SB 250

SB 250 Passed Out of Senate Local Government Committee

This morning SB 250 was passed out of the Senate Local Government Committee on a party line 3 to 1 vote. Senator Aanestad was not present. Senator Cox provided the lone NO vote. He has been a reliable opponent of mandatory spay/neuter and we thank him for his continued opposition.

Senator Wolk expressed substantial reservations about the impact on working dogs and extracted a promise from Senator Florez to amend the bill to exempt working dogs. We thank Senator Wolk for her concern for working dogs, but we have our doubts about the approach she has taken.

Senator Kehoe also expressed substantial reservations. She asked for clarification of the actual impact of the spay/neuter law in Santa Cruz. NAIA will be involved in providing that analysis. She also expressed interest in Calgary and we will be working with CDOC to provide her with more information.

Chairwoman Wiggins rightly recognized that the bill is seriously flawed and forced Senator Florez to accept some amendments. Unfortunately those amendments do not in any way reduce the serious harm this bill will cause.

Although disappointing, the outcome was not surprising. Senator Florez is the Majority Leader and one of the most powerful members of the state legislature. As we discovered in the early days of AB 1634, the process is driven more by political horse trading than by the merits of the bill. Had the vote been on the merits of the bill, comments from the senators suggest it probably would have been defeated 3 to 1 or even 4 to nothing. Instead Senator Florez made several promises about future amendments and that was enough to get the Democrats to support their leader.

As bad as this bill is, and even with Senator Wiggins’s amendments it is very bad, we believe that we are better positioned than we were at the same point in the process with AB 1634. Several organizations that were just being formed at this time two years ago are well organized and experienced in the legislative process. Save Our Dogs is working closely with CDOC and NAIA. While we don’t agree on everything we have good working relationships with them. Together we form a much stronger opposition than we would separately. We would also like to acknowledge the AKC’s contribution. While AKC is not as active as they were on AB 1634, they have been helpful.

We estimate that opponents of SB 250 outnumbered supporters 10 to 1 at the hearing. For some reason the Committee chose not to acknowledge the public participation in any way. We are confident that the senators could readily see the overwhelming majority of “No on SB 250” buttons. For those of you who made the trip, our thanks and your presence mattered. All of us are volunteers and your encouragement, thanks, and good wishes help keep us going.


Save Our Dogs on Social Networking

For those of you addicted to social networking, Save Our Dogs now has a presence on Twitter and Facebook, in addition to our RSS feed. We will tweet the title of every new article that appears on the site.

We don’t have a lot of time to maintain these pages, so not much else will go there. We have disabled comments because we just don’t have time to moderate them. Sorry. We created the pages because we’ve had several requests for them. We hope these new pages are useful to those of you who use these sites. If there is something we can do to dramatically improve the way we use one of these services, and you can give us precise, detailed instructions, send us an email with your idea and the instructions.

SB 250

Analysis of SB250 as Amended April 2, 2009

SB250 was amended April 2, 2009. This version of the bill is not fundamentally different from the bill as introduced. There is some minor rewording but no important changes.

I originally wrote a long detailed analysis of the bill, but by the time I finished, I realized it wasn’t necessary. In spite of the all the complex language, the bill is really very simple.

SB250 is the Pet Owner Punishment Act

There may be some odd corner cases, but overall no new infractions are imposed on dog owners. But the new penalties for existing infractions. Holy Cow! One misstep and for the rest of your life, your dogs are subject to mandatory spay/neuter at the whims of your local animal control agency. Get cited for a barking dog, even if you were out of town and the dog was with you, then for the rest of your life, at any time, AC can swoop in and force you to spay/neuter your dogs. You can’t even sell your dogs or give them away. You must shell out $300 plus to have each and every one spayed or neutered. Or turn them over to the pound to kill. The only new legal requirement is that an unlicensed intact dog that is impounded, must be spayed or neutered, at the owner’s expense, before the dog can be released. And of course that additional $300 plus cost of spay/neuter wouldn’t prevent anyone from reclaiming their dog would it? SB250 will kill dogs.

Here are the two critical points:

First: The bill requires that every dog be licensed “pursuant to Section 121690” or as required by the local jurisdiction. That’s just the normal dog license you are already required to get. State law requires that the license for an intact dog cost at least twice as much as for a spayed or neutered dog.


