Calif. spay/neuter mandate re-emerges with amendments

Lighter version of AB 1634 calls for microchips

August 15, 2008 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

Sacramento, Calif. — California’s controversial spay/neuter mandate resurfaces in the state Senate as a watered-down version of its former self, with major amendments that include microchip laws for problem pets.

Changes to AB 1634, issued Wednesday, raise fines up to $100 for impounded intact animals and mandate microchipping after the second impoundment of a pet.

Known as the California Responsible Pet Ownership Act, AB 1634 received backlash from veterinarians last year, driving the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) to withdraw it’s sponsorship of the bill in exchange for a neutral stance. The bill’s intent: to reduce shelter-animal numbers in a state that spent a reported $2.7 billion to house unwanted dogs and cats between 1995 and 2005. Nearly half a million of those animals were destroyed, government officials contend.

Yet breeders groups and many veterinarians protested the measure, which, they say, invited Big Government’s oversight concerning whether or not owners sterilized their animals. Critics claimed the bill’s exemption fee unfairly punished and wrongly excluded mutts, whose owners had no means for circumventing the mandate. Breeders, by contrast, could pay a fee to opt out of sterilization.

“I would guess that 30 percent of veterinarians were not in favor of AB 1634 last year,” recalls Dr. Jon Klingborg, former CVMA president. “Now this version mandates microchipping at the owner’s expense, and that cost isn’t outlined by the legislation.”

If there are other problems with the new version, CVMA and breeders groups are staying out of it. The latest AB1634 includes impoundment fines and a microchipping clause that applies only to animals caught running lose; the bill does not cover all companion animals, unlike its predecessor. It also exempts animals in poor health, backed by DVM certification, as well as temporary California residents.

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