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PETA and the California "Healthy Pets Act"

Periodically, I receive a recorded phone message from PETA (People for the "Ethical" Treatment of Animals...I won't dignify their site by linking to it). I have no idea where they got my phone number; maybe they phone everyone. I usually hang up as soon as I know who it is, but today the machine picked it up.

They are asking people to support a California bill, CA A.B. 1634, that imposes a $500 fine on people who don't spay or neuter their pet dogs and cats by the age of 4 months. There will be some "intact permits" available for a fee.

There are a lot of different claims about what this bill means, so I went to the source. Here's my summary:

Intact permits will be available only for
(1) licensed breeders
(2) owners of purebred cats and dogs ("recognized by an approved registry or association") that are currently being "used to show or compete" under the auspieces of such an organization
(3) working dogs for "law enforcement, fire agencies, or legitimate professional or volunteer private sector working dog organizations"
(4) animals that have a letter from "a California licensed veterinarian stating that due to age, poor health, or illness, it is unsafe to spay or neuter the cat or dog. This letter shall include the veterinarian's license number and shall, if this information is available, include the duration of the condition of the dog or cat, and the date by which the dog or cat may be safely spayed or neutered"
(5) "guide dogs, signal dogs, or service dogs".

I think altering your pet cats and dogs is a good idea. I think there are too many unwanted animals. I think puppy mills are bad. (They are already against the law...commercial breeding requires a license.) I have no problem with individual businesses and organizations having rules that require spay/neuter before they'll provide you with an animal.

I also think that it's legitimate to pay a small extra fee if you want to have an intact animal. In San Mateo County the annual fees are $30 for an unaltered dog and $12 for an altered dog. But $500 is too much.

I am really uncomfortable with the idea that only "certified" purebred animals that are currently being shown or worked can be legitimately bred. Mixed-breed pets are just as valuable and useful as purebred ones, and there are lots of organizings sponsoring competitions and training for mixed-breed pets. This bill would legitimize only associations that restrict membership to purebred animals.

I think that purebred cats and dogs are often inbred and not as genetically sound as mixed-breed cats and dogs (I volunteer at an animal shelter, and the purebred animals that come in are on average less healthy than the mixed breed ones). Because of inbreeding, a certain number of purebred puppies and kittens will have genetic disorders that may cause them suffering. So I object to a law that limits breeding only to purebreds.

I think laws should be made with the assumption that people are basically going to do the right thing and should focus on punishing people who do harm, rather than trying to prevent harm by imposing restrictions on everybody. Of course I think some restrictions are legitimate—for example, I think the law that you need to stop at a red light even if the streets seem empty is legitimate even though it's a restriction—but responsibly breeding your non-purebred cat or dog should not be one of them.

As far as PETA is concerned, I know why they are supporting this bill: They would like there to be no pets and no pet ownership at all. I have heard that PETA euthanizes healthy adoptable animals that they received from people who believed they would find homes for the animals. So I think they will support anything that imposes restrictions on pet ownership and on breeding.


( 36 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 20th, 2007 07:52 pm (UTC)
All of the pets I ever owned where of mixed breed. We got them for an animal shelter, or they were given to us. I'm talking about all the dogs or cats I've had my entire life.

As I understand what you've written, no animals except those listed would be allowed to breed. Yes I agree there are too many good dogs and cats that are put to death. But if systematically only purebred animals are allowed to breed, then there will be only purebred pets...expensive purebreds. And this will be at a cost that most families cannot afford.

If that had happened 50 years ago, I would've never experienced the joys of being owned by a dog or a cat. Neither would my husband or my children. That would be sad.

Definitely something needs to be done, but this proposed solution will only benefit those that breed animals, thus driving the costs up eventually by supply and demand.

Both of my cats were born feral. I don't think I would have wanted to deny life to them.
Jun. 20th, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC)
And this will be at a cost that most families cannot afford.

That too. Although given how difficult it would be to actually enforce this law, it probably won't come to that for a long time.
(no subject) - mjlayman - Jun. 21st, 2007 01:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Jun. 21st, 2007 01:34 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 20th, 2007 07:53 pm (UTC)
Given the results of many "licensed" breeders, I'm not all that supportive of "purebred" dogs in general. Anyway, I'm under the impression that fixing an animal before six months is a really bad idea for the health of the dog.