(c) An unaltered dog license may be denied or revoked for one or more of the following reasons:
(c)(2)  The licensing agency has issued one citation verified by the agency
pursuant to existing policies and procedures that the owner,
custodian, applicant, or licensee has allowed a dog to be stray or
run at large or has otherwise been found to be neglectful of his or
her or other animals.
(c)(3) The owner, custodian, applicant, or licensee has been
previously cited for violating a state law, or a city, county, or other
local governmental provision relating to the care and control of

That pretty much covers it. You have to have an intact license and if you have ever been cited for an animal violation or “been found to be neglectful of [your] other animals” your intact licenses can be denied or revoked. At any time. For all of your dogs. Forever.

If that weren’t bad enough here’s the real horror. You don’t even have to be found guilty of the violation you were cited for. Just receiving the citation alone is enough to drop the ax. Here’s the definition of “citation”.

n. 1) a notice to appear in court due to the probable commission of a minor crime such as a traffic violation, drinking liquor in a park where prohibited, letting a dog loose without a leash, and in some states for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Failure to appear can result in a warrant for the citee’s arrest.

A citation is just a notice to appear in court. No requirement that you were ever found to have actually been in violation of any law. So even if you were found innocent of the charges in a citation, you are still guilty under SB250. And you have to have an intact license to sell or give away a dog. So your only choices are to pay to spay/neuter or dump the dog at the pound.

The other disaster in the bill is this:

(h)  If an unlicensed unaltered dog or cat is impounded pursuant
to state or local law, in addition to satisfying applicable
requirements for the release of the animal, including, but not
limited to, payment of impound fees pursuant to this section, the
owner or custodian shall also do one of the following:
(2)  Have the dog or cat spayed or neutered by a veterinarian
associated with the licensing agency at the expense of the owner
or custodian. That expense may include additional fees due to any
extraordinary care required.
(3)  Arrange to have the dog or cat spayed or neutered by another
veterinarian licensed in this state.

So when an unlicensed, intact dog ends up in the shelter, and the owner comes to pick him up, not only does he get to pay all the existing fees. He must pay to have the dog spayed or neutered. In this economy a lot of people may not be able to afford that additional $300 plus. They might just tell the shelter to keep the dog. Now that’s another dog ripped from his home to either be adopted or killed.

This bill is just about punishing people and killing dogs. Nothing more. As dog trainers we know that rewards work far better than punishment. Too bad the backers of this bill are still in the jerk and choke era of training. Punishment builds resentment and fear. Rewards build cooperation and confidence. In both dogs and people.

Manteca, CA

Manteca California rejects MSN ordinance

On April 7, 2009, the Manteca City Council rejected a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance that would have applied to all dogs over 6 months of age, with narrow exceptions.  Here are some excerpts from the news media:

  • Stockton Record

    “Some two dozen local residents attended the March 30 meeting, and most objected to the proposed ordinance. The general consensus was the city should not regulate such matters.”

  • Manteca Bulletin

    “Mayor Willie Weatherford believes such an ordinance would only penalize responsible pet owners who license their dogs while allowing those that create the problem to avoid any consequences. If an unlicensed dog was picked up and the owner didn’t want to comply and pay up to $150 to have the dog neutered or spayed, the city would be forced to destroy it or find another home for the dog.

  • Jan Nielsen LTE in the Manteca Bulletin

    “I read your article stating that “the lives of 1,700 dogs could be spared over the next 10 years if Manteca has the same success with a proposed mandatory spay and neutering ordinance such as the one Santa Cruz now has in place”.

    “Santa Cruz is often offered up as the model for success but the true numbers do not bear that out. I have attached 3 documents that show shelter statistics, the failures of MSN, and one way to success without MSN.”


    “The Best Animal Control Program in North America”

    None of the 5000 dogs a year that end up in Calgary, Canada shelters are euthanized for population control.   The per capita animal shelter euthanasia rates (per 100,000 population) in California’s mandatory spay/neuter calgary_logocounties compare very poorly to Calgary, which does not have mandatory spay/neuter:

    • Santa Cruz County — SB 250 supporters’ “model for the state” for mandatory spay/neuter — kills 16 times as many animals as Calgary, per capita
    • Los Angeles County – one of the few counties in California with mandatory spay/neuter — kills 22 times as many animals as Calgary, per capita
    • Lake County — also one of the few counties in California with mandatory spay/neuter — kills 104 times as many animals as Calgary, per capita

    California’s “model for the state” should be the one that works, not the failed policy of mandatory spay/neuter.

