(January 5, 2006) -- Documents obtained by LBReport.com under state Freedom of Information law (CA Public Records Act) show that the Chairman of the Board of the NY-based American Kennel Club wrote LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill on three occasions between June 2004 and March 2005, urging Long Beach to reverse its law banning dog breeding and suggesting the 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 Board Chair Ronald Menaker told LB's 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" although the issue would not reach the City Council -- the city's policy setting body -- until over a year later.
None of the correspondence released to date (while City Hall searches for possible additional responsive documents) indicates reducing the number of animals killed (euthanized) by LB's City Hall-run Animal Control facility was a stated factor in the proposed policy reversal, a rationale subsequently offered by city staff when the issue first surfaced in late 2005.
In a November 1 City Council agenda item placed on the "consent calendar" where it would not be publicly discussed unless specifically requested by a member of the Council or public, LB's Health Dept. (which operates LB Animal Control) sought Council approval to draft an ordinance 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 "over the past three years, City of Long Beach residents who wish to breed their dogs, as well as national organizations that promote the continuation of dog breeds through responsible breeding , have approached the City, requesting a reconsideration of the City’s total ban on dog breeding...The Department of Health and Human Services 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."
City staff's memo didn't indicate any relationship between the proposal to change the city's ordinance and the possibility that LB might be the site of possible future AKC events beyond 2006 and 2007 if the City reversed its dog breeding ban. However, the president of the Long Beach Kennel Club candidly confirmed as much to LBReport.com in December and called LB's new ordinance a win-win that would simultaneously create a newly enforceable law and bring economic benefits to the city.
On November 22, a draft dog breeding ordinance was agendized for the first of two Council votes required to enact it. Despite opposition testimony by some members of Friends of LB Animals, the Council voted (motion by Vice Mayor/Councilwoman Jackie Kell) to approve the policy change, setting the stage for a second, final Council vote.
Councilman Frank Colonna sought to insert verbiage to bring the ordinance back for Council review in six months (which the Council could do so even without the verbiage) but the issue continued to roil. On December 10, 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 (and 3d district Council candidate Norm Ryan) indicated they opposed the policy change entirely.
When the ordinance returned to the Council on December 13, local animal advocates showed up in 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 [a remark that 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 at which a "facilitator" from the non-profit NCCJ invited suggestions on including possible additional items in the new ordinance but repeatedly sought to prevent public comments on the new ordinance itself.
At the meeting, Members of Friends of LB Animals, as well as a representative of the L.A. based Actors and Others for Animals, continued to voice opposition to reversing LB city policy to allow dog breeding while members of the LB Kennel Club supported reversing current city policy. City staff and management were present but no LB elected officials were visible. The NCCJ "facilitator" indicated the public's suggestions would be conveyed to City Hall for possible staff recommendation to the Council. At some point, the issue is expected to return to the City Council for further action.
LBReport.com posts extended portions of the AKC correspondence with Mayor O'Neill's office below. [LBReport.com appreciates City Hall's release of responsive materials to date while continuing to process the remainder of our request].
The American Kennel Club is planning for the 2006 and 2007 AKC Eukanuba National Championship shows. Our experience in Long Beach in 2003 was so favorable that we are again looking for a possible return in those years.
I believe that I may have discussed with you that one difficulty we have with positioning our show in Long Beach is the existence of the ordinance that prohibits the breeding of dogs within the city limits.
AKC prides itself on its responsible and successful breeders. They form the foundation of our sport. We build into our show a significant tribute to our breeders and spotlight their importance.
When we held our show in Long Beach in 2003, we did receive criticism from some of our people about holding it in a city that was so "unfriendly to dogs." We do not believe that Long Beach is unfriendly to dogs based on the widespread ownership of dogs in your community and your recent building of a new animal shelter.
Before we move too much further on our plans for 2006 and 2007, I am requesting that you and your council consider a re-examination of the breeder-restriction ordinance. If you would favor such a re-examination, I believe that we could move ahead with our planning.
