Ass'y Committee Defers Action To Consider Amendments To Proposed State Bill Requiring Spaying/Neutering Of Dogs/Cats; Legislation Puts LB In Forefront Again, Pitting Animal Advocates vs. LB/CA Convention Revenue
(April 12, 2007) -- LBReport.com follows-up below on a statewide story with LB ties.
The Assembly's Business & Professions Committee has agreed to defer action on the "CA Healthy Pets Act" (AB 1634) in view of amendments to the bill made shortly before its April 10 hearing.
The legislation would require (subject to certain exceptions) all dogs and cats over four months old in CA to be spayed or neutered. To view the bill's full text with its first amendments, click here.
The Committee is expected to take up the bill again in two weeks.
The proposed state legislation has put LB in the forefront. Friends of LB Animals (FoLBA) and a statewide coalition of animal advocacy groups are strongly backing the bill...while the American Kennel Club (breeder advocates) has indicated CA -- and LB -- could lose dog show revenue if the bill becomes law.
Controversy over the "California Health Pets Act (AB 1634), introduced by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D., Van Nuys) has both sides mobilized. An Assembly legislative analysis of the bill lists an unusually lengthy list of groups polarized in support or opposition to the measure. To view the legislative analysis, click here).
The collision arguably parallels a controversy that pitted local animal advocates against downtown convention revenue during the O'Neill administration.
In early 2006, the LB City Council reversed years of prior city policy that banned dog breeding, adopting an ordinance allowing regulated dog breeding. Documents obtained by LBReport.com at the time showed that AKC wrote then-LB Mayor O'Neill on three occasions between June 2004 and March 2005, urging a reversal of LB's dog breeding ban...and suggesting this might help make LB the permanent home of the group's national shows beyond 2006 and 2007.
In response to the proposed state legislation, AKC's Chairman of the Board, Ronald Menaker, sent a letter from the group's NYC HQ to CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, contending the bill would be "damaging...to responsible dog owners in California and also the revenue that California stands to lose if dog shows are forced out of the state as they would be under the provisions of AB 1634."
The AKC letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger attached a separate letter from AKC Board Chair Menaker to Assemblyman Mike Eng (D., Monterey Park) who chairs the Assembly Business & Professions Committee scheduled to give the bill its first Committee hearing. The letter states in pertinent part:
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is extremely concerned about Assembly Bill 1634, which would require dogs and cats over four months of age be spayed or neutered unless an intact animal permit is obtained by the owner. This legislation would be a death knell for dog shows and indeed purebred dogs in state of California. As Chairman of the Board of the American Kennel Club and on behalf of the 482 AKC-affiliated dog clubs in California and their thousands of members, and the 5,000 clubs nationwide, I urge you to oppose this bill.
In 2006, and previously in 2003, we held our internationally televised AKC/Eukanuba Championship at the Long Beach Convention Center. This site was chosen in part because California has always been considered to be a dog-friendly state. As one of the premier dog events in the world, the 2006 AKC/Eukanuba Championship drew approximately 28,000 visitors to California from all fifty states as well as several foreign countries. The Long Beach Area Convention and Visitorís Bureau estimates the eventís economic impact at approximately 21.7 million dollars. In fact, the bed tax alone generated $90,200 to the City of Long Beach. We would be glad to provide you with a video tape of the 2006 show.
We are scheduled to return to Long Beach in December of 2007 and in 2008 for our next AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. Passage of AB 1634 would make that very difficult. The current draft of the bill does not provide an exemption from the intact animal permit requirements for those exhibitors traveling to California from other states, making it virtually impossible for the vast majority of our exhibitors to attend this event. This would mean a major loss of revenue for the state as well as the loss of such a prestigious event to another state. The American Kennel has discussed designating Long Beach as the permanent home of the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, but passage of AB 1634 would make that highly unlikely.
In 2006, almost 160,000 competitors participated in 137 all-breed dog shows in California. Three of the ten largest shows in the United States are held in California. Another 130,000 competitors participated in events such as agility, obedience and field trials. Thousands of purebred and mixed bred dogs pass AKC Canine Good Citizenship Certificate tests each year. The AKC conducts ongoing research regarding the economic benefits of our events, and our estimates conclude that these exhibitors contributed approximately $92 million to local California economies. Should AB 1634 be adopted, California would not only have the dubious distinction of being the least dog friendly state in the nation, but could also potentially suffer economic losses in the millions of dollars...
The American Kennel Club works to support sound, enforceable animal control laws that promote responsible pet ownership. We oppose laws, such as AB 1634, which penalize responsible owners and breeders simply for keeping their animals intact and providing the public with healthy, well socialized pets. An appropriate response to shelter population issues is an increased emphasis on promoting responsible pet ownership, rather than imposing potentially outrageous intact animal permit fees for responsible owners and breeders.