    Calgary’s dog licensing rate is over 90%, where 10-30% is the norm in California.  Many stray pets that are picked up by Calgary Animal Services are returned straight home, they aren’t even taken to the shelter to be impounded. This saves money and it saves lives.

    Over the past 18 years, the city of Calgary has cut their number of dog bites and chases by more than 50% (all the while, the human and dog population of Calgary has doubled).

    KC Dog Blog

    The taxpayers of Calgary pay nothing for this excellent service.  It’s all paid for by pet licensing fees.  “Your pet’s license is his ticket home” is the motto.  California’s taxpayers pay $249 million a year for animal control, but get inferior service compared to what Calgary delivers at no cost to their taxpayers.

    Calgary, when it comes to animal control, is the envy of the continent.
    Calgary Sun

    The leader of this superb organization is Bill Bruce. He spoke in Van Nuys, CA and Santa Barbara, CA in March.   Please watch this video of Mr. Bruce’s presentation.

    Key to Calgary’s success

    • no – mandatory spay/neuter
    • no – breed specific legislation
    • no – pet limit laws
    • no – anti-tethering laws
    • yes – providing valued services rather than simply punishing citizens into compliance
    • yes – buy in and cooperation among community stakeholders thanks to an animal control director who is a professional mediator
    • yes – extensive education and PR campaign to emphasize responsible pet ownership
    • yes – low license fees and modest fee differential for intact pets

    Calgary’s phenomenal success depends on a sense of trust among pet owners that they will be treated fairly by and obtain good services from Calgary Animal Services.   Trust makes for unprecedented high licensing compliance.  High licensing compliance means that the taxpayers do not foot the bill for animal services,  and it means that nearly all stray pets are quickly reunited with their owners which saves lives and keeps costs low.

    There is no way to achieve this kind of licensing compliance in an environment where citizens feel they must hide their dogs and cats from pet limit laws, BSL, crushing differential licensing fees, or mandatory spay/neuter laws.  Without the high licensing compliance, none of the rest of the success could have happened.

    SB 250 Shelter Population Track Record

    Los Angeles – a mandatory spay/neuter “pet killer bill”

    “No Senator, this is not about saving dogs and cats.”

    —Ed Boks, General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services, testifying before the California Senate in support of mandatory spay/neuter — admitting it doesn’t save lives

    Leaders in the shelter reform movement have been saying for years that mandatory spay/neuter laws backfire. Instead of saving animals lives as advertised, these laws actually increase the killing.

    Despite the warnings, the city of Los Angeles passed a draconian mandatory spay/neuter ordinance in early 2008. No Kill movement leader Nathan Winograd explains the tragic result here:

    Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) General Manager Ed Boks made headlines in his support last year of Assembly Bill 1634, California’s mandatory spay/neuter bill when he admitted that the legislation was more about expanding the bureaucratic power of animal control than saving animals. During a legislative hearing, a Senator asked Ed Boks, the General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) and one of the bill’s chief proponents: “Mr. Boks, this bill doesn’t even pretend to be about saving animals, does it?” To which Boks responded: “No Senator, this is not about saving dogs and cats.”

    Not content to wait for the state (which did not pass the measure), Boks convinced the City of Los Angeles to pass its own version. He also demanded more officers to enforce it. The end result was predictable. Almost immediately, LAAS officers threatened poor people with citations if they did not turn over the pets to be killed at LAAS, and that is exactly what occurred. For the first time in a decade, impounds and killing increased—dog deaths increased 24%, while cat deaths increased 35%.

    And here:

    Since the Cardenas pet killer bill was passed, Los Angeles City shelters have increased the rate of animal killing, the first such increase in better than a decade. And killing is not only up, it is skyrocketing with 35% more cats and 24% more dogs losing their lives. In effect, Cardenas is asking for something that is not possible to do—there is no “success” to report. Instead, the law has been an abysmal failure, something that was not hard to predict.

    Here’s the Los Angeles Animal Services – 2008 Statistical Report with the hard data.

