Tuesday, May 6, 2008

County task force to look into spay, neuter law


Cats and dogs in Santa Barbara County that haven’t been neutered or spayed don’t have to worry about going under the knife anytime soon.
An ordinance that would make the procedure mandatory for most of the household pets hit a snag yesterday when the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors opted to form a task force to take up the issue. By using a task force, any ordinance will likely not be ready for several months.

While the more than 100 public speakers who addressed the board during the five-hour meeting were split evenly on the issue, both sides could agree on one thing: animals need to be protected.
But the two camps differed greatly on how best to reach that goal. Some fear a mandatory spay and neuter law could unnecessarily put animals at risk and infringe on pet owners’ rights. Others said the issue hinges on overcrowded animal shelters and high numbers of pets that are euthanized each year — a trend many hope will decline if such a law is enacted.
By forming a task force, the board went against staff’s recommendation to receive a draft ordinance and start a series of public hearings where any ordinance would be finetuned before a final vote.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said he was disappointed the staff recommendation was not approved. He said he fears a task force might not be able to come to a consensus on the most controversial points of the ordinance, mainly the use of the word “mandatory.”
“This is an OK strategy but the actual preferred strategy was what was outlined in the staff report,” he said. “Then we get a sense of the broader community. This is just a committee. It’s not as broad and inclusive as I think it needs to be.”
Fifth District Supervisor Joe Centeno raised the idea of forming a task force, which will consist of 11 board-appointed individuals, (two from each supervisor except Carbajal, who is the chair of the board and will appoint three).
Centeno said he hopes a task force would have similar success coming up with solutions as a blue ribbon commission on jail overcrowding formed by Sheriff Bill Brown. Like jail overcrowding, he said the issue of a mandatory spay and neuter law is complex, controversial and needs to be thought about long and hard.
He admitted there is a problem with unwanted pets clogging up shelters, but said to approve a law that impacts everyone for the discretion of a small minority of renegade pet owners isn’t right. He said such a law would be akin to taking weapons away from all citizens simply because of the 2007 shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, where 33 people were killed, including the gunman.
“I would really like to concentrate on the people who are causing the problems,” he said. “Those little animals are their property and they ought to decide with the help of their veterinarians what they ought to do in terms of spay and neutering.”
The main goal of a mandatory spay and neuter ordinance would be to decrease unwanted pets, which can be costly to house and are often killed if not adopted first, according to the staff report.
According to a presentation given to the board yesterday, the county took in 4,024 unwanted dogs last year and 3,251 cats. Of those, 1,389 dogs and 1,917 cats were adopted. The statistics showed about 800 dogs and 1,200 cats were euthanized.
Under the draft ordinance, which is apparently now moot, enforcement of the law would have been done gradually and no new registration fees would be enacted. The sometimes-lucrative world of breeding wouldn’t have been impacted because registered pure breeds would be exempted, as would visiting pets and those with health issues. All other pets would undergo the procedure at the age of six months.
Carol Scott, vice president of the Santa Barbara Kennel Club, said she would favor a voluntary spay and neuter law, but was opposed to anything that was mandatory. She said such a law would likely scare off local dog shows, which she claimed pump more than $300,000 into the local economy a couple of times each year.
“People will simply not come to or support cities that are unfriendly to dogs,” she said. “This type of ordinance will have a negative economical impact.”
For Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, the issue of a mandatory ordinance dictating what can and cannot be done with private property transcended animal rights issues.
“I’m concerned about the proliferation of laws,” he said. “I’m concerned about the intrusion of government into our homes.”
The board voted 4-1 to form the task force, with Firestone dissenting. Carbajal said the task force could meet for several months before drafting a recommendation.
When that happens, he said the ordinance will likely come before the board, the board will send it before the public - just as staff recommended they do yesterday - and everyone will be back in square one.
“This ordinance really attempted to provide a practical resolution to overpopulation,” he said. “This ordinance was really going to help.”


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this informative information. I am strongly opposed to the mandatory spay/neuter laws that are popping up throughout the country. They are simply targeting the wrong people. Irresponsible pet owners are still going to be irresponsible. Forcing responsible owners to spay and neuter their pets isn't going to make the bad owners any better. I also hate how young they want pets to get altered.

Anonymous said...

The proposed mandatory age for spay/neutering is too young! I agree.

The solution in Santa Barbara County to pet over-population would be 1) Strictly enforce the requirement to license dogs and require cats to be licensed too and 2) Charge a great deal more for unneutered/unspayed dogs and cats that are over the age of 6 months; charge huge fines for those whose pets are not licensed.

This would allow those of us who wish to neuter our pets at a later date to do so without violating a law. It would also make those people who refuse to even license their pets pay up.

Anonymous said...

How is a huge tax "fee" any better than a forced neutering? When someone explains what I personally gain by licensing my dog, I might agree. There are a lot of personal actions which impact society, but that's what we pay tax dollars for. Killing us with fees is an easy way to divide and conquer.

Anonymous said...

Look at the propblem as it really is - not the emotional hoopla being forced on you by H$U$ and PETA - who want to extermiate domestic animals!
FIRST: the dogs in the shelters are teen-age, unsocialized and untrained.
SECOND: Many are already castrated/hysterectomied.
THIRD: the proposal does NOTHING about the import (many by rescues) of dogs from Mexico, China, Puerto Rico, etc.
The problem is with a society that can't keep marriage vows, stay honest to their spouses, take care of their children - the dogs are just a small part.
As for the cats - it is NOT the cat breeders. Show me ONE Rex cat in your shelters!

Anonymous said...

Manadatory Spay/Neuter ordinances have been touted by Animal Rights actvists for years with no success. For example, San Mateo, CA attempted a mandatory spay/neuter regulation and suffered such a reduction in licensing that it was not enforced. Montgomery County, MD repealed their mandatory spay/neuter ordinance when it proved to be costly and ineffective. Los Angeles County launched their MSN ordinance two years with great promises of reduced shelter numbers and euthanasias; neither which have occurred. Punitive,hostile legislation will never help un-wanted animals find homes. Responsible pet education, low cost spay/neuter clinics and the promotion of shelter adoptions will.