By:  Date: 06/4/2007

For Immediate Release:   June 4, 2007                           
For more information contact: Patti Strand, NAIA National Director 503-761-8962

SACRAMENTO , CA -- The anti-pet movement has found a sponsor in the California legislature for a bill that strips pet owners of their traditional rights and, in the process, sharply reduces both the quantity and quality of purpose-bred dogs and cats -- including those bred for assistance to the disabled, and for search & rescue operations.

AB 1634 is backed by the extremist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and sponsored by Assembly Member Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys). If it passes, most California pet owners will have to sterilize their pets.

"This bill comes with a noble-sounding name but AB 1634, the so-called California Healthy Pets Act, will not improve the health of California pets," says Patti Strand, National Director of the National Animal Interests Alliance, one of the nation's most respected animal welfare groups.

The bill is fraught with unintended consequences. Among them: a predictable flood of unregulated -- and typically unhealthy -- dogs from Mexico, already the proven source of up to 10,000 illegal dogs sent to California each year according to US Customs and Border Protection:    "In a global marketplace," according to Strand , "over-regulating the AKC and CFA hobby breeders who are the best source of healthy, well-socialized, home-raised puppies and kittens, creates a vacuum, effectively ‘outsourcing' pet production to other countries that don't come close to reaching US standards of animal health, care or quality." The increasing demand for puppies has also led to the importation of strays rescued from foreign countries that are being marketed through non-profit organizations like The Animal Place  and Compassion Without Borders . This influx harms California consumers and poses a significant public health threat.

Despite the claims of the bill's supporters, many respected California veterinarians oppose AB 1634, including one the state's most distinguished vets.   Dr. John Hamil is past president of the California Veterinary Medical Association, founder of the California Council of Companion Animal Advocates that sponsored biannual Pet Overpopulation Symposia (now the Animal Care Conference), member of the American Veterinary Medical Association's Animal Welfare Committee and the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy and author of the CVMA and AVMA positions on early spay/neuter.

Dr. Hamil, a leader in spay/neuter programs, terms AB 1634 "divisive legislation [that] will not help and may aggravate the situation."   Noting that young puppies and kittens are not biologically mature enough for spaying and neutering in many cases, Dr. Hamil states:   "It is inappropriate to mandate a controversial and possibly life-threatening surgical procedure."

Also strongly opposed to AB 1634 is Sharon Vanderlip, DVM, former shelter animal veterinary clinician and surgeon, a longtime advocate of voluntary spaying and neutering.   "This bill is not a ‘healthy' pet act," said Dr. Vanderlip. "It will not help animals or improve their health.   It will not reduce the shelter animal population.   It will not reduce the number of animal euthanasias.   To the contrary, the number of animals in shelters and the number of euthanasias will increase as people who cannot afford to alter their pets, or pay fines associated with non-compliance, will abandon their animals, relinquish them to shelters, or have them euthanized. This has already happened in municipalities that attempted similar legislation."

Christian Osmond, DVM, board-certified veterinary surgeon, opposes the bill on similar grounds. Dr. Osmond says he cannot reconcile his professional oath to "above all else…do no harm" with programs that place political agendas above sound veterinary practice, a priority that could put pets at risk.

Canine Companions for Independence , an organization supporting assistance dogs for the disabled, opposes AB 1634 because even with exemptions for today's carefully supervised dogs, the bill's long-term effects would greatly reduce genetic diversity and threaten the existence of their breeding program.

Law enforcement groups -- representing tens of thousands of uniformed officers -- oppose AB 1634 because it will drastically reduce the future supply of dogs suitable for apprehending criminal suspects and performing vital Homeland Security tasks. The U.S. Congress has recognized the critical need to breed more dogs for Homeland Security work with pending legislation HR 659.   AB 1634 would send this important bipartisan effort into a tailspin.

"AB 1634 would shrink the pool of dogs that are suitable for search and rescue, undermining our ability to do this life-saving work," says Laura Sanborn, California K9 search and rescue volunteer.

The Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America supports spay and neuter programs and in fact requires compliance for all MBDCA registered dogs.   But president Cindy Leung said that AB 1634 will not solve the problem it claims to address.   Instead, she said, the bill "punishes organizations, animal shelters, businesses and responsible breeders that have been among the few sources of education in regard to responsible pet ownership and breeding. Over 87% of animals relinquished to shelters are there due to behavioral problems; if California truly wants to solve the pet overpopulation problem it should promote training and behavior education rather than mandatory spay and neuter."

Animal shelter statistics demonstrate that pet owners are well on their way to solving the pet population problems of yesterday.    Today, California 's largest animal problem is feral cats (cats without owners); but AB 1634 establishes no programs for these cats. Worse yet, it imposes penalties on cat breeders who breed and place their kittens with care.

NAIA director Strand notes that AB 1634's chief advocates claim they have "no relationship to animal extremists."   However, PETA operatives play key roles in Social Compassion, a sister group to the bill's public supporter, CA Healthy Pets Coalition.

"Beyond AB 1634 itself, the issue at stake is responsible political process," NAIA's Strand concludes.   "Will the California Assembly rely on the expertise of the state's animal professionals – including leading veterinarians, experts in law enforcement and service dog breeding programs, dedicated breed enthusiasts, animal welfare groups, the leading organizations for cats and dogs like Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) and the American Kennel Club ( AKC ), county Boards of Supervisors, and other respected individuals and organizations – or will they listen to groups that oppose all pets, healthy or not?"

"The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."
-- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis



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