Wednesday, May 23, 2007

If you didn't contact your Assembly Representative yesterday, do it today!

I am in Sacramento this week talking to our State Assembly Representatives about AB 1634. As I watch this legislation work its way through the process I see a disturbing trend emerging. To date no Republicans have either voted or voiced their support for AB 1634. This is curious because all of us who have worked so hard on this initiative have always viewed it as a bipartisan effort.

Crafted by animal control professionals and veterinarians you cannot find two more bipartisan fields. There are two major reasons for passing AB 1634, the humanitarian reason and the fiscal reason. Seldom does a truly humanitarian initiative actually reduce government costs. AB 1634 does, which demonstrates that it squarely aligns with both Republican and Democratic core values.

So, you might ask, what fault do Republicans find with AB 1634? The charge I hear up here is "Nanny Government". That is, "how dare the government tell me what to do with my property." In other words, the Republican argument against AB 1634 is that it interferes with a citizen's personal property rights.

I personally appreciate Republican core values of fiscal responsibility, smaller more efficient government, and the protection of personal property rights. In earlier entries I explained how AB 1634 will result in extraordinary cost savings to both local and state government. These cost saving will also result in smaller more efficient animal control programs over time. So clearly, AB 1634 is consistent with at least two Republican core values. That leaves the personal property rights argument.

My counter to this argument is simple. Pets are not like refrigerators or motorcycles. Pets can suffer. Nearly one million of them suffer the trauma of a shelter impoundment every year. More than half of them never make it out alive. Another significant difference is that pets reproduce at an alarming rate and at an extraordinary cost to taxpayers.

Clearly, pets are different from most categories of "property". Indeed, many communities in California have already codified this difference by changing the definition of "owner" to "guardian" in their local ordinances. Most Californians understand we are guardians or stewards of our pets. But as a state, we have to admit we are not exercising our stewardship responsibly. The cost and death rates of the status quo confront us with this truth every day.

So when a state representative votes no on AB 1634 whose property rights are they protecting? Responsible breeders? No, responsible breeders are exempt from this legislation. Then who? The group up here lobbying against AB 1634 characterize themselves as hobby breeders. These breeders do not want to declare or pay taxes on the income they raise from their hobby. Nor do they want to help pay for the costs resulting from a hobby experiment gone wrong.

When a hobby breeder cannot sell the offspring from their hobby they can conveniently dump their property at their local shelter at no cost to them. Visit the LA Times or any other local newspaper in California and see the hundreds of thousands of dollars in undeclared income earned every year by hobby breeders. But what happens to the property they cannot sell in the local newspaper, bulletin board, or website? When they can't sell this "property" for a handsome profit, they can simply dump it at the local shelter for you and me to pay for.

All AB 1634 does is make hobby breeders honest. If people want to breed animals for profit they should declare their income. Why should the rest of us have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars each year to clean up hobby experiments gone wrong?

Please call and fax your Assembly Representative today and tell them personal property rights cannot be allowed to trump personal responsibility. As long as there are irresponsible breeders in California we will need AB 1634!

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