This analysis is based on the language of the bill as introduced. We have seen some alternative language, but nothing official. If and when the bill is amended, we will provide an updated analysis.
This bill is very similar to the last amended version of AB1634. It is vague, poorly written, unworkable, will cost the state millions of dollars, and will cause the needless deaths of untold numbers of dogs. Make no mistake, this bill will increase the killing, just like every other mandatory spay/neuter law.
To the best of our understanding an “unaltered dog license” is the same as the license the owner of an intact dog currently gets when paying the state mandated differential license fee, however the bill does not clearly state this. If this is not the case then the state or the local jurisdictions will have to pay to administer another licensing program, further increasing costs.
The only exemption is for health. This means that every intact dog temporarily in the state is in violation, including dogs in transit at airports, dogs entered in dog events, and dogs traveling with out of state owners.
There is no exemption for young dogs. At the moment a puppy is whelped it is in violation. This bill mandates altering neonatal puppies which is arguably animal abuse and a violation of veterinary good practice.
A “custodian” of an intact dog must have an unaltered dog license. Is a boarding kennel a “custodian”? If the dog’s owner has an unaltered dog license for the dog, does that cover the “custodian”? If not then no intact dog can be legally boarded. If the owner has a dog sitter come to his house, is the dog sitter a “custodian”? If so and if the owner’s license does not cover the dog sitter then dog owners can not travel without their dog.
The conditions under which a license can be denied are vague and inappropriate.
A license can be denied if the owner has two complaints “verified by the agency”. “Verified by the agency” could mean anything. It does not seem to require any process of law. It could mean only that the agency verified that someone complained rather than verified that the facts of the complaint were true and constituted a violation of law.
“Otherwise been found to be neglectful of his or her or other animals” could mean anything. It does not seem to require any violation of law. This imposes altering a dog as punishment for an infraction that has no relationship to the intact status of the dog. If the state considers altering a dog as a punishment, then how can the state expect owners to voluntarily alter their dogs. There is a relationship between repeatedly running at large and altering the dog, but not unspecified “neglectful” actions.
“violating a state law, or a city, county, or other local governmental provision relating to the care and control of animals” again uses altering the dog as a punishment. We cannot support any bill which treats altering the dog as a punishment for an offense unrelated to the animal’s intact status.
“The unaltered dog has been adjudicated by a court or an agency of appropriate jurisdiction to be potentially dangerous, dangerous, or vicious, or to be a nuisance.” The scientific literature on altering aggressive dogs is mixed, however there is no nexus between unspecified “nuisance” behavior and the dog’s intact status. Again this is using altering the dog as a punishment.
“Any unaltered dog license held by the applicant has been revoked.” What if the license was revoked improperly and was later reinstated. It is still grounds to deny a subsequent license.
“the applicant may re-apply for a license upon changed circumstances” The fact that a license has been revoked, that the owner has violated animal control law, or has been complained about twice is a circumstance that cannot change. Once any of these happens that owner has no recourse and should expect to have every future license application denied. This is extreme.
There are no limitations on the conditions under which a license can be revoked. Once revoked the owner is forever subject to having future requests denied.
If the owner cannot get an unaltered dog license, they cannot sell the unaltered dog since an unaltered dog license is required to sell an unaltered dog. This requires that even someone selling an eight week old puppy apply for and receive an unaltered dog license.
Section (i)(1) attempts to mitigate the above by stating that an owner can be punished for not have the required unaltered dog license only if “cited” for any of a list of other violations. This does not change the fact that it is against state law to have an intact dog without an unaltered dog license. The original state seat belt law made it a secondary offense to drive without a seat belt. Although drivers could not be stopped for not wearing a seat belt, it was still illegal. Any suggestion that the excesses of this law are mitigated by this provision is a statement that the law intends dog owners to violate the law. That is bad law and insulting to dog owners.
Many of the specified violations that lead to invoking the license law are unrelated to a dogs intact status. Again this is using the threat of altering the dog or getting an unaltered dog license as a punishment.
Section (j) requires that any owner redeeming an impounded dog must have the dog altered or already have an unaltered dog license. This will result in more dogs remaining in the pound as many owners will not or cannot pay to have their dog altered. As we have seen even successful free/low cost spay/neuter programs are frequently cut back and eliminated. This will result in a disparate impact on low income dog owners.
Section (k) imposes the full cost of impounding an unaltered dog on the owner, again reducing the number of dogs redeemed by their owners due to cost.
The bill is vague. It treats altering a dog as a punishment. Unaltered dog licenses can be forever denied after even one unrelated violation or two “verified” complaints. This punishment is disproportionate to the offense. The owner is not protected by appropriate legal process.
The law seems to expect that many dog owners will be forced to violate it as a matter of course: e.g. travelers visiting the state, owners of newly whelped puppies, etc. This is bad law and only encourages disrespect for the law. It is insulting to dog owners as it implies that they are law breakers who will casually disregard state law.
Most dramatically it will greatly increase the number of dogs surrendered to shelters. Owners who cannot get unaltered dog licenses cannot sell or give away unaltered dogs and if they cannot pay to alter the dog they have no choice but to surrender the dog to the shelter*. Owners of unaltered, unlicensed dogs that are impounded must pay substantial fees and costs to recover the dog. This will result in more dogs being relinquished to the shelter rather than reunited with their owner. There is no exception for dogs impounded through no fault of their owner. In a recent case in NY a man’s car was broken into releasing the intact dog inside. The dog was impounded through no fault of his owner.
[* It is not even clear that an owner can surrender an unaltered dog to a shelter without an unaltered dog license. If shelters are the owners or custodians of the dogs, then perhaps shelters must have unaltered dog licenses for all of the dogs under their control.]
Given the appalling rate at which Kern County shelters kill dogs, this bill will undoubtedly result in many more dogs being killed in Senator Florez’s district.