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By Connie Koehler

Connie Koehler is the Legislative Liaison for the Soft Coated Wheaten Club of America and the Legislative Coordinator for the California Federation of Dog Clubs. Connie is also a past president of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of Southern California. She is an active breeder/owner/handler of her three Wheatens and lives with her husband Jeff in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.

Led by members of the California Federation of Dog Clubs (CFODC), a dedicated group of Whittier, CA, dog fanciers took on City Hall and proved that it can be done.  As a result of their efforts, the Whittier City Council soundly rejected the mandatory spay/neuter (MSN) provisions of Los Angeles County’s Title 10 animal-control ordinance with its unanimous vote of 5-0.

Whittier adopted the balance of Title 10 to comply with the county’s animal-control regulations and services, with the notable exceptions of MSN; the alteration and licensing of cats; and changes to the county’s dog-licensing-fee structure that are unique to the city.

The dog-fancier team laid before the city council a wide range of public-policy and canine-health issues which render MSN a failed animal-control solution, demonstrated during the past 15 years in other locales across the state and the USA.  Over a period of three months, the team: 

  • Conducted comprehensive research and analysis on MSN and its effects on dogs, their owners, and the public, tailored to L. A. County at large and Whittier in particular;
  • Distributed a wide range of authoritative documentation to city officials based on their findings;
  • Met with city-council members and other city management on a continuing basis;
  • Published a well-timed editorial in local newspapers that was later posted in PublicCEO, an influential online journal whose audience includes California local-government executives and senior managers;
  • Testified in strength at the Aug. 11 council meeting at which the decisive vote was cast. 

The city’s elected and appointed leadership told several team members subsequently that it was their compelling presentation of fact-based, public-policy data and the findings of a growing body of veterinary research that carried the day to defeat MSN.  For their part, city council members acted thoughtfully and evidenced their mastery of the issues at the Aug. 11 council meeting during testimony by L. A. County staffers and public comment, prior to their vote.

The Whittier victory turned the tide for the southern California canine community in the immediate wake of Long Beach’s passage of an MSN ordinance on March 17, 2015.  Despite the concerted efforts of a Long Beach-based team which pioneered the approach used successfully up the freeway in Whittier,   the earlier adoption of MSN ordinances across the SoCal region appeared to make Long Beach the latest in an unstoppable tsunami of anti-dog laws:   among others, L. A. City in 2000, with a more stringent revision in 2008; Ventura County, December 2012; and Pasadena, October 2014; as well as the addition of MSN provisions in L. A. County’s own Title 10, which passed in 2006.

Nonetheless, the momentum from the Whittier win immediately paved the way to the defeat of an MSN ordinance that was pending before the Bakersfield City Council on Aug. 24.  CFODC learned about the item just days prior to its appearance on the council’s agenda.  Using the public-education approach from Whittier with the addition of data specific to Kern County and Bakersfield, CFODC members attended the city council meeting, testified during public comment, and succeeded in preventing the MSN action from proceeding to a vote.

The fight to take back the Golden State for dogs and their responsible owners continues.