While a controversial bill that would have required Californians to spay or neuter their dogs and cats hit a roadblock in a Senate committee Wednesday, local animal advocates say the solution to pet overpopulation may not be found through any legal mandate.
The California Healthy Pets Act, or AB 1634, was shelved after legislators requested more information, said Judi Mancuso, campaign director for the initiative. Its author, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, will likely reintroduce the bill in January, Mancuso said.
“We waived the vote because they wanted us to work on the bill. I do understand this law would be a change for the state and everyone needs to be comfortable,” Mancuso said.
Peninsula Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals President Scott Delucci said similar laws were passed in Belmont, San Mateo, East Palo Alto and unincorporated San Mateo County in the early 1990s. Like the proposed state bill, they required that dogs and cats be licensed and sterilized, unless a special breeder’s permit had been purchased.
But more than a decade after the measures were passed, few residents are aware of them. They are only enforced when a stray animal is picked up by the Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA, Delucci said.
Despite the languishing laws, San Mateo County has seen its unwanted pet population fall dramatically. In the 1970s, about 45,000 animals ended up in the county shelter each year. Today, that number has dropped to less than 10,000.
And though SPCA officials aren’t against the legislation, success in curbing pet overpopulation has been achieved through other means.
Delucci credits the success to privately funded programs that make sterilizing pets easy and free, such as the SPCA’s mobile spay and neuter clinic and a program in which dog owners are paid $10 to sterilize their pit bulls.
Neither the Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA nor the San Francisco SPCA took official positions on AB 1634. Both Delucci and San Francisco SPCA President Jan McHugh-Smith said they supported the bill’s goal of spaying and neutering, but were concerned about whether the mandate could be properly supported by low-cost clinics — particularly in poor and rural areas.
“I was concerned that people who were trying to do the right thing would be put in a tough situation if they couldn’t access low-cost spay and neuter services and I didn’t want those animals to end up in the shelters,” said McHugh-Smith.
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