I know that legislation on every level of government can move slowly. We would not expect any definitive action on a re-examination of the ordinance before we made a decision on 2006 and 2007, but a favorable action on it would have considerable bearing on whether we might decide to make Long Beach the permanent home of the AKC Eukanuba National Championship show.
I look forward to hearing form you soon.
July 8 Reply from LB Mayor O'Neill to AKC Board Chair Menaker
We are delighted to learn that the American Kennel Club is planning to return to Long Beach for the 2006 and 2007 AKC Eukanuba National Championship shows. I personally, am thrilled as I am such a devoted canine lover and enjoy watching these championship events.
We are addressing the concerns you have expressed and I believe it important that you know that our City Attorney is investigating the City Ordinance that prohibits the breeding of dogs within the city limits. I will keep you apprised of our progress.
We are a city that is dog friendly and our newly constructed P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village serves as a national model for future animal shelters. In addition, our citizenry has set aside a portion of beach property for our four legged friends to enjoy the freedom of our beaches and surf.
We look forward to welcoming you back to Long Beach.
s/ Beverly O'Neill
August 24, 2004 Letter from AKC Board Chair Menaker to Mayor O'Neill
I am writing to you to express the American Kennel Club's support in rescinding or substantially changing Section 6.16.190 of the Long Beach municipal code. This code section has been brought to our attention by many participants attending our National Championships this pasty December.
As you are aware, the American Kennel Club intends to find a permanent home for our National Championships, and we are currently committed to be in Long Beach in both December 2006 and 2007. If we receive the television ratings in December 2006 that we anticipate, and if changes were made to the current dog breeding law as we have discussed, then it would be our intention to keep the National Championships at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, assuming they can accommodate us.
Many among our constituency are very concerned about our hosting this prestigious event in a city that does not allow dog breeding within its limits. We are hopeful that the City Council will reconsider this code section and that we can continue our relationship with your wonderful city.
I look forward to receiving information regarding this resolution after the City Council has had an opportunity to review all of these concerns.
March 21, 2005 Letter from AKC Board Chair Menaker to Mayor O'Neill
...We believe there are excellent alternatives to an outright ban on breeding and after I received your letter [of July 8, 2004], our canine Legislation department began working with Assistant City Attorney, Michael Mais, toward that end. We sent him model language and ordinances that have been successful in other areas of the country and recommended that Long Beach establish a task force that includes local dog fanciers to begin developing an appropriate bill for the city.
Late in 2004, Mr. Mais told us he thought it was necessary for you to request that the Health Department amend the ordinance and said he would speak to all parties in this regard [but contends movement thereafter reached a standstill].
The AKC Eukanuba National Championship show in Long Beach 2003 was extremely successful and we were sincerely appreciative of your warm welcoming hospitality. The economic benefit and media exposure to the City of Long Beach was substantial. In fact, Steve Goodling, the president of the Greater Long Beach Visitors and Convention Center [sic, means Convention & Visitors Bureau] was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying "the three-day event will have poured $4.6 million into the city." In addition, our outreach to news media reached over 110 million people nationwide and the televised broadcast on Animal Planet was seen by millions of viewers.
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.
The AKC is a strong proponent of responsible breeding. We do much to promote and ensure this end and to educate the general public on how to identify, locate and buy from responsible breeders. In addition, we maintain a department that inspects breeders, brokers and pet stores to enforce our rigorous care and conditions policy as well as examine record keeping and identification practices. Those who do not meet our standards may not register with the AKC until or unless they correct their deficiencies. Those convicted of neglect or cruelty to dogs are suspending from all AKC privileges. Our experience tells us that bans on breeding are not necessary if there are strong guidelines in place to ensure responsible practices.
I look forward to hearing form you on how we can get our efforts back on track. We would like to move ahead with planning our shows and make your beautiful city our permanent home.