Tuesday, June 24, 2008

AB 1634: A Good Compromise by Dr. Allan Drusys, DVM

It has been many months, and this is not the draft anyone envisioned, but AB 1634 is back in business.

Wednesday, we will witness the bill's re-emergence after it was stalled in a Senate committee. Its rebirth may not please those who favor mandatory spay-and-neuter legislation, but who can find fault with the latest version?

It appears that Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Sherman Oaks, and the Senate co-sponsors, Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, have now fashioned the bill to reflect proven provisions originally set forth some nine years ago in SB 1785, known as the Hayden bill.

No longer will we waste time arguing over the appropriate age for pet sterilization and who can be a breeder. AB 1634 has been completely rewritten, and this version provides for an increasing series of fines resulting in possible pet sterilization upon the second cat impound or the third impound of a dog.

The fines ($50 and $100) are approximately twice what the existing Hayden bill calls for, yet the initial fines can be waived if the pet is sterilized within 14 days. On its third impound, the offending dog will not be released to the owner until it is spayed or neutered.

Another section of AB 1634 addresses complaints. Here the authors provide an identical fine structure for owners who do not abide by existing state and local animal regulations. Eventual sterilization of multiple violators (the pets, not the owners) is also called for.

Why is this a good deal?

Well, only those owners who do not take care of their animals will be subjected to the provisions of AB 1634. Most will have no one to blame but themselves if they do not have a kennel permit or if their animals are picked up while unlicensed.

Please, do not think the fines will revert to the state. Any funds collected under this law shall be expended for the purpose of humane education and programs for low-cost spaying and neutering of dogs and cats.

In contrast to mandatory spay and neuter, described as draconian by some groups, this approach places the burden solely where it belongs: on the pet owner.

AB 1634 is not ideal, but it is a workable compromise, hand-crafted in the true political sense, to provide some measure of relief from the pet population tsunami without infringing on commerce, hobby breeding or pet ownership.

Allan Drusys is chief veterinarian with Riverside County's Department of Animal Services.