California Senate Bill 250 Penalizes Owners of Intact Animals

California State Senator Dean Florez has introduced Senate Bill 250, a measure that purports to...

California State Senator Dean Florez has introduced Senate Bill 250, a measure that purports to reduce shelter populations, but would in reality make it easier to revoke licenses for intact dogs and cats in California. This legislation will not improve the lives of cats and dogs, will negatively impact responsible owners and breeders, and by placing additional burdens on owners of intact animals, may lead to an increase of animals in shelters.

SB 250 is unnecessary. Existing state law requires that the fee for licensing an intact animal be double that for a sterilized animal. In many cases these fees already exceed $100, making it cost prohibitive for responsible owners to license their animals. If lawmakers wish to increase compliance with local licensing laws, fees need to be reasonable, especially during challenging economic times. State law already provides for enhanced and graduated fines for owners whose intact dogs are impounded. Local governments already have the authority and tools to effectively address problems with owners whose animals are repeatedly at large.

Several of the provisions in Senate Bill 250 are unreasonable. For example, Section 1 (g) requires anyone who sells an intact animal to post the animal’s license number. However, most jurisdictions do not require or provide for licensing an animal under the age of four months and most puppies and kittens are sold before they reach that age.

Further, Section (c) (2) can force owners to sterilize their pets on the basis of two complaints "verified by the department" that a dog has run at large. It is unclear what that language actually compels a department to do to verify the complaint. Any threshold should be based solely on impoundments or issued citations.

Section (c) (3) allows an intact dog license to be revoked for any violation of state or local laws relating to the care and control of animals. Section (i) (1) includes another laundry list of violations for which a dog must be sterilized. Under Section (j) it is unclear whether owners who have a current intact license would be forced to spay/neuter their pet after a single impoundment.

With the confusion of overlapping jurisdictions and a high number of people being forced to move due to foreclosures, it is easy to see how an owner could overlook pet licensure. Instead of encouraging these people to come in to compliance, SB 250 penalizes them by requiring sterilization, even for a single offense. In addition, many jurisdictions within California already have extreme laws limiting the number of animals that residents may own, and as a result, some owners are unable to license all their animals for fear of being forced to choose between beloved pets or having to place their pets in shelters.

Finally, the term "custodian" is used in the bill, but is not defined in the legislation or within the existing Food and Agriculture Code. This term is simply another word for "guardian." The American Kennel Club supports the use of the term "owner" rather than "guardian" when referring to the keeping of dogs.  The AKC believes that the term guardian may in fact reduce the legal status and value of dogs as property and thereby restrict the rights of owners, veterinarians, and government agencies to protect and care for dogs.  It may also subject them to frivolous and expensive litigation. The term guardian does nothing to promote more responsible treatment of dogs.  We strongly support efforts to educate the public about responsible dog ownership to ensure that all dogs receive the care, love and attention they deserve.

The American Kennel Club strongly supports and promotes responsible pet ownership. However, SB 250 unreasonably punishes owners who choose to maintain intact animals and does not address the fundamental reasons that animals are surrendered, or assist those pet owners who are losing their homes and jobs. This measure will only increase the burdens on animal control departments in California.

What You Can Do:

  • Please contact your State Senator and ask him or her to oppose SB 250. To find out who represents you in the State Senate, please click here.