May Chairman's Report
Since February we have been waging a legislative battle against California Assembly Bill 1634 which would require mandatory spaying/neutering for all dogs over 4 months of age unless the owner qualifies for and purchases an intact dog permit through the local authorities.
This would mean that those wishing to keep their dogs intact would be at the whim of municipalities, who, under the bill’s provisions, can set the fees for such permits.
So, what appears as an “exception” for purebred dog owners and breeders, will result in higher fees for responsible dog owners and breeders. California state law already requires that dog licenses for intact animals cost twice as much as those for spayed or neutered animals.
Immediately after this bill was introduced AKC began an aggressive, pro-active grassroots effort to get the word out about our opposition to this bill. We have continually posted updated legislative alerts on our web site and provided resources such as fliers, sample letters and talking points via our “CA Spay/Neuter Action Center” on the home PageObj. We have also rung the alarm far and wide by individually contacting 2,000 California club officers, legislative liaisons, judges, and Delegates as well as alerting 90,000 AKC-registrants in addition to more than 14,750 who recently registered a litter urging them to oppose this bill.
AKC President and CEO Dennis Sprung and I each sent a letter to Assemblyman Mike Eng, Chairman of the Business and Professions Committee where the bill was scheduled for a hearing detailing our opposition. I also sent a letter to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, reiterating the damage this bill could inflict on responsible dog owners and breeders and the revenue that would be lost to the state should he sign this bill into law.
Our early efforts helped to secure a postponement on a vote to move the bill out of committee on April 10. I believe our unified voice of opposition from the fancy directly affected this action.
Because we understood the importance of the bill and the far-reaching effect it might have on other states, AKC sent staff member Sarah Sprouse from AKC’s Canine Legislation department and AKC legislative consultant Stephanie Lane to the April 24 hearing in Sacramento. In addition, we hired a California lobbyist to help us navigate the political waters.
Despite our efforts, the bill was kept alive and voted out of committee. We did, however, retain support from lawmakers who understood our position as was evidenced in the committee vote down party lines. Immediately after the hearing, our staff members met with more than 200 dedicated fanciers, supplied them with materials and instructed them how to approach their assembly members to voice continued opposition. I want to thank the several hundred fanciers who turned out for the April 10th and 24th hearings, and the thousands of dog owners who sent letters and e-mails to legislators. Their collective voice and strong numbers strengthened our opposition.
According to the sponsor of AB 1634, the bill is intended to reduce shelter populations and costs. AKC opposition to the bill is predicated on the reality that the bill wrongly targets responsible dog owners and breeders while failing to address the real reasons animals are surrendered. National research organizations have reported that the majority of unwanted dogs in the United States come from owners who are unable or unwilling to train, socialize and care for their dog.
While AKC opposes mandatory spaying and neutering of purebred dogs, we have always encouraged pet owners to spay or neuter their dogs if they do not want to participate in AKC conformation events or engage in responsible breeding programs. In fact, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association 2005-2006 National Pet Owners Survey reports that more than 70 percent of owned dogs are spayed or neutered. Seven out of 10 dog owners chose spaying or neutering as the right decision for their pet. This is an individual choice best made by pet owners in consultation with their veterinarian.
Since the majority of owned dogs in this country are already spayed and neutered, we need to address the reasons dogs are relinquished. I believe educating the public about responsible dog ownership, coupled with enforcement of existing leash laws, best addresses shelter population issues.
AKC proactively developed several education programs, including AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day, dedicated to teaching the pet-buying public how to make well–informed decisions when acquiring a pet. Such programs help to ensure that pet purchasers find a puppy or dog that is a good match for their lifestyle, thereby decreasing the chance that the animal will be relinquished to a shelter. In addition, our AKC Canine Good Citizen® program, AKC Obedience trials, and our nearly 5,000 AKC affiliated clubs offer ongoing training opportunities for owners to curb potential behavior problems through training. Our education programs are in schools and libraries and at shows, club meetings and community events nationwide.
AKC Clubs also routinely donate money raised at their events back into the community in the form of scholarships, bullet proof vests for law enforcement K-9s, and other civic minded endeavors. Club members and breeders who engage in this high level of volunteerism are in no way irresponsibly breeding dogs, in fact, if a dog they breed does need to be re-homed they are the first to step up and take responsibility for it, giving it a foster home until a new owner can be found.
We know education is the best way to influence responsible dog ownership and since our programs have been implemented there has actually been a decrease in shelter populations. What some lawmakers fail to realize is that with our mission to promote responsible dog ownership through public education, we are a significant part of the solution. We strive to help dog owners have a successful and rewarding experience with their pet, making it more likely the dog will remain a valued member of the family for its entire lifetime. Lawmakers must end the debate of mandatory spay and neuter and embrace the concept of public education.
Additionally, AKC breed parent clubs and local affiliates participate in breed rescue which further reduces the number of dogs in municipal and private shelters across the United States. More than 280 AKC affiliated rescue organizations are committed to assisting shelters with adoption and placement of purebred dogs identified within the shelter populations. These organizations rehabilitate dogs in foster homes and permanently place them with loving and responsible families.
We will continue to be vigilant in our opposition and keep you informed of developments. It is imperative that all of you join us in defeating California AB 1634. Please visit our website for sample letters, talking points and contact information for California Assemblymembers. (Visit the AKC website at:http://www.akc.org/canine_legislation/CA_action_center.cfm to learn more.)
By staying involved we can make sure our right to decide what is best for our animals is preserved.
We are actively investigating the possibility of establishing an AKC Political Action Committee (PAC).
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