I wonder is why they make an exception for service animals? All service dogs as far as I know get spayed or neutered at six months.
Jun. 20th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
I think allowing only purebred dogs to be bred will be harmful to the animals, yes. I saw some other sites that mentioned early spaying can be bad for a dog's health.

The service dog section was added when the bill was revised. I know that some service dogs are not purebred, e.g., hearing dogs are often not purebred, and I can see why some organizations might want to breed dogs for service. But I don't know why individuals who use service dogs also got an exception.
(no subject) - stonebender - Jun. 20th, 2007 09:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - saluqi - Jun. 21st, 2007 04:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stonebender - Jun. 21st, 2007 05:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 20th, 2007 08:34 pm (UTC)
I get tired of CA trying to pass laws 'for people's own good'. You can't legislate intelligence no matter how much you try.

YES, very well said.

PHS in San Mateo will spay your cat for $50; that's not cheap, but I gather it's less than most vets charge.

Jun. 20th, 2007 09:27 pm (UTC)
I'm with you -- there needs to be support for low-cost spaying/neutering of pets, and some license fees for keeping an intact pet you intend to breed. I don't think the license should be restricted to pure breeds for all the reasons you cite.
Jun. 21st, 2007 01:35 am (UTC)
I hope that the California legislature sees reason.
Jun. 20th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
sorry, this got kindof long
We have a similar law here, although ours is not quite as tight as what is being proposed for you.

In my territory, unless you have a "permit to keep an entire animal" your animal must be speutered. The permits cost $265. If you are a member of a registered canine association, they cost $55. The theory is that if you are a member, you are a reasonably responsible owner. Part of getting membership involves a declaration that you have not been convicted of offences against the relevant companion animal act, and you have to be approved by council - I have seen knockbacks for puppy milling. My only concern with this law, which I fully support, is that it is not enforced.

We have our multiple dog license, and all our paperwork in order. The guy next door has an entire bull arab, and does not. People who are part of the system will get the permits, people who aren't, won't bother and probably won't be caught.

I disagree about the health of pure breed dogs - I think you're probably seeing a particular strata of purebreeds in shelters not a representative sample.

Yes. I think there are some pure breeds which have been bred by the show community in ways that are unhealthy. A large part of the fault here lies with a system where judges are often no longer participating in their dog's relevant field activities (coursing, retrieving, etc). Pure breeds are also milled like cross breeds are, or subject to other stupid breeding programs (teacups for example) which is something that responsible breeders can't control.

That doesn't mean that the responsibly bred pure breed dog is likely to be more unhealthy. A milled pure breed dog is more likely to end up in a shelter, because a responsible pure breed breeder will take a dog back him or herself if it needs to be rehomed. It's one of the key checks for "is this person a responsible breeder?". That will affect what you're seeing.

A responsible breeder will also take care to expand the gene pool - importing semen is the way a lot of people do it in breeds like mine where there is a small pool of dogs. If you've spent the not inconsiderable cash doing that, you're far more likely to monitor the dog's progress through its entire life and get it back if it needs a new home.

You are also more likely to uncover defects in a pure breed dog because the system demands it. I have uncovered a minor defect in one of mine that is probably genetically carried, purely because I took him to the vet over something I would not have if he had not been a show animal. Discovering the minor defect was something that came up on the xray. The vet commented to me that had we not been very particular owners, no-one would ever have known - it certainly isn't evident to anyone looking at him, just as such a defect would not be evident to someone observing a mixed breed.

My parents occasionally comment that we seem to have a lot of trouble with our pure breed dogs. We don't, we take a lot of trouble with our dogs - the mixed breed we had as a kid had undescended testes that eventually went cancerous but because he was a backyard 1970's dog, it was just left and never discussed.

Here mixed breed dogs can compete in all our non-conformation events. They can do obedience, agility, flyball, tracking etc etc and win titles and their owners can be members of the canine association.

I agree that the anti-mixed breed bias in the US seems very counter productive - I was surprised to find it still existed. I don't agree however that it is desirable to breed mixed breed dogs. There is no goal in breeding a mixed breed that cannot be achieved with a pure breed or working dog, and there are heaps of mixed breeds out there in shelters looking for homes.