I strongly urge you to reject AB 1634 and to work with the American Kennel Club, our California clubs, and responsible owners across the state to educate the public about responsible pet ownership.
The AKC has publicly posted its correspondence on its web site. To view it in full, click here.
For its part, FoLBA has sent a letter (text below) from its President Shirley Vaughan to Assemblyman Levine voicing strong support for his bill:
Friends of Long Beach Animals is in complete support of the California Health Pets Act (AB 1634). We actively support humane options for animals, and we have become uncomfortably familiar with the plight of stray and homeless cats and dogs. Feral colonies grow, despite the efforts of catch, neuter and release programs. The shelters are glutted, and no-kill shelters are nearly impractical. Long Beach Animal Control alone deals with thousands of animals being euthanized for lack of a good home. A large part of the City of Long Beach have uncaring and irresponsible pet owners who allow their pets to run at large and breed with more unwanted offspring added to the pet overpopulation program.
Animals in our community deserve a quality of life,. Friends of Long Beach Animals has been in business in the community for 17 years now trying to alleviate the problem of pet overpopulation and certainly appreciates your efforts with presenting this bill. Thank you for joining our fight to end pet overpopulation and the cruelty and loss of life that result from it.
Supporters of the bill have launched their own web site -- www.calhealthypets.com -- in support of the bill.
The AKC has also mobilized its web site -- www.akc.org -- putting the issue on its front page (as of April 10).
In 2005, in response to controversy over City Hall's attempt to reverse LB's then-existing dog breeding ban, LBReport.com used state freedom of information law and uncovered documents showing AKC had indicated to then-Mayor Beverly O'Neill that reversing LB's dog breeding ban might help make LB a permanent site for its AKC national shows.
The documents showed the AKC wrote to LB's then Mayor on three occasions between June 2004 and March 2005, urging reversal of LB's ordinance banning dog breeding...and suggested such an action might help make the city the permanent home of the group's national shows beyond 2006 and 2007.
"We are planning to return to Long Beach in 2006 and 2007 and would seriously consider Long Beach as the permanent site for our show if you could reexamine the breeding ban and develop a mutually satisfactory alternative...Our experience tells us that bans on breeding are not necessary if there are strong guidelines in place to ensure responsible practices," AKC told LB's then-Mayor in a March 2005 letter, paralleling two similar letters in June and August 2004.
In a July 2004 reply, Mayor O'Neill assured the AKC Board chair that "[w]e are addressing the concerns you have expressed."
The issue returned to the Council in a stealthy manner. On November 1, 2005, an item appeared on the Council "consent calendar" (items not scheduled for discussion unless requested by a Councilmember or member of the public). It sought Council approval to draft an ordinance reversing LB's dog breeding ban...permitting dog breeding with a city license and subject to restrictions.
Ron Arias, Director of City Hall's Dept. of Health and Human Services, wrote in an accompanying memo that his agency "is very aware of the pet overpopulation problem in our society and recognizes that thousands of animals are euthanized each year in animal shelters across the country. However, with proper restrictions that allow for limited, controlled breeding of dogs by permit, it is unlikely that the amendments to L.B.M.C. Sections 6.16.080 and 6.16.190 will add to the dog overpopulation problem in Long Beach. As responsible dog owners are permitted to breed their animals under stringent requirements, it is hoped that fewer unwanted dogs will be dropped off at the shelter." The Council directed preparation of the reversing ordinance.
By the time the ordinance returned to the Council for the first of two votes, animal activists had gotten wind of it. Friends of LB Animals opposed it to no avail. On motion by then-Vice Mayor/Councilwoman Jackie Kell, the Council gave a first vote approving the policy reversal.
That set the stage for a second, final Council vote...amd Councilman Frank Colonna responded by seeking to insert verbiage that would bring the ordinance back for Council review in six months [something the Council could do so even without the verbiage]...and the issue continued to roil.
On December 10, 2005 Justin Rudd (who led efforts to create LB's beachfront dog zone) convened a "town hall" style beachfront meeting at which several grassroots animal advocates opposed the policy change entirely.
When the ordinance returned to the Council on December 13, local animal advocates showed up in louder and larger numbers to oppose reversing city policy. In response to pointed opposition testimony from one public speaker, Mayor O'Neill volunteered that the policy change had received considerable attention. [Her remark prompted LBReport.com to make its Public Records Act request...and the first materials released appear to have come from the Mayor's office.]
The Council deferred a second, final vote on the ordinance until city staff gathered public input on possible additional items that might be included in the ordinance.
On December 29, city staff held a public meeting attended by members of Friends of LB Animals, as well as a representative of the L.A. based Actors and Others for Animals. They opposed reversing LB city policy to allow dog breeding.
Members of the LB Kennel Club also attended the meeting. They supported reversing city policy...which the City Council did, with grudging support from local animal advocates.
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