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June 24, 2009 > Ohlone Humane Society: One every 63 seconds

Ohlone Humane Society: One every 63 seconds

By Nancy Lyon

That's companion animal dies every sixty-three seconds in a California shelter because there are not enough homes for them. As of this writing - since January 1, 2009 - 231,519 companion animals have been put to death in shelters across the state, taking a staggering toll not only of innocent animals that never should have been born but emotionally devastating shelter staff who must "do the deed."

Coming back after a recent defeat in the State Legislature with a more far reaching bill, the non-profit organization Social Compassion in Legislation (SCL) working with bill author Senator Dean Florez, has introduced Senate Bill (SB) 250 the Pet Responsibility Act.

The overview of SB 250 states that each year, over $250 million dollars of tax payer money is spent to house and euthanize homeless dogs and cats in California. Of the approximately 1 million dogs and cats that enter these shelters over half are killed. They state that what it actually means is that every dog born in California today has nearly a 1 in 4 chance of ultimately becoming homeless and impounded or surrendered to shelters, and 2 out of 3 of cats entering shelters are euthanized - with the numbers rising.

Senator Florez states that SB 250 would provide a reasonable, fiscally responsible step toward reducing the overpopulation and deaths of our companion animals. It would simply require that dogs be spayed or neutered unless their guardian (owner) obtains an unaltered dog license and would require that free-roaming cats be spayed or neutered. If passed, SB 250 would allow license costs, fines and implementation details to be at the discretion of local jurisdictions.

The bill is aimed not only at saving the state millions of dollars but reducing the number of homeless companion animals. A similar law passed in one California city showed that over a 10 year period the number of homeless animals was reduced by 60%.

The legislation is widely supported by a diverse coalition of elected officials, law enforcement agencies, city and county agencies, humane societies and SPCAs, veterinarians and veterinary hospitals, national animal welfare organizations, California rescue organizations, and thousands of individuals and organizations that advocate spay and neuter legislation.

Opposition is also comprised of a diverse group, among them the American Kennel Club, breeders and others who feel it is repressive and unfairly targets the poor who can't afford to spay or neuter their animals should they accidently stray and be impounded.

The national animal welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society in Utah has taken a position of not supporting or opposing the bill in part because it does not provide for spay/neuter assistance. The equally well known Alley Cat Allies actively opposes SB 250 taking the position that it unfairly targets feral cat caretakers who care for stray and feral cats; individuals who are constantly working to address the cat overpopulation crisis.

In response to the concern that those with low-incomes will not be able to meet the mandates of the bill, the official SCL web site lists a great number of low-cost or free spay/neuter clinics and programs including listing them county by county. It would appear that those in need of financial assistance to spay/neuter have adequate resources to comply with the law.

OHS had concerns about the original wording of SB 250 because the question of protection for feral cat caretakers was not being addressed. The present wording makes for a less than perfect solution to that problem but at least excludes those who care for colonies off their property. Those feeding on their own property where there are existing complaints are currently subject to local law.

In 2008, a national marketing research company hired by SCL found that 80% of the public in varying degrees supported SB 250 and with 25-30% of animals in state shelters being purebreds, felt that breeders who sell cats or dogs for profit should obtain a business license, pay sales tax, and report their income from the sale.

The same research survey showed that only 8% of people who responded to why their dog or cat was not spayed or neutered stated that it was because of the cost. Other reasons included - too old, young or ill (29%); Animal used for breeding or wanted one litter (28%); planned to but haven't done it yet (14%); did not see the need (11%); other reasons (10%).

SB 250 now sits in the Assembly where it must face further challenges. It has long way to go in the legislative process and its fate may be the same as the failed 2007 attempt to address the tragedy of 1/2 million innocent cats and dogs killed yearly in California animal shelters.

While SB 250 is somewhat confusing and difficult to read, OHS does support enforceable spay/neuter legislation at the state level, keeping in mind that every 63 seconds another innocent life was put to death.

If you have further questions on SB 250, check out the Compassion in Legislation official website: httb://

For the exact wording of SB 250:
Official California Legislative website:

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