There are no salukis who have been euthanased in shelters in Australia for a long time (although to be fair 3 puppies died of parvo in a pound before we could get them homes) because the whole breed community pulls together to police itself and clean up after its own mess. That means if you want a saluki, you can't just go down to a shelter and get one. If you want a mixed breed, you can.
Jun. 21st, 2007 12:55 am (UTC)
Re: sorry, this got kindof long
In my territory, unless you have a "permit to keep an entire animal" your animal must be speutered. The permits cost $265. If you are a member of a registered canine association, they cost $55.

Now that seems reasonable -- assuming that a "registered canine association" doesn't mean "an association that only recognizes purebred dogs."

Thanks for the inside info about the breeding of purebreds.
Jun. 20th, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC)
Canine Companions for Independence aka CCI (the organization where I'm on the waiting list for a service dog) opposes this bill even after multiple amendments to try and get their support.

Their opposition letters are here. http://cci.org/national/in_the_news.html

Almost all CCI dogs are mixed breed. CCI breeds all their own dogs but they add dogs from private breeders to expand the gene pool. Most of these breeders are mom and pop operations that can't afford $500 per unaltered dog. Also some dogs like say labradoodles which work great for some folks take time to be recognized by the AKC as a recognized breed.

The main people this bill benefits are puppy mills and in fact it encourages the practice. If you regard a breeding animal as a financial asset and you add another $500 to its annual cost then you need to get that more out of that dog in the form of puppies sold to get your money back.

My cats were altered too young at six weeks old as required by the shelter. If I knew then what I knew now I'd have waited until they reached puberty to sterilize them. One cat has adjusted just fine to life with a child with medical issues. He's very happy. Unfortunately my other cat is incapable of doing so due to her own very minor medical issue (borderline hyperthyroidism) and she must live outside in a cat fenced yard. If she came from a reputable breeder she may not have even had these problems and if she did I'd have given her back to the breeder who would have been happy to have her. In a typical home she's a wonderful affectionate well-behaved cat who loves to sit in laps and purr. But all the no-kill shelters told me no one wants to adopt a 10 year old cat with medical issues however minor.

The bottom line is I will never get a cat or a dog from a shelter again. I will get them from a reputable breeder. I'm sure others with fewer needs do just fine with shelter animals but some of us need to know the animal has been treated well its entire life and can adjust to our life situation.
Jun. 21st, 2007 01:01 am (UTC)
Thanks for the CCI's take on it.

The main people this bill benefits are puppy mills and in fact it encourages the practice.

Good point, I hadn't thought of that.

It's true that adopting shelter animals means taking a risk. None of my shelter cats have had problems, but other people I know haven't been so lucky. I also know people who've had problems with purebred animals, but they might not have done all their homework about the breeder's reputation.
Jun. 20th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)
I am not worried about a PETA bill passing. They are considered "lunatic fringe" in California, and with good reason. I think it will need to be watered down considerably before legislators take it seriously enough to pass it.

Also, many veterinarians have spoken up against it for the simple reason that very early (4 months old is considered "very early") spay/neuter is often unsafe for the animal.

Agreed about the pure breed exception. This would amount to unnatural selection for an unhealthy population!

I don't have a problem with a mandatory spay/neuter law, though. The fee does seem high, but the concept, in my mind, makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately we live in a society that doesn't value animal life, and many people can't even be bothered to give their pets minimal care, let alone neutering. We have an out-of-control overpopulation of cats and dogs, so I think pretty stern measures are called for. It doesn't take much to spawn an exponentially growing line of animals stemming from one mother cat or dog. Rescue groups are overburdened trying to rescue ferals and healthy animals in shelters that are slated for euthanasia, simply because there's no room. They try to educate people, but it seems that unless there's a law with some real consequences for breaking it, a lot of people just don't give a damn.

However, I do agree that if there is going to be such a law, it had damn well better be easy and VERY CHEAP, if not free, to get pets neutered. Otherwise, that is what will penalize poor people.

I think it's interesting that the only commenter here who is comfortable with strong regulation is not an American. Oh, and me - maybe I'm an ex-pat trapped in an American's body. :) I find it very annoying when people start throwing around hysterical, reactionary terms like "nanny state" whenever someone wants to initiate strict regulation. Most civilized and democratic countries accept that regulation is necessary - why do Americans think they are above it? Anyway, look around you, and you'll see that we are not doing a good job self-regulating around cat and dog overpopulation. We clearly need some help.
Jun. 21st, 2007 12:37 am (UTC)
I find it very annoying when people start throwing around hysterical, reactionary terms like "nanny state" whenever someone wants to initiate strict regulation.

