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    "Town Hall" @ Dog Zone Draws Speakers Re Proposed Dog Breeding Ordinance

    (December 11, 2005) -- In response to an emailed call by animal advocate Justin Rudd to attend a December 10 "Town Hall" style meeting at the beachfront dog zone he helped created, about three dozen people met to discuss recent City Hall actions that have brought LB to the verge of repealing its longstanding ban on dog breeding and replacing it with an ordinance allowing dog breeding for one litter per year with a City Hall permit.

    About three dozen people met at LB's beachfront dog zone...and most were visibly and audibly opposed to changing LB's law to permit dog breeding.

    Members of Friends of LB Animals opposed permitting intentional breeding while City Hall kills unwanted animals daily in its Animal Control facility.

    Margo Carter, Treasurer, Friends of LB Animals: ...I am against this new breeding ordinance. Won't we all be happy when there are homes for all of the animals? Then euthanizing will no longer be required. Only when we have a shortage of animals would I support a breeding license ordinance with effective monitors in place.

    The only long term solution to stop euthanizing, to have a real no-kill shelter, a no real-kill city, is spay-neuter. More breeding flies in the face of this goal.

    Please, City Council, vote against this breeding license ordinance...

    Nona Daly, Vice President of Friends [of LB Animals] has a message. Nona is not in favor of this breeding license ordinance...She would like funding so that Animal Control is able to respond to whatever the ordinance. With an adequate budget to enforce animal ordinances, the euthanasia numbers can be greatly reduced and prove that Long Beach really is an animal-friendly city.

    Shirley Vaughan, president of Friends, also sends a message: The City of Long Beach needs to provide personnel, and a vehicle for the sole purpose of enforcing the current ordinance, or any new ordinance, so as not to overburden Animal Control, so that Animal Control is able;e to work on the huge backlog of current animal cruelty cases and backyard breeding.

    Please vote no for the sake of the animals.

    But Jack Smith, President of the LB Kennel Club, backed efforts to replace LB's current ordinance banning dog breeding (which he called unenforceable) with an ordinance he said parallels other CA cities that permit limited dog breeding.

    Jack Smith, President, Long Beach Kennel Club: ...I support everything that all of you wonderful people are doing for your dogs. I'm a dog lover like you are and have been one my whole life...What we proposed hopefully will accomplish three things. One, in Long Beach we need an ordinance that has teeth in it. The ordinance that we have now, I understand from the City Attorney, because it's one that's just kind of evolved over time, really is very difficult to enforce. The one that we're proposing comes from a model that we're seeing implemented throughout the United States to better control the breeding of animals and we think it'll work here in Long Beach. We hope that it won't create more breeding, it will create less breeding because it gives our officers here in Long Beach the ability to enforce the law in a better way.

    The other thing that it does, and I think this probably the most important, I was at a meeting with the Councilman [Frank Colonna] a couple of days ago, and we all sat down at the table and we were talking about these issues. And the Councilman mentioned that, wouldn't it be wonderful if all of us could come together and work on trying to create a model ordinance or a model program for the City of Long Beach. Now that's the important thing...because it doesn't really matter, and I can tell you from experience, what the law is; what matter is how you approach the law and what you do...

    ...By all of us sitting down at the table and figuring out what we can do have a better rescue program in the City of Long Beach, what can we do to make sure that spaying and neutering takes place in a more efficient manner. What can we do to make sure that the enforcement of the laws that'll be invoked will be enforced and how can we assist that? How can we get more voluntary compliance to want to obey the law, and that's really the key to it.

    That's where I stand, and I want to tell you -- and you may not believe me -- that I would not come to you with anything that I felt was going to harm dogs or was going to be detrimental to dogs, and if it turns out that this ordinance, if passed, has problems, you'll see me being the first one standing before the Council saying this is a mistake and we should have done more with it...

    Following the open-mike Town Meeting -- in response to questions from (colloquy below) -- Mr. Smith confirmed that the proposed repeal of LB's current ban on dog breeding are related to efforts by others (which he supports) to maintain American Kennel Club conventions in LB. He said enacting a new, enforceable ordinance allowing limited dog breeding while also bringing the city convention related business was a "win-win" situation.

