Jeff Ackerman: Bill offers quick fix to larger problem
In some ways it’s fitting that California’s lawmakers are finally getting around to the mandatory neutering of dogs and cats. Golden State taxpayers have been spayed and neutered for years, so it’s only fair that Mr. Fido and Miss Kitty meet similar fates.
The latest pearl of wisdom to flow from the Sacramento legislative bathhouse is a bill that would require dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered by the time they are 4 months old. Purebreds who can prove they are pure would be spared the blade. According to the proposed law, you could get fined $500 if your dog or cat hasn’t been neutered or spayed by 4 months.
Proponents of the measure (AB 1634) that passed the Assembly 41-38 earlier this month argue that mandatory spaying and neutering will save taxpayers a pile of money from the handling of unwanted pets and would significantly reduce the number of dogs and cats that are put to death in shelters.
For evidence, they site Santa Cruz County, where an ordinance served as a blueprint for the measure. The bill’s author, Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), says his proposal will save taxpayers $200 million or more per year. Never mind that the animal control costs in Santa Cruz County have skyrocketed since its ordinance took effect, rising from $635,296 in 1995 to more than $1.1 million in 2005, according to a group opposing the measure.
What a shocker. It seems every time government passes a law designed to save us money, a new regulatory agency is created that costs us more to manage than the original problem. I can imagine having thousands of special state agents working to ensure that all the dogs and cats have been properly fixed.
“Lift your leg, please.”
“You, with red collar. Those had better be bells hanging beneath that tail of yours.”
And before any of you start to wonder why I’m against spaying and neutering … I’m not. My dogs and cats have always been spayed and neutered, and I wish my wife would let me spay and neuter our rabbits, birds (can you neuter a bird?) and the 300 deer that sleep on my porch.
I also carry a list of humans who should be spayed or neutered and find it ironic that the Legislature blanches at the mere notion of sterilization for sex offenders (what do you suppose they cost taxpayers?) but has no problem at all applying the knife to four-legged critters who are just looking for some love.
And I always worry when lawmakers start nosing around between my dog’s legs. Don’t they have freeways to fix?
The other problem I have is that the bill discriminates against mutts. I happen to love mutts, and if this bill is signed into law mutts will eventually be wiped from the planet because it will be illegal for them to breed. I just saw a science fiction movie with a similar plot.
Take my dog, Ben, for example (please … someone … anyone). Ben is 6 months old and is part black lab and Australian shepherd. I’ve been trying to make an appointment to have Ben neutered in Auburn but it’s almost impossible to get an appointment, which means most of us don’t need government to tell us what to do. We just need someone to answer the phone in Auburn.
Ben needs to get neutered because he sticks his nose in places it doesn’t belong and fancies himself as a regular Man About Town. My old dog Zack (who died at 14 last year) was neutered, and it settled him right down. The same thing happened to my friend Frank after he got his vasectomy. He stays home almost every night now, crying through reruns of “Sleepless in Seattle.”
In typical fashion, the bill fails to look at the big picture. Opponents argue that working dogs will not enjoy the same exemptions as the purebreds. “AB 1634 will require all potential service dogs to be sterilized at four months unless they have begun training – an impossible criteria to meet since training doesn’t start until the dog has reached maturity,” read one opposition letter.
Also in typical fashion, the state bill does not come with state money, which means it will be yet another unfunded state mandate. I’ve seen the local government budgets, and there isn’t a lot of money left over to ensure that Fido and Kitty aren’t running around with live ammunition. Again, I’d prefer to have our city councils working on traffic and housing issues and not spending their time chasing Ben to make sure his bark has a high pitch to it.
What to do? For starters, send a note to our own state senator, Sam Aanestad (470-1846), and to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (you might find him through http://www.gov mail.ca.gov or at the gym). Let them know that this proposal is nuts – I mean crazy – and that we’d like to see our lawmakers spend more time worrying about water and crime and energy prices and illegal immigration and most anything other than your animals’ nether regions.
Let them also know (for me) that if any neutering is to be done, it needs to start inside the state Capitol building.
Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299, email@example.com, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.
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