I find it very annoying when people (PETA in this case) react to serious problems with hysteria and run to the government to impose an ill-thought "solution" that penalizes the innocent along with the guilty -- in this case, by diminishing biodiversity.

I agree with firecat: Mixed-breed pets are just as valuable and useful as purebred ones [...] This bill would legitimize only associations that restrict membership to purebred animals [...] I think that purebred cats and dogs are often inbred and not as genetically sound as mixed-breed cats and dogs
(no subject) - bastette_joyce - Jun. 21st, 2007 01:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - selki - Jun. 21st, 2007 02:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bastette_joyce - Jun. 23rd, 2007 01:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Jun. 21st, 2007 01:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 20th, 2007 11:42 pm (UTC)
I don't know why some people wind up surprised (not you or the commenters so far) that PETA appears hell-bent on banning animal use. Their PR materials say point-blank that "Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment upon, own, or be entertained by." In their utopia, we are vegans in artificial fleece who trust computer models to evaluate new drugs and surgical techniques and have absolutely no contact with animals in zoos, our homes, or in entertainment. It's a good thing they would never get so far.
Jun. 21st, 2007 01:28 am (UTC)
In their utopia, we are vegans in artificial fleece who trust computer models to evaluate new drugs and surgical techniques and have absolutely no contact with animals in zoos, our homes, or in entertainment.

And wouldn't that be a sad life for us humans? And for animals, too?

Other animal species have contact with each other. Some have complex relationships outside of their species. Why shouldn't we?
(no subject) - firecat - Jun. 21st, 2007 01:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 21st, 2007 01:20 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. I'm not in California, but I find this appalling just the same. There have already been great points made about purebreds and the genetic/health problems, and the fact that PETA is against companion animal ownership (to which I say- we domesticated them, they *are* companion animals, it is our responsibility to provide them with safe, loving homes.) This just reeks of classism though. When I adopted Tonio last fall, he was on "death row" at the emergency vet clinic- someone brought him in as a stray, he had a URI and herpes in both eyes, and they couldn't keep him in isolation any longer. So I went and got him, initially planning to foster him till his people came to claim him. I knew this probably would not happen (it didn't.) I was not able to neuter him for several months, I couldn't afford it- does this make me irresponsible? No- he was kept indoors, and there was zero chance of him getting out. So, by PETA's logic, it would have been better if he had been euthanized. I can't agree with this. Tonio is now neutered, still an indoor kitty, healthy and happy. I am all about decreasing pet overpopulation, and would love nothing more if every domestic animal had a home. This reeks of a wierd elitism (purebred animals), and classism. Wouldn't it be better to spend time/money on grassroots education, and low cost/free spaying/neutering? It's the wealthy who buy purebreds (for the most part), and the working class/poor who need either education or financial help to get their pets spayed/neutered. I realize PETA doesn't care about my opinion, this just really bothers me, and I don't see it solving any real problems.
Jun. 21st, 2007 01:37 am (UTC)
to which I say- we domesticated them, they *are* companion animals, it is our responsibility to provide them with safe, loving homes.

My take on animal domestication is that it happened mutually. I think that humans and dogs actually evolved together as hunting partners. Humans and cats perhaps didn't have quite the same kind of interdependence, but they obviously developed a mutually beneficial arrangement. In both cases, though, I think that the "domestication" was probably largely (not entirely) unconcious. It was worthwhile for both species to work together, so they changed in response to one another and created a certain symbiosis.

Those bonds still exist today because they evolved that way over time. So it's perfectly natural for us to continue to be drawn to each other. However, human technology and civilization has changed to such a degree that it's no longer safe or, in many cases, even possible, for domestic cats and dogs to survive without human care. So yeah, I agree that we're responsible for them, because we created a world that no longer suits them.
(no subject) - femmediva - Jun. 21st, 2007 01:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Jun. 21st, 2007 01:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - femmediva - Jun. 21st, 2007 01:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 21st, 2007 01:22 am (UTC)
And I don't know why working/service dogs/cats shouldn't be fixed. It's not as if they transfer knowledge and training through the placenta to the babies.
Jun. 21st, 2007 01:42 am (UTC)
Well, but they do actually. At least in the case of working dogs, some of them are specifically bred to do a particular kind of work well (such as retrieving or herding), and/or to be physically suited to the work. So if you have a good working dog I think it's legitimate to want to breed it to pass on those traits.
Jun. 21st, 2007 03:39 am (UTC)
Various assumptions made. Interesting.

