Mandatory Spaying, Neutering of Dogs and Cats Proposal Withdrawn

Published : Tuesday, October 8, 2013 | 4:08 AM

At Monday’s City Council meeting the first reading of the proposed ordinance to mandate all dogs and cats be spayed/neutered in the city of Pasadena was withdrawn by Councilmember Steve Madison for discussion at a later date.

While recommendation had been approved by the Public Safety Committee in June and come before City Council in July, no public opposition had been voiced until this first ordinance reading was placed on the City Council Agenda. Letters flooded the city council member’s inboxes.

Convinced by the evidence and reasoning in the letters, Councilmember Terry Tornek said the ordinance was overbroad and overreaching, agreeing with Councilmember Margaret McAustin that the time was not right to move forward with the ordinance.

“I’m persuaded by the correspondence we’ve received. It’s late, but it’s here, and from responsible organizations and individuals,” Tornek said. “I think this is an overly intrusive piece of business.”

The California Federation of Dog Clubs, Pasadena Public Health Department, American College of Theriogenologists, American Kennel Club, as well as several individuals submitted letters and came to speak at the meeting.

Most persuasive, Tornek said, was a letter from Jan Dykema who concludes, “Whether policymakers intend it or not, mandatory spay/neuter laws received by the public is especially oppressive and drives a wedge between the public and animal service departments. This perception reduces dog licensing rates, reduces dog licensing income, reduces return to owner rates, increases costs, and kills more dogs.”

This issue first grew out of public safety concerns about dangerous dogs in December of 2012. The original hope was to regulate particular breeds, however, the California Health and Safety Code prohibits specific breed regulations. Thus staff turned to a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance that would apply to all cats and dogs.

McAustin feared that adding the spay/neuter ordinance during the door-to-door licensing canvas would be too much for pet owners and would receive opposition. She suggested the canvas be an opportunity to educate people about the spay/neuter clinics offered and why they should take advantage as pet owners.

“People with problem dogs are not going to license them and they’re not going to spay or neuter them. This just isn’t going to reach the dog population we want to reach. This is not going to address the problem,” McAustin said.

Mayor Bill Bogaard suggested not to vote the item down, but to hold the item to discuss it after the canvassing is completed within six months, which led to Madison withdrawing his introduction.

Council Member Steve Madison conceded that the constraints by state law that had forced them to be overbroad in the writing of the ordinance, but was none-the-less convicted that action should be taken.

“This is timely because 10 days, in Colton a two-year-old boy was literally ripped apart by a pit-bull and killed…. This is going to happen in Pasadena if we don’t do something about it,” Madison said.

Madison thought it might be best to try to gather support in Sacramento to change the existing laws so a more specific ordinance could be made.

“At least fifty percent of the fatal dog attacks on humans are caused by pit bull breeds. There’s no sound policy reason why a community like Pasadena shouldn’t be allowed to ban such dangerous animals,” Madison said. “We should also keep pursuing in Sacramento a wakeup call to state legislature so that local communities can decide whether or not they want to have these pit-bulls that cause such a disproportionate share of fatal and severe injuries on humans.”

Thus the legislative committee will pursue a change in state legislation and the public safety committee will work on considerations for what an ordinance should declare for the city of Pasadena to address the issue.

Los Angeles County, Agora Hills, Artesia, Bradbury, La Puente, Linwood, Santa Clarita, and Walnut have adopted ordinances similar to the one proposed by staff on Monday evening.

“Some people are breeding irresponsibly or accidently and those are the people we really want to stop,” Pasadena Humane Society Vice President Elizabeth Richer Campo said.

The Pasadena Humane Society hoped that through requiring spay and neuter of all animals they can reduce dangerous dog attacks and assist with the overpopulation problem in Pasadena.

“Were looking for population control as part of it, health and safety of the community and also as a response to questions about dangerous dogs. One of the commonalities of a lot of dog bite cases is that the animal is in tact,” Campo said.
During the public comment of this issue, several spoke about the repercussions of mandatory sterilization of four month old dogs who are still juvenile and not yet ready for an operation that will prohibit the full development of hormones causing cancer and arthritis.

The items the public asked that the council might consider included the age at which the dog must be neutered and the one strike policy that mandates even the exempted dogs must be spay/neutered if they are ever lost and taken to the humane society.

“These are highly punitive measures on responsible dog owners,” Nancy Burton said.

A few feisty comments were submitted in letters, however those who spoke at the City Council meeting focused on the need for educating people rather than mandating the spay/neuter on all cats and dogs.

Susan Avila said in a letter to the council, “Are you people on crack? This is ludicrous we are suppose to be a free society. I don’t life in Pasadena and I never will… You are turning regular people into criminals and lining your own pockets doing it. I think you all should be spayed and neutered and quit reproducing.”

Kathryn Call wrote to the council, “This is an infringement on our civil rights. These animals are our property, they do not belong to the City, County or State.”

Cat Fanciers from San Diego came to be a voice for the cats and the Rose City Veterinary Hospital offered to have a low cost day for the community to bring their pets in to be spay or neutered, but urged that the pet owners be allowed to make the decision on a case by case basis with veterinarian assistance.