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Pet Responsibility Act clears state Senate hurdle; bill would mandate spay/neuter for California dogs

June 2, 2009 |  6:07 pm

State Sen. majority leader Dean Florez A day after it nearly went down in flames, Senate Bill 250 (also known as the Pet Responsibility Act) has been approved by the California state Senate on a 21-16 vote. 

The bill, introduced by state Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter), would require adult dogs in California to be spayed or neutered.  Free-roaming cats would also be required to be spayed or neutered, although the bill doesn't apply to cats kept strictly indoors.  Owners who wished to keep an unaltered dog would have to obtain a permit to do so.  (In a last-minute alteration to the bill, Florez amended its language to exempt working dogs and hunting dogs.)

The bill first went to the state Senate for a vote yesterday, where it failed 16-15.  Judie Mancuso, an animal activist who supports the bill, told the Bakersfield Californian that it failed to pass yesterday's vote because many state senators were absent.  Florez then issued a request for reconsideration, paving the way for the bill's passage today.  It must also pass in the Assembly before it can be enacted.

S.B. 250 was so numbered because, according to Florez, the state spends $250 million annually to house unwanted pets, many of which are eventually euthanized for lack of homes and space.  "I think we can all agree that the quarter of a billion dollars ... could be much better spent protecting health care for the elderly and education for our children," he said in a statement today, adding that responsible pet owners "should be united in support of our effort to cut down on the killing of pets in shelters, the financial strain current policy has on local governments and the emotional toll on shelter workers."

Supporters of the Pet Responsibility Act point to Santa Cruz's success when similar legislation was approved; they say euthanasia rates dropped by 60% after its passage.  L.A.'s spay-neuter law, which is more sweeping than the statewide law would be (it applies to all dogs and cats over 4 months of age, with certain exceptions), went into effect last October.

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Florez during a hearing last month. 

Credit: Stefano Paltera / For The Times

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