IMO the problem is not neutering or spaying your cat or breeding. These can be done irresponsibly or responsibly. IMO spaying or neutering a shelter animal at very young age is done to try to prevent overpopulation but it is not in the best interest of the animal's development. It also discourages some responsible people from getting a cat or dog from a shelter.

The root cause of pet overpopulation is irresponsible pet ownership. Irresponsible owners dump kittens and puppies and dogs and cats into shelters.

Responsible owners either find homes for their kittens and puppies or get training if there's a problem or find some sort of solution. If the cat or dog is dangerous or too sick then they euthanize the dog or cat themselves.

Responsible owners inform themselves of the risks and benefits of spaying and neutering. Responsible owners understand pets are EXPENSIVE if taken care of properly. I don't care if sterilizations cost $10 or $200 it still costs a LOT more than maintaining a pet - several hundred to thousands a year depending on how much your pet eats. And I'm not talking about fancy toys or food. I just mean basic dog or cat food that is not full of artificial colors and preservatives. And basic grooming tools. And for a dog most people need to shell out money to train the dog since it's very difficult to learn from a book. And dogs need training. And both dogs and cats need a checkup trip to the vet every year and a whole round of vaccines. Not to mention that adult unsterilized cats and dogs exhibit annoying behaviors since a responsible owner has an automatic incentive to sterilize.

Various folks mentioned England or Europe. I actually grew up in England. In England actually the emphasis is where it should be --- responsible ownership of pets. The RPSCA (which is actually the progenitor of the SPCA) spends a lot of time and money and effort educating people about pets. People have stickers on their cars like "A dog is for life."

In England existing ordinances about pets are fairly strictly enforced --unlike here. And in fact a new law was passed that rather telling people what they shouldn't do tells people what they should do --take care of their pet


"The Animal Welfare Act includes a new 'welfare offence' - which put simply means that the owner of a pet is legally obliged to care for their pet properly, by providing:

a proper diet, including fresh water
somewhere suitable to live
for any need to be housed with or apart from, other animals
the ability to express normal behaviour
protection from and treatment of, illness and injury.

It is important to remember that most pet owners will not need to change the way they care for their animals to comply with the new law - most people already provide for their pet's needs.

The law is not designed to catch people out - only to help protect animals that do not receive proper care."

I would be happy to support a California law like that here. I am quite happy about laws that tell people basic things they should do like fasten their seatbelts because it results in lower medical bills for me. The basic flaw of this bill is that it attempts to fix a problem without understanding the root cause of the problem which is that people should take care of their pets.
Jun. 21st, 2007 04:24 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure California has laws describing responsible pet ownership. There are certainly laws against abuse of pets, which apply to inadequate shelter, food, and medical treatment.
Jun. 21st, 2007 10:09 pm (UTC)
Hi Steff-

Yes - Big Brother has been contacted by PETA! You are sooo right. They don't want ANY pets. In fact - they want us all to be vegans and NO domestic animals! How sad!! I feel sorry for them - talk about a sad childhood they must have had!!!

But - I did want to mention that most of the purebred dogs you saw in the shelters were most likely bred in a puppy mill. There is no consideration for health - and they are weaned and shipped very early in life to a Pet Store. Then - they're an impulse buy. The purchaser has no idea of what they're buying, what the breed is like, what that dog will be like either physically or emotionally - not even help training. That's why they're older when they're relinquished.

Thanx for a great article!
Jun. 22nd, 2007 02:38 am (UTC)
I hope that a bill like this will prevent people from behaving stupidly, like a couple I was friends with a few years ago. They were basically backyard breeders, keeping their female dog tied up when she went into heat (they wanted to breed her eventually). She break loose, and she'd wander around town until someone would call animal control to report the dog as a nuisance, and she'd end up in doggie jail. This happened several times (one being on my friends' wedding day), and it would not surprise me that the local cops are getting fed up with my friends' inability to keep their animal under control. I expect that if something like this happens again, either the dog will be taken away from them, or my friends will end up paying not only pound fees but euthanasia fees as well.

However, you can't cure stupid.
( 36 comments — Leave a comment )

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