By: Staff  Date: 01/12/2012 Category: | Rescue | Shelter Issues |

The City of Los Angeles is holding hearings on a proposal that is intended to end the euthanasia of unwanted dogs and cats in shelters and the dumping of pets on the streets but actually targets the responsible breeding of healthy pets and show animals and the care of cat colonies by individuals.

Proposed by Councilman Marck Ridley-Thomas, the ordinance defines an animal owner as "any person harboring, keeping, or providing care or sustenance to a domestic animal for 15 or more consecutive days. It will require spay or neuter of every dog or cat over the age of four months unless the owner pays $100 per year to keep the animal intact. Annual breeding permits cost $200 per animal in addition to the intact animal fee. Current breeding permit fee is $50 and intact animal fee is $30.

The city has held six hearings on the proposal, the final session on October 21. The ordinance also limits the number of litters to one per household per year unless special permission is granted, prohibits the sale of puppies or kittens before the age of eight weeks, and requires immunization against common diseases before sale, listing of the breeder permit number in all advertising, and reporting the names and addresses of all buyers to the city's department of animal regulation.

Shelters are exepmt from the spay and neuter requirement. 

Under the ordinance, permits are needed to sell dogs and cats in public places for all but government agencies or non-profit animal rescue organizations, but no permit fee is listed. Finally, the ordinance prohibits using dogs and cats as prizes or inducements to enter contests or businesses and to sell or give animals to minors without written permission from parents or guardians. Owners get 30 days to correct violations by paying a penalty that doubles the fee, bringing the license for an unaltered animal to $200 and the fee for an unpermitted litter to $400. Permits can be revoked for violation. Half of the money collected as permit fees will be deposited in a spay and neuter fund.

Along with breeders and exhibitors, the ordinance will adversely affect those who take care of feral cat colonies or feed stray animals in their neighborhoods. If they feed animals for more than 15 days, these people will be responsible for trapping and sterilizing the animals, an expensive proposition for caretakers who finance their own Good Samaritan projects.


Echoing the claims of Senator Herschel Rosenthal's failed effort to impose a state-wide spay-neuter requirement, proponents of the LA bill allege that such an ordinance has worked in other places, but the record shows otherwise. The number of licenses have declined in San Mateo, the state's first jurisdiction to pass breeding restrictions.

"In fact, existing LA law already has fees and restrictions equal to or higher than the cited localities," reported Sharon Coleman of The Animal Council. "In both San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, there have been unexplained but unprecedented decreases in the numbers of dogs licensed after ordinances were implemented in only parts of the counties."

In addition to the license decline, San Mateo County actually experienced an initial increase in euthanasia in the parts of the county covered by the ordinance, an increase they tried to hide in the overall decline of shelter deaths in the whole county.

Coleman, an attorney specializing in animal law, said that the San Mateo license figures were apparently inflated; instead of the 50,000 licenses reported to the state's Department of Public Health Services for 1997, the actual count was 40,285. For 1998-99, the number dropped to 36,023, a dramatic decline from the 48-51 thousand range of the past two decades.

Santa Cruz experienced a similar drop from 8841 licensed dogs in 1991 to 6751 in 1997.

Coleman also pointed out that licensing is tied to rabies control in California and a decline in licensing affects rabies control programs in a time when city residents are coming in contact with wildlife - particularly coyotes - that are vectors for the disease.

"The only documented successful approaches to reducing shelter processing are effective provision of veterinary and basic animal services to under-served communities through community-based channels and incentives," Coleman wrote in a TAC report on the Los Angeles ordinance. "The policy issue should not be 'breeders' versus animal rights activists but the public interest in owning animals and good, effective government."

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All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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