On April 26, the California Assembly Business and Professions Committee is scheduled to consider Assembly Bill 1881, known as the “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights”.
AKC staff and our representatives in California are working hard to communicate concerns with the author’s office, the committee, and requesting significant amendments – but we need your help!
We are asking California dog owners to send respectful comments to the author and committee. Using the talking points provided below, please ask them to oppose AB 1881 and let them know why this bill is not in the best interest of dogs or responsible California dog owners.
Use the links provided here and follow the login instructions to create an account (if you have not done so previously) and submit your comments to Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (author of AB 1881) and the Assembly Business and Professions Committee.
We know how passionate dog owners on both sides feel about our pets and this bill. However, it is essential that your communications be kept polite and deferential. Your respectful comments sharing your thoughts and expertise as California dog owners will support AKC’s position in our continued discussions with the author and committee on this bill.
AB 1881 is being touted as a simple list of non-binding reminders of the responsibilities that come when you obtain a dog or cat. It is important to note that none of the “rights” listed in the bill are new requirements or laws, but rather a list to be posted at shelters and rescues in the state.
However, as introduced, AB 1881 goes much further than being simply a list. By referencing that dogs and cats have “rights”, the bill opens the door for a radical shift in the legal status of animals in the state.
Currently, in California, pets are considered property. While pets are of course a beloved part of our lives, this legal status is essential in ensuring that it is clear who has responsibility for the animal’s care and well-being. This also keeps the legal status in line with the current penal code regarding penalties for theft of a pet in California. The American Kennel Club is joined nationally in supporting maintaining the current legal status of animals by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Animal Health Institute, among other leaders in animal health and welfare.
AKC has many other concerns, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Vague statements, including protecting a dog’s “mental and emotional well-being” (terms that are unclear and not defined).
- Stating that dogs and cats have the “right to be spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted litters”, which does not properly consider exhibitors, responsible breeders, or the health of every dog.
- Multiple mentions of the word “guardian” – which further implies an intent to alter the legal status of animals by using terms usually reserved for people. For more information on about the legal status of animals, we encourage you to visit akcgr.org/guardian.
Talking Points to Consider:
Consider the following talking points regarding AB 1881 when contacting the author and committee:
1) We agree that all dog owners have a responsibility to care for their animals and ensure their health and safety.
2) Referencing “rights” will do nothing to promote responsible dog ownership or the health or wellness of dogs. It could, however, open the door for undermining the current legal status of animals, which provides for both rights and responsibilities of dog owners in providing proper care for their animals.
3) If the goal is to provide guidelines to new pet owners, they should be just that – a list of guidelines and responsibilities, not “rights” afforded to pets. In addition, the bill should be clear that the guidelines should not be enforced as law.
4) Using vague terms such as protecting a dog from anxiety and preserving mental well-being could imply that actions in the dog’s best interest – such as going to a veterinarian – should be avoided if they cause stress to the animal. Respectfully ask that such terms be removed.
5) Implying that all dogs and cats should be spayed or neutered ignores the many reasons a person may humanely and responsibly choose to keep an animal intact – including participation in AKC events, responsible breeding, and consideration for the health of the animal. This is a decision that should be made by responsible owners in conjunction with their veterinarian.
6) Referencing “rights” conflates actions of humans (taking a dog to the veterinarian, having the dog sterilized) with actions of animals (animals taking these actions themselves).
7) California code, as well as local governments throughout the state, already have numerous laws governing the ownership and care of animals. The focus should be on education and enforcement, rather than implying a complete change in the way animals are cared for and protected in the state.
AKC Government Relations continues to work closely with the author’s office and committee. We will continue to provide updates and more information on actions to take over the next several weeks. For questions or more information, contact AKC GR at email@example.com.