    Mr. Smith denied that he played a role in the politics of the change but acknowledged he'd communicated his support for the proposed change to the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), which he said discussed the matter with LB City Hall. The CVB receives roughly 3/4 of its annual operating budget (roughly $4 million annually) from a vote of the LB City Council allocating funds from LB's hotel room tax).

    When asked by with whom at City Hall CVB had discussed changing LB's law (city management, Councilmembers or the Mayor) Mr. Smith said he didn't know. was unable to reach a CVB representative over the weekend for comment.

    On November 1, 2005, an item appeared on the City Council agenda, agendized by city management, requesting Council approval to direct the City Attorney to prepare a dog breeding ordinance. The item was listed as part of the Council's "Consent Calendar" -- items not discussed publicly unless a Councilmember or member of the public requests it. No one requested it and there was no discussion of the item before it received unanimous approval. A city management memo by Health & Human Services Director Ron Arias (who oversees Animal Control) didn't mention promoting convention business as a reason for the ordinance change...and explicitly stated that Council action on the item was not time critical.

    On November 22 (two days before Thanksgiving), the ordinance returned to the Council for the first of two votes needed to approve it. A member of Friends of LB Animals testified against it. Again, no one in city management nor any Councilmember disclosed publicly that convention business played a role in moving to change LB's law. Vice Mayor Jackie Kell, in whose district LB's Animal Shelter is, moved the item (seconded by Baker).

    Third district Councilman Frank Colonna indicated he had concerns with the proposed change and proposed an amendment to require the City Attorney and Health Department to semi-annually report back to the City Council regarding the effects and results of the ordinance and allow the City Council to determine whether the ordinance should be enforced or repealed. Kell and the Council quickly accepted the amendment.

    At the December 10 beachfront "Town Hall," Councilman Colonna said:

    Councilman Frank Colonna: ...We did have a meeting the other night at the [3d district] Field Office...and what I had said there and I'll just recap some of that the difficulty that we have with this existing ordinance is that it was crafted in the 1950s and it would be extremely difficult to uphold in any way if it were truly enforced with the full effects of the law. And also I suggested and mentioned to you that my voting no on this ordinance, I feel, with the majority of the Council supporting it would accomplish really little if anything.

    And as I mentioned that evening, I think what we could try to do is make lemonade out of lemons and use this ordinance with a good opportunity to start a process of what many of you believe in that we could continue from here forward, and that is to deal with the breeding of animals in our city and also to tightly regulate what's happening that has not been regulated in the past.

    I spoke with the City Attorney again yesterday and we talked about this particular older ordinance and whether it really could even stand a court case, but what we also spoke about was the new ordinance that's going to be discussed Tuesday night, and to let you know what I will be bringing forward...

    This is not going to be dealt with as an infraction. This will be an ordinance that will be under the full authority of [operate with the same force] any other ordinance that carries the kinds of penalties that many of you would like to see happen when we have violations of ordinances: six months in prison if it goes that far and a thousand dollar fine as a misdemeanor.

    ...I really feel that what we can do is get something started, and I asked also that evening if we could work, which I will, with the City Manager with your support and I've already talked to Jerry Miller yesterday, as well as the City Attorney, we look at funding partnerships, we look at education, we look at enforcement, and we look at the fine structure and the licensing structure. And he agreed to that and I will bring that up to the floor on Tuesday night and we will have a report back to you in sixty days or sooner.

    And also I wanted to just let you know, one other thing which I think is also what I would like to call our "assurance policy" for this particular ordinance," and this is that on any Tuesday night any Councilmember can introduce a request to review any ordinance that's written on the books, which gives us a great opportunity if this is nothing but thin air, or if people who commit don't really have the resolve to help, that we can bring this back and we could write an ordinance that will stand and support what our overall objectives are. This particular one happens to be a start. Like you, I am educating myself as to all of the options in what we're dealing with...

