Seven animal initiatives fail to qualify for ballot

Seven initiatives that would have limited the state's ability to regulate animal ownership have failed to qualify for the ballot due to a lack of signatures.

The measures were introduced in November by opponents of AB 1634, the mandatory spay/neuter bill from Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys. The Secretary of State reported on its website on May 2 that the proposals had not qualified.

Among the provisions of the various initiatives were clauses that would declare animals as property, prevent the state from limited the number of animals someone could own, ban putting microchips in animals, limit animal licensing fees, and prevent "coerced sterilization of humans or animals."

"We didn't get enough signatures," said Jill Holt of We the People Pets, the group behind the failed initiatives. "It was a grassroots effort, but with not enough money. We're going to re-file."

"I don't want to say ‘I told you so,' but I have a pretty good idea when they started circulating they were probably miscalculating the voters feelings on the issue," Levine said. "I don't think there were many voters out there who wanted to do the things the initiatives would do."

Levine said that he's concentrating on talking to senators on the Local Government Committee, which is AB 1634's next stop. The bill passed the Assembly on a narrow 41-38 vote last June. It would require any dog or cat over six months old to be spayed or neutered, with exceptions for many breeders and working animals. Levine said not only would it save upwards of a million dogs and cats from being euthanized in shelters each year, but it could save state and local governments $300 million currently spent on warehousing these excess animals.

Holt and others said the bill awakened a grassroots resistance against what they see as government intrusion. AB 1634 was unquestionably one of the most watched bills of last year, generating thousands of letters, emails and phone calls to Capitol offices. She pledged her group would be back with more money and experience.

"It's a very interesting process," Holt said. "We'll be a lot better prepared next time."

The American Kennel Club, the American Dog Breeders Association and several other groups are still opposing the bill. But they did not materialize as funders of the initiatives, as some on the pro-AB 1634 side feared.

"I don't think they ever really had an organized campaign," said Judie Mancuso, coordinator for the pro-AB 1634 media campaign. "I think it was more to just get attention. It got their word out that they're against protecting animals in any size, shape or form."

In the meantime, she said, the bill is having national influence. Legislators in Arizona and Colorado are patterning bills based on it, as are several cities, including Chicago. Los Angeles passed a spay/neuter ordinance in March; mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed it at a ceremony that including former "Price is Right" host Bob Barker, a well-known animal welfare activist.  

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