In 98, California governor signs two dog and cat bills

In 98, California governor signs two dog and cat bills

By: Norma Bennett Woolf  Date: 10/31/1998 Category: | Animal Legislation | Canine Issues |

Dog and cat fanciers had their work cut out for them this year in California when three bills dealing with pet population issues showed up in the legislature. The Rosenthal bill, SB2102, was a breeder licensing bill that had several lives before it was finally defeated in committee in August. Senator Herschel Rosenthal, author of the bill, is not eligible for reelection.

The remaining two bills deal with shelter issues but have some components that could affect pet owners and breeders. AB 1856 began with a requirement that all dogs and cats sold in the state be sterilized, but was amended to eliminate that proposal. The bill sent to Governor Pete Wilson for his signature requires that:

  • all shelters and rescue groups in counties with more than 100,000 population spay or neuter all dogs and cats before adoption;
  • public shelters in counties under 100,000 population take spay and neuter deposits of no less than $40 per animal and enforce sterilization within 30 days; and
  • state fines be added to local fines when an intact dog or cat is impounded.


The term "impound" is not defined in the bill; a definition will likely be left to local interpretation. Generally, to impound an animal means to take it into custody; animals impounded for reasons other than infractions of the animal control law could be included, leaving the door open for sterilization of a breeder's animals even if they were impounded as part of another case. (The City of Oakland, California, sterilizes unlicensed dogs on the first impound and has already had a case where two intact dogs were impounded when a caretaker was taken into custody by police for reasons unrelated to animals.)

The law takes effect on January 1, 2000 and ends on January 1, 2006.

SB 1785 introduced by Senator Tom Hayden establishes a policy that adoptable and treatable animals are not to be euthanized and authorizes seizure of animals for cruelty based on reduced standards. Under this law, pet owners can face administrative hearings conducted by the impounding agency and be required to pay the costs of seizure to avoid forfeiting their animals.

The Animal Council points out these problems with the new laws:

  • Increased workload and expenses for animal control agencies and contractors are expected to result in demands for increased funding with the risk of looking to animal owners for higher license and related fees. In some areas, increasing numbers of sterilized animals and discount eligible senior citizen owners have resulted in limiting revenues from licensing.
  • There are increasingly serious consequences from any type of "impound," not just limited to animals "at large." Owners must be extremely careful about physical security and care arrangements in their absence. Any caretaker or household member who is on probation or the subject of law enforcement interest for unrelated matters, or any unrelated matter involving child or adult protective services will increase the risk for household animals being impounded.
  • The standard under Penal Code 597f is far less than the cruelty statutes, and convictions have been obtained for as little as algae in outdoor water containers. The change in the law will increase the risk that animals will be impounded and owners subject to administrative hearing and risk of forfeiture based on financial considerations with no criminal charges brought. Owners will need to be aware that anyone in this position should be advised to retain immediately legal counsel capable of defending a criminal charge and have cash or credit reserves for this purpose. Non-custodial co-owners should be notified and prepared to protect their own interests.

About The Author

Norma Bennett Woolf's photo
Norma Bennett Woolf -

Editor and Writer for the National Animal Interest Alliance.

All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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