    Track Record

    Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws—A Failure Everywhere

    Santa Cruz County, California

    • 1995 mandatory spay/neuter ordinance
    • change in shelter intakes and euthanasia rates are no better than the state average
    • animal control costs doubled after passage
    • Animal control costs “spiraling” out of control, according to a Santa Cruz Sentinel investigation
    • Capitola canceled animal services contract with county due to rising costs
    • Watsonville threatening to pull out due to rising costs
    • licensing compliance dropped significantly
    Supporters of AB 1634 frequently claim that Santa Cruz County had a 50+% reduction in shelter intakes after they imposed mandatory spay/neuter in 1995. This is not true. There is no way to take the official shelter data published by California’s Department of Health Services (CDHS), or any subset, and generate this amazing Big Lie that AB 1634 supporters have been claiming. Every single data point on their impressive-looking chart is a total fabrication.
    If you are curious how this compares to the shelter data Santa Cruz County actually submitted to the CDHS, as required by state law, here are the comparisons for dogs and for cats.

    San Mateo County, California

    • 1991 mandatory spay/neuter ordinance
    • dog deaths in the areas governed by the ordinance, increased 126% and cats 86%, but decreased in parts of the county not governed by the ordinance
    • dog licenses declined by 35%
    The nation’s first mandatory spay/neuter law was in San Mateo County, CA. It was primarily pushed by the Peninsula Humane Society (PHS). The PHS assessed the San Mateo MSN law to have been “disappointing” since it led to increases in shelter killing. As a result, the PHS does not support CA AB 1634. Note that the supporters of AB 1634 do not even mention San Mateo because it is so widely recognized as a failure.

    Los Angeles, California

    • passed mandatory spay/neuter ordinance in early 2008
    • 30% increase in euthanasias in 2008
    • 20% increase in impounds in 2008
    • reversed many years of progress
    • 2000 mandatory spay or pay ordinance
    • Decline in licensing compliance since passage of this ordinance
    • Animal control budget after passage of the law rose 269%, from $6.7 million to $18 million.
    • City hired additional animal control officers and bought new trucks and equipment just to enforce the new law

    Montgomery County, Maryland

    • mandatory spay/neuter law was passed but later repealed as a failure
    • 50% decline in licensing compliance while ordinance in effect
    • Euthanasia rates declined more slowly than before the ordinance passed

    Fort Worth, Texas

    • ended its mandatory spay/neuter program
    • licensing compliance fell off after passage of the ordinance
    • There was a reduction in rabies vaccinations which lead to an increase in rabies in the city

    King County, Washington

    • 1992 mandatory spay/neuter ordinance
    • License compliance decreases since passage of the ordinance.
    • Animal control expenses increased 56.8% and revenues only 43.2%.
    • In 1990 animal controls were $1,662,776. By 1997 animal control costs were $3,087,350.
    • Euthanasia rates fell at a slower rate after passage of the ordinance.
    King County, WA is commonly held up by supporters as an example of MSN success. These two articles illustrate how MSN supporters spin the data.

    Aurora, Colorado

    • mandatory spay/neuter ordinance
    • licensing compliance has dropped dramatically.

    Pinellas County, Florida

    • breeder licensing since 1992
    • animal control budget increased 75% with revenue increasing only 13%.
    • shelter intake and euthanasia rates increased after the law took effect
    Spay/Neuter Health

    AVMA’s advisory boards oppose mandatory spay/neuter

    As a result of recent research studies, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s expert advisory boards for spay and neuter issues released a position statement as well as a detailed basis for this position statement in 2008 firmly opposed to mandatory spay/neuter laws, which included:

    Position Statement on Mandatory Spay-Neuter

    The American College of Theriogenologists and The Society for Theriogenology believe that companion animals not intended for breeding should be spayed or neutered; however, both organizations believe that the decision to spay or neuter a pet must be made on a case by case basis, and this decision should be made between the pet’s owner and its veterinarian, taking into consideration the pet’s age, breed, sex, health status, intended use, household environment and temperament […]

    Therefore, the decision to spay or neuter a dog or cat should be made solely by the pet’s owner with the direct input of their veterinarian and will be dependent on each particular animal’s situation.


    Although both organizations believe that most companion animals should be spayed or neutered, the ACT and SFT also strongly believe that it is not in the best interest of the animals to produce legislation regarding medical treatments, Therefore, both organizations oppose mandatory spay/neuter programs.