The ongoing saga of whether some reproductively intact pets in California should be spayed or neutered goes on, after today's approval by a state Senate panel of controversial legislation on the subject... but approval that came only after the change of a single word in the bill.
AB 1634 by Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) began its legislative life as a strong requirement to sterilize most dogs and cats. But recent amendments moved the focus to sterlization for animals deemed by animal control officials to be problem pets.
The debate this morning before the Senate Local Government Committee attracted a large crowd of both supporters and opponents. And it focused on AB 1634's requirement that a citation must be issued after animal control officials receive a report of a problem pet. On the third citation, a dog would have to be fixed; a cat would have to be fixed after two citations.
So what happens, asked Sen. Tom Harman (R-Orange), if the complaint made to animal control officials is "frivolous or false"? Could a dispute between neighbors over something entirely different lead to mandatory sterlization of a dog after three complaints?
After a long discussion, Assemblymember Levine -- who either saw merit in the above scenario or simply decided that some bill was better than no bill -- agreed to once again amend AB 1634.
Now, instead of saying a pet owner "shall be cited" when a complaint is made... the bill says a pet owner "may be cited." And that wiggle room for local animal control officials was enough to draw the vote of Sen. Mike Machado (D-Linden), who cast the deciding vote.
Pet Sterlization is an emotional issue (after my last posting on this bill, I received more emails than on just about any topic). As such, it's unclear whether the two sides have found a proposal they can both live with... or are going to continue to battle it out as the bill heads next to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
With the looming deadline for legislation to clear policy committees in the state Capitol, some of the more noteworthy bills of the two year sesssion are being either tweaked or virtually rewritten.
Two of the bills that are newly modified have been the source of a lot of attention.
First is the hugely debated proposal to require most dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered. The bill, AB 1634 by Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), ran aground in 2007 after organized and vocal opposition.
Late last week, Levine all but scrapped the mandatory sterlization plan. The new bill says that a dog impounded at a shelter will be sterilized on the third visit; the first two impoundments of an "intact" pooch will result in monetary fines. For cats, it's spaying or neutering on the second visit to the shelter. AB 1634's only other required sterilization is for a pet that's the subject of a complaint to a local animal control agency.
In other words... if you control your dog or cat, he or she can keep all of his or her parts. So will that mollify the critics?
The group known as PetPAC plans to lobby legislators tomorrow in their continued opposition to AB 1634, now calling it a "three strikes for pets" bill.
[UPDATE Tuesday, 8:32 am -- Note to self: don't write about AB 1634 again. Thanks to all of you who read the posting and then promptly fired off an email to me. Yes, I've read the bill. No, I'm not brain dead. Yes, I understand that this is a controversial bill. No, I'm not brain dead. Seriously though... the sheer number of emails that arrived that used the exact same arguments, and even same language, only reminds me of the 4,210,923 reasons I'll never run for elected office. And again, to the nice lady who loves cats: No, I'm not brain dead. At least not today.]
Meantime, the highly publicized push for a new tax on the adult entertainment industry has been scaled back. After being scaled up, that is.
AB 2914 by Assemblymember Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) proposes a new tax on everything from adult entertainment stores to the XXX movie industry, with the money earmarked for programs to "ameliorate the secondary effects" of the industry on communities.
The original version of the proposal, submitted on April 3, called for an 8% tax on stores that specialize in "adult materials" and adult entertainment clubs. Then on May 8, Calderon upped it to a 25% tax and added in businesses that "produce" adult movies.
Now, in amendements filed last Thursday, Calderon has gone back down to an 8.3% tax on most of these businesses.
No word yet on whether that eased the adult entertainment industry's mind... though it's doubtful that it has.
A few days ago, a new billboard went up alongside Interstate 5 here in Sacramento, at a location on the freeway where you can see the dome of the state Capitol in the background. That's not by accident.
The above logo plastered on the billboard is new... but the issue is not. In fact, it appears we're in for a new chapter in a contentious battle-- a fight over legislation to require most dogs and cats be spayed or neutered.
AB 1634 by Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) was one of the most talked about bills of 2007 in Sacramento. Thousands of letters, emails, and phone calls on both sides were launched at the Legislature. Levine amended the legislation seven times in hopes of mollifying critics that called it, among other things, an unfair limit on their basic freedoms.
But since July of last year, AB 1634 has sat in the Senate Local Government Committee.
So what gives with the new campaign?
"We're gearing back up," said Judie Mancuso of the pro-AB 1634 California Taxpayers for Safe and Healthy Pets. Mancuso says the billboards were paid for by a Los Angeles physician, and that her group is hoping to revive the issue of mandatory spay/neuter before time runs out.
Mancuso's group commissioned a poll earlier this year where two-thirds of respondents said they either somewhat support or strongly support a proposal like AB 1634. She also says the group hired a powerful lobbying firm to try and run the bill across the goal line in the Legislature.
That being said, there are likely to again be large throngs of opponents decrying what they call a "one size fits all" approach to the pet population. Still, Assemblymember Levine said in a brief phone interview today that "the need for this type of legislation still exists."
Time is short on this one; Assembly bills have until June 27 to make it out of policy committees in the Senate.