Levine amends spay-neuter bill

Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, has submitted several amendments to try to secure the passage of his controversial spay-neuter bill.

The new clauses were inserted into AB 1634 last Wednesday, as Levine sought to counter arguments by the bills critics. Most notable to many opponents is a change of the maximum age a dog or cat can reach before it must be spayed or neutered, from four months to six months.

The changes come after an ongoing war of words between supporters and opponents of the bill. Levine hopes to short-circuit the opposition by addressing their concerns–concerns that are just window-dressing to hide the fact that they would be opposed to the bill no matter what, said Judie Mancuso, outside campaign director for the bill.

“They’re to clarify for the general public because there has been so much scrutiny,” Mancuso said.

Other new language allows people to put of the operation until that animal reaches nine or twelve month, if they get a written opinion from a veterinarian that a delay is necessary for the health of the animal. Levine also took a “one litter” amendment–suggested by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco–that would allow local animal control agencies to issue permits to households to breed animals once.

Much of the new text clarifies wording that was already in the bill, such as the “fix it” ticket nature of the $500 fine, which can be waived if the person get their animal sterilized within 30 days of the citation. Each citation must be accompanied with information about where to receive low-cost spay and neuter services.

Levine also clarified exceptions for breeders, working dogs and out of state visitors. Any dog, mixed or purebred, is excepted if it works for “law enforcement, fire agencies, or legitimate professional or volunteer private sector working dog organizations.” Mancuso said that police organizations spay or neuter their dogs by 18 months anyway, except for a small numbers of their top performers who are saved for breeding.

By Friday, the American Kennel Club had posted new material on their California legislative action page, saying “Opposition still needed.” It gave the names and business addresses of consultants in the Senate Local Government Committee, where the bill is to be heard on July 11.

“The bill still requires responsible owners and breeders to qualify for and purchase an intact animal permit and continues to limit those who are eligible,” the AKC website states. The Capitol Weekly was still seeking AKC comments on the amendments as of press time.

Mancuso countered that many of those working against the bill are doing so because of their pocketbooks, not their care for animals. The AKC made a profit of $64 million in 2005, she claimed. The bill could also be used as a weapon against those involved in dog fighting, as well as breeders who sell animals without reporting the profits on their taxes. She said animal control departments around the state are “dying to enforce” the new bill.

“One of the biggest threats is that this is a model for the rest of the nation,” Mancuso said.

Mancuso said that in 2005, the most recent year for which figures were available, California taxpayers shouldered nearly $260 million for maintaining animal shelters that year, she said–not counting the money spent to euthanize 450,000 dogs and cats.

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