Pedigree Cats Under Threat In LA... And UK Too?
Los Angeles, California, USA: THE LOS Angeles City Council unanimously announced its support last month for a state bill that would require pet owners to sterilize their dogs and cats by the time their animals reach four months of age.
Bill AB 1634 was introduced by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (Democrat-Van Nuys district), as part of an effort to decrease euthanisation rates of unwanted pets at animal shelters statewide. Known as the California Healthy Pets Act, the Bill seeks to require the mandatory spaying or neutering of all dogs or cats over four months of age, unless the owner acquires an ‘intact animal permit’.
A violator would receive a ‘fix-it’ citation, requiring the pet owner to sterilize their cat or dog within 30 days, or up to 75 days with a note from a veterinarian. Those who fail to comply would face a $500 fine.
Funds raised from the fines would be earmarked for enforcement and low- cost pet sterilization programs. The proposed measure would allow local municipalities to make exceptions for breeders who can demonstrate their pets are purebreds listed on one of several registries.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association summarises the effects of the Bill on cats succinctly – and the effects are worrying in the extreme:
WHAT WILL THIS BILL DO: Mandates sterilization of all cats and dogs by four months of age with only limited exemptions to allow pet owners to obtain an “intact permit”. The fee is unknown.
1. AB 1634 allows government to determine whether to spay or neuter a pet cat or dog, and at what age. These decisions should remain the pet owner’s choice, with veterinary advice.
2. The bill severely penalizes breeders of pedigreed cats because few if any can meet the conditions to obtain an intact permit. Many cats essential to healthy breeding programs cannot enter cat shows. Rare breeds will be lost.
3. The cat fancy nucleus educates, contributes to shelters, breed rescue, feral cat programs and helps raise the value of all cats. Cat shows bring millions of dollars to the State. All of this would be diminished, yet, because most cats/kittens in shelters are the result of unowned cat reproduction, or cats relinquished for human personal problems there will be no decrease in homeless cats.
WHAT WILL THIS BILL COST TO JURISDICTIONS – There will be substantial expense related to creating and preparing for new ordinances in all 536 cities and counties costing millions:
1. Staff time and legal expense.
2. Town hall meetings for public input; public hearings in every community.
3. Establish low cost spay/neuter to enable citizens to comply.
4 Execute a study to determine administrative costs; public hearings to establish fees.
5. Create enforcement mechanism, public outreach, forms.
6. Establish a local breeder license program.
AB 1634 WILL BE COSTLY FOR ANIMAL CONTROL - Accurate shelter reporting of data is not consistently available in California. Costs for handling animals in shelters vary in each jurisdiction.
1. The numbers of cats/dogs in shelters has been generally decreasing over the last 10 years without mandatory spay/neuter, while human population has increased. With fewer animals in shelters they should be kept longer and made more adoptable. Costs will remain the same or increase - not decrease.
2. Every complaint means response and staff time. AB 1634 will greatly increase complaints.
3. Unowned cats will be ignored rather than trapped and neutered for fear of fines. More unweaned kittens and feral cats will be handled by animal control.
3. Similar laws have meant dog licensing rates decrease resulting in loss of revenue.
WHY CAT FANCIERS SHOULD OPPOSE AB 1634 – Each jurisdiction in the State has different dog and cat problems. A “one size fits all” complicated scheme of permits, licensing and punishment is not needed in communities with pet-friendly positive programs in place.
1. Enforcement will be nearly impossible. Complaint driven laws create ill-will in a community.
2. Mandated sterilization doesn’t work. A similar law in Rhode Island, for cats only, has been a failure. Almost no one has applied for a permit. Montgomery County, MD, repealed a breeder permit and high intact pet license in 1999 after licensing rates plummeted; and there was no increase in spay/neuter.
3. A high percentage of owned cats are already sterilized (86% to 92%). Education does work.
4. If a person fears criminal punishment and cannot find affordable spay/neuter they will ignore unowned/stray cats allowing them to reproduce.
5. A law that mandates spay/neuter with $500 fines is unfair to low or moderate income pet owners who may not be able to find affordable or safe surgery. Some may not claim ownership or avoid veterinary care.
6. Programs that have worked will be curtailed in order to comply with this mandate.
‘Huge Step Forward’
The LA City Council vote was 12-0, with only three members absent from the meeting.
Assemblyman Lloyd refused to be deflected in what he sees as sound animal welfare legislation. Mr Lloyd commented: ‘The Los Angeles City Council’s action today should send a clear signal to all Californians that AB 1634 is a huge step forward in the drive to combat pet overpopulation and to reduce the killing of hundreds of thousands of animals in California’s shelters every year.
‘Mandatory spay and neuter programs have proven to be smart, sensible, compassionate and effective approaches wherever they have been tried.’
Cat fanciers in the UK are urged to lend their support to CFA in opposing AB 1634, as many fear it is only a matter of time before similar legislation is enacted in the UK.
Earlier this month, the spectre of the European Convention for Pet Animals was resurrected by some anti-showing animal welfare campaigners, who believe that the British Government will soon sign up to the Convention, following the enactment of the Animal Welfare Act in April.
As reported in OUR CATS’ sister publication OUR DOGS, according to a report by James Kirkup, Political Editor of The Scotsman, the newspaper learned that ministers in Edinburgh and London were preparing to ratify the controversial Europe-wide treaty that could set strict limits on the breeding and handling of animals.
Kirkup writes: ‘After years of prevarication and hesitation, private talks have been taking place between the Scottish Executive and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) aimed at ratifying the treaty. Because animal welfare is devolved, Scottish ministers must agree before the UK can sign up to the accord.
‘The convention states that animal breeders must be held accountable for any ‘anatomical, physiological and behavioural characteristics which are likely to put at risk the health and welfare of either the offspring or the female parent’.
Annexes to the document set down precise limits on physical characteristics like the length of a dog’s back relative to its legs, the length of its ears and the dimensions of its head and nose.’
Kirkup’s report continues with a quote from the Scottish Kennel Club, who apparently told him that ratifying the treaty would mean that anywhere between 30 and 40 breeds would effectively be outlawed. Some distinctive breeds of cat including the Siamese and Persian could also be affected with reference to ‘extreme’ and ‘ultra-type’ facial characteristics.
Kirkup’s report concludes: ‘A DEFRA spokesman confirmed that ministers were ‘working with the devolved administrations to identify the implications of the convention, were the government to sign it’.’
However, a reliable source within Scotland, close to the UK Kennel Club stated that, contrary to what had been reported in the Scotsman, the whole issue had NOT been considered by Ministers and they would not consider it until they have a new Minister after the Scottish Assembly General Election. As the European Convention on Pet Animals will not be the new Minister’s top priority, it may be some time before the UK as a whole announces a view on whether to sign, state that they will not sign or intend to consult on whether to sign the Convention or not.
In short, the status quo remains, although all cat enthusiasts are urged to keep a close eye on any news relating to the Convention. – or, indeed to legislation such as the Californian AB 1634. As always, OUR CATS will be at the forefront of reporting the true facts of any such issue.
By NICK MAYS
News & Features Editor