    ...I will assure you of this: that what I want to do is track this ordinance once it gets passed to see if actually there is a positive outcome from this, that a lesser number of animals are euthanized, more are being adopted, because I will assure you I will be the first to reintroduce rescinding the ordinance if it doesn't work.

    Additional extended excerpts of salient parts of the beachfront "Town Hall" follow:

    Judy Crumpton [sp]:...I'm getting a little emotional here. I don't understand what we're doing. I don't understand how anybody can think that this amendment puts teeth into anything...If we put this amendment in...what is going to happen in this city which everyone is looking at...we are inviting more breeding. Ladies and gentlemen, up to seven million dear, healthy, adoptable loving, companion animals are being killed in our country, and we're talking about an amendment to ordinance that will invite more. We're not supporting our Animal Control by doing this. We're letting them down. And more than that, we are letting down all of the dear animals in that animal control facility. Please walk through the kennels and look in their eyes. Do you know what they're saying? Help, get me out of here. I've done nothing wrong, I was only born. Please, everyone, think about this and vote no. Say no to this amendment. It's a huge mistake.

    Diana Lejins [reading letter from her dog "Princess" to LB City Council]: I'm so disappointed that you voted to continue with this new, inhumane ordinance allowing the breeding of more dogs. I am a loyal and loving seven pound long-haired Chihuahua that would have been among the 130,000 animals killed in the year 2000 in Los Angeles County if my Mom had not rescued me from certain death...[addressing herself to Councilmembers] If the kennel clubs are so calloused about insisting on more breeding, and you are willing to bend to their pressure, then I hope you all understand your complicity in the killing of thousands more of us for the sake of a fast buck...

    unidentified speaker: ...I smell a rat. I would implore anybody making the decision...the fact is if you follow the money, it isn't about genuine dog lovers. It's about bucks. It's about hotel rooms for AKC conventions. It's about restaurants. It's about all the kinds of things, there's nothing wrong with that, it's just that at what price do we pay, and it's not us, it's the animals [who pay the price]...Let's stop talking silliness and start following the bucks...

    unidentified speaker: ...I am so totally against this ordinance...It's very important for everybody to appear at the Council meeting. Get to your friends, everybody to come, because people are running for elections, OK, so this is your time to put your two cents stand up and be counted.

    Norm Ryan [3d district Council candidate]: ...This has to do with my feelings about how the city operates. 13 years ago a Councilperson said something really revealing. He said, 'You know, in certain areas of the city, if we pushed back street sweeping an hour, we'll get more money.' So street sweeping wasn't about keeping streets clean, it had morphed into something more, it had morphed into a revenue generator...If there's enough money in these fines or in the breeding permit [under the new ordinance] then they're going to be hit up for fines [and City Hall come to defend the new ordinance as a revenue generator]...In many ways, I think this is a bad ordinance.

    Linda Treffry, Friends of Long Beach Animals: I really believe it's a sad day when our City Council succumbs to the lobbying efforts of a national organization like the American Kennel Club...From the city perspective, there is much to lose if the AKC were to threaten a move of its annual dog show to another city in southern California...For every dog that is placed in a home under the new dog breeding ordinance, one less home is available for a dog awaiting its fate at Animal Control...The current pet overpopulation in the city of Long Beach is primarily due to irresponsible pet ownership. This problem will not be addressed by City Council support of the sport of dogs or the sale of dogs.

    Jack Smith [second time] Long Beach Kennel Club: ...I just heard comments that this was an ordinance that is proposed by the American Kennel Club, and I can tell you that that's absolutely false. This ordinance that you're seeing being proposed by the City Council now really came from the County of San Mateo/Santa it didn't come from the AKC. The speaker was correct when we talk about the fact that the AKC does not like restrictive breeding ordinances. I don't agree with that. I'm a member of the AKC but I do not agree with that. I think that this ordinance, again, has been very successful up and down the state of California and throughout the nation, and again to make sure you understand, it is not an ordinance that is condoned by the AKC. It's one that the people in California has been using, it's been effective, and I think it'll be effective here.

