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URGENT: CA SB 250 Amended: Opposition Still Needed - Now!

(Tuesday, September 01, 2009)

Senator Florez has amended Senate Bill 250, but the changes do little to address AKC’s fundamental concerns with the bill. It is imperative that California responsible dog owners and breeders immediately contact their Assemblymembers and Senators and ask them to oppose SB 250!!!

As expected, the bill now provides that an intact dog with a current intact license will not be required to be sterilized on a first offense. However, two violations may occur years apart and not be a true reflection of a habitually irresponsible owner. If a dog gets loose one time as a 6-month old puppy and is then accidentally released by a gardener 5 years later, that does not signify a problem animal.

The bill continues to prohibit an owner whose intact license has been revoked from owning any intact dog. If you have one problem animal who escapes twice you would be banned from ever owning an intact dog again! This is completely unreasonable.

Although the new amendments attempt to provide exemptions for working dogs, hunting dogs, guide dogs, signal dogs, service dogs, peace officer dogs and firefighter dogs, the bill language is not sufficient to truly exempt those animals. First, it is unclear how an owner would prove that their dog qualifies in one of these categories. Secondly, since most city and county licensing laws require that dogs wear the license tags, many will be unable to comply while performing their specified duties.

As one example, the amendment for field trial dogs requires that the owner have a current hunting license. Many field trailers choose to compete but may not actually hunt. The bill also fails to exempt other dog events such as agility, rally and obedience. It is unclear whether being within a competition ring is enough to keep a dog from being declared at-large.

SB 250 also requires anyone who sells an intact dog-regardless of the dog’s age-to provide the licensing agency with the name and address of the new owner. It is not clear if the breeder is supposed to contact the licensing agency in their jurisdiction or the new owner’s jurisdiction. In Los Angeles County alone there are 51 incorporated cities (hence 52 licensing agencies, including the county) so it is unlikely that a breeder would sell a dog to an owner in the same jurisdiction. This is a burdensome requirement that will do nothing to improve the lives of dogs and cats in California.

This bill is currently on the Assembly floor and will likely be voted on in the next few days. If it passes the Assembly it will return to the Senate to enable the Senators to vote for or against the changes made in the Assembly. We would ask you to contact both your Assemblymember and Senator immediately!!

The American Kennel Club opposes Senate Bill 250 as it continues to use sterilization as a punishment for any violation of the animal control ordinance and for failure to license. Strict limit laws and unreasonably high license fees contribute significantly to people’s failure to license their animals and these issues should be examined in dealing with animal control issues in the state.

Finally, existing state law already requires that owners of intact animals pay a license fee that is at least double that of a sterilized animal (Food and Agriculture Code Section 30804.5); and provides for enhanced and graduated fines for owners whose intact dogs are impounded (Food and Agriculture Code Section 30804.7). These statutes are sufficient to incentivize owners to sterilize their animals and to address animal control concerns with specific intact animals who are impounded repeatedly.

This legislation will not improve the lives of cats and dogs, will negatively impact responsible owners and breeders. Additionally, by placing additional burdens on owners of intact animals, this measuremay lead to an increase of animals in shelters.Concentrating animal control efforts on dogs whose behavior demonstrates that they are a problem for the community, regardless of their reproductive status, would be a much better use of taxpayer funds.

There has been some confusion as to how this would affect folks traveling to California from other states. Although you would be subject to local animal control ordinances such as pick-up ordinances and to state laws such as animal cruelty laws, the provisions of SB 250 relate specifically to licensing and only California residents would be required to have their dogs licensed.

What You Can Do

  • Contact your Assemblymember and Senator and ask him/her to oppose SB 250. A sample letter for you to personalize is available here. To find out who represents you in the California State Legislature, please click here.