how his unaltered animal licenses would be granted, or who would review applications and decide. The criteria could vary from city to city and between city and county.

It would require people to pay to have a pet altered without offering help. The only low-cost spay-neuter clinic in Tulare County charges from $30 to $50 to alter a cat and from $55 to $125 for a dog. Private vets can charge double or more those prices.

What would a family do if those prices were out of reach? Turn the dog over to a shelter for either adoption or euthanization, most likely.

That does not appear to be a good way to reduce the number of animals being euthanized in our shelters, nor does it respect the attachment the family may have to its pet.

Florez is off base with this one. Let's hope the other senators do not follow his lead.

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