    Justin Rudd: ...[mentions that a speaker discussed having the Council postpone the item to a future date] so we can all sit down and write what we all agree on as a better recommendation before it gets voted on Tuesday night [December 13]. Is there any urgency that it is voted Tuesday night? It hasn't been debated. There was no public meeting like this, as far as I know, I wasn't invited or told about it...

    A second, final Council vote on the proposed dog breeding ordinance is scheduled for Dec. 13. At that time the Council could approve it...or a substitute motion by any Council member (if approved by a majority) could send the item to a Council committee for public input and discussion. colloquy with LB Kennel Club President Jack Smith ...It's been reported that this ordinance had some relationship to bringing convention business to the city of Long Beach. Can you confirm or deny that?

    Mr. Smith: Confirm it. Tell me a little about that.

    Mr. Smith: ...There's a lot of competition in dog shows, you know where they're held, and we were very fortunate to have the American Kennel Club bring their invitational to Long Beach last year...They wanted to come back here because they had such a great time and such great support by the community, but the sponsors had heard rumors that we've been hearing for a long time is why should you hold your show in the city of Long Beach when they won't even allow a dog to be bred in the city of Long Beach. And that caused concern, and it was enough of a concern that they may go to New York versus coming to Long Beach.

    Alright, what we're looking at is probably about a $40 million positive economic impact if they come here for three, four. five years. They're also looking at making this a permanent home for the AKC invitational, so what you'd have is a yearly, a worldwide televised event that shines on the city of Long Beach. It would bring tremendous economic impact to the city, which then in turn brings money to help Animal Control and all the things that go on. So anyway, that was the issue.

    So we looked at the ordinance, in the Long Beach Kennel Club we've looked at it, cause this has been brought to us over about the past ten years. And the City Attorney felt that the law you have now is not our thoughts were that, OK, what if we introduced an effective law, one that had teeth to it, and would allow the breeding of one litter per household like several cities and counties are in the state of California, and that would also eliminate that roadblock where we could bring an event here that would have great economic impact. So whom did you approach? How did it work exactly?

    Mr. Smith: Well we went to the Convention Center [presumably means LB Convention and Visitors Bureau] and we said, they were actually dealing with the AKC. And so we're local and they asked us to answer questions basically. In terms of the Council, did you speak to Councilpeople or the Mayor?

    Mr. Smith: No, I haven't, I mean I have at the meetings, they've asked questions but we didn't, it was the AKC that spoke with the Convention Center [CVB] and they were the ones who have... So it was the AKC to CVB, Convention and Visitors Bureau...

    Mr. Smith: There you go... ...and you didn't have your hands on it.

    Mr. Smith: That's exactly right. And then at some point it go from CVB to somebody at City Hall.

    Mr. Smith: Right, well, they thought that, yeah, what we're proposing was a good idea, I say we the [LB]AKC, was a good idea, and that is that if we could develop an ordinance that had more teeth in it, that would provide improved ability to enforce the law and we would improve the economic impact or economic situation in the City of Long Beach, it's a win-win. Do you know with whom they spoke, what Councilpeople?

    Mr. Smith: I have no idea. I wasn't involved in the politics of it all, so I don't know. Not with the city management?

    Mr. Smith: No. Not with the Mayor?

    Mr. Smith: No. (lighthearted chuckle) Not with Councilpeople?

    Mr. Smith: (chuckles) No... You talked to CVB 'cause they wanted to know

    Mr. Smith: ...Well they're the ones that deal with, CVB, because that's whom we deal with to put on our show... One of the speakers here said, I'm paraphrasing, but if it had to do with money, then...why should it be supported this coming Tuesday [Dec. 13]?

    Mr. Smith: Well the thing of it is, the city has to have money to operate, you know, I mean any convention that comes to town, they're asked to make sure that you fill X amount of hotel rooms, and if you don't, then they'll bring somebody else in who will. At the point of a gun...

    Mr. Smith: Well... ... change your law or we'll go elsewhere?

    Mr. Smith: Well no, no, I mean let's face it. It's business, that you know in order to make a city work or a county work you've got to have a tax base. If you don't have a tax base then all the problems we're talking about can't be resolved because you don't have anybody to pay for it...

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