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Statewide Spay and Neuter Bill Introduced in California Legislature

(Monday, March 05, 2007)
California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine introduced the "California Healthy Pets Act" (AB 1634) on Friday, February 23rd. This proposed legislation will require that all cats and dogs over the age of four months must be spayed or neutered unless the owner acquires an intact animal permit. Failure to comply with the provisions of the bill carries a civil penalty of $500 for each animal for which a violation occurs. The text of the bill can be read here.

A stated goal of proponents for AB 1634 is to reduce the number of dogs and cats in California shelters. While this is a well intended and laudable goal, AB 1634 contains provisions that render the legislation untenable for purebred dog owners purportedly exempted from the mandatory spay and neuter requirements. The exemption allowing issuance of an intact animal permit requires that a cat or dog be registered as a purebred with a pedigree from the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, the American Dog Breeders Association, the International Cat Association, or a recognized registry approved by the local animal control agency.

Article 3. 122336.2. (c ) states "the amount of the fee for an intact permit shall be determined by the local jurisdiction, and shall be no more than what is reasonably necessary to fund the administration, enforcement and outreach efforts of that jurisdiction's intact permit program." Local jurisdictions are given free reign to set the amount of the intact animal permit with AB 1634 only requiring that the fee be "reasonably necessary." By not specifying a set fee for the intact permit, jurisdictions can include all salary and overhead costs related to animal control with the possible result that intact permit fees could easily be set at hundreds of dollars per exemption. If a jurisdiction sets an intact permit fee that is excessively high, punitive and unreasonable, rather than reasonable, the proposed law will provide no redress to local constituents for excessive fees other than costly litigation to seek relief from unwarranted intact animal permit costs.

Granting local jurisdictions the right to approve registries acceptable for the intact animal permit will be impossible to consistently enforce. Giving local jurisdictions the authority to designate which registries are acceptable will result in no consistency across local jurisdictions. There are more than 20 all breed registries in the US, not counting specialty registries and rare breed registries. This will result in a great variance of acceptable registries across local governmental entities. Failure to recognize some registries could subject municipalities to restraint of trade litigation. The bill does not exempt charitable organizations such as the Guide Dogs program that operate their own breeding programs without the benefit of registry utilization.

AB 1634 does not address the circumstance whereby local jurisdictions adopt stricter exemption requirements than those in the proposed legislation. Los Angeles (LA) County, CA, has a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance in place that limits exemptions for purebred dogs to "competition dogs", animals with titles from recognized registries, or dogs owned by individuals who are members of dog clubs with an enforceable code of ethics. LA County intact animal permit requirements are stricter than AB 1634 and the proposed legislation does not reconcile the issue as to whether such ordinances are allowable. This oversight negates the supposed leniency of AB 1634 in granting the option for an intact permit for any purebred dog registered with an acceptable registry.

As a recently introduced bill, AB 1634 has not been referred to a committee within the California Assembly. The AKC Canine Legislation Department will continue to monitor the consideration of AB 1634 and will notify the purebred dog community when the bill is assigned to a committee. Contact information for committee members will be provided and purebred dog owners should express their concerns with AB 1634 to committee members.

What You Can Do:

Please contact your State Assemblymember and State Senator and ask them to oppose AB 1634. To find out who represents you in the California State Legislature, please click here.