After California’s State Assembly narrowly passed the controversial Healthy Pets Act (AB 1634) in June, the American Kennel Club’s delegates approved a resolution to oppose the bill at their quarterly meeting in Las Vegas. AKC’s delegates represent 599 member clubs of nearly 5,000 AKC-affiliated clubs nationwide, including more than 460 in California.
“This resolution represents our steadfast opposition to this bill and any others which unfairly target the responsible breeders that make up our constituency,” says Dennis Sprung, AKC president and chief executive officer. “We are deeply concerned about the problems irresponsible dog owners, irresponsible breeding and inadequate animal control can cause a community; however, mandatory spaying and neutering has proven to be an ineffective solution because it fails to address the heart of the issue – irresponsible ownership.”
The legislation, which would require almost all cats and dogs more than 4 months old to be spayed or neutered, is currently in committee in the state’s Senate.
Although the legislation exempts cats and dogs from other states traveling to California for a variety of “legitimate” reasons, including dog and cat shows, the American Kennel Club says passage of the legislation would send the message that AKC events are not welcome in California, a message that could ultimately hurt the state’s economy.
The group contends the bill would be detrimental to the sport of purebred dogs, fail to achieve a reduction in pet overpopulation and cost California millions of dollars in lost revenue.
About 300,000 competitors, many from outside the state, participated in AKC events, including all-breed dog shows, agility events and field trials, in California in 2006.
Moreover, AKC Chairman Ron Menaker has notified Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the mayor of Long Beach that if the bill is enacted to law, the AKC would not make Long Beach the permanent home for its AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, scheduled for Long Beach in December in 2007 and 2008. The AKC said it has considered naming Long Beach the permanent home of the event.
It has not decided to pull the event from California at this point, but hasn’t ruled out that possibility either.
In 2006, the event attracted 30,000 people to Long Beach. City tourism officials estimate the event will add $65 million to the city’s impact and raise $850,000 in hotel taxes through 2014, the Long Beach Press Telegram reported. Although contracted only through 2008, the AKC has asked the convention center to hold dates through 2014, the newspaper reported.
The group also hopes to get record club participation in California for AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day in September as a show of political strength and its commitment to public education. It has also started forming a political action committee (PAC) to improve access to lawmakers considering dog-related legislation in California and other states.
The bill has sparked considerable controversy in the state, ranging from its merits as a way to control pet populations to more philosophical debates as to the role of government itself.
Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), the bill’s author, says one million unwanted and abandoned cats and dogs are born in California each year, and local jurisdictions spend $250 million annual to care for or euthanize these animals. About 500,000 are euthanized annually, Levine says.
If you would like to contact your state senator about this bill, you can find his or her name (based on your address) and contact information at www.senate.ca.gov/~newsen/senators/senators.htp