Monday, June 25, 2007

Pet "Miscegenation" Illegal?

Add this to file of "Why it pays to read things more carefully and do a little research":


Earlier this month, members of the California State Assembly voted 41-38 to outlaw the existence of mixed-breed dogs and cats in the Golden State.

According to a PetPac:

Assembly Bill 1634, authored by Los Angeles Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, will allow only select purebred dogs and cats to breed. Pet owners who don't sterilize their mixed breed pets by four months of age will face a $500 fine and possible criminal penalties.

This is what Reason blogger Ronald Bailey refers to as the outlawing of pet "miscegenation." I'm not sure if he's being tongue-in-cheek, but even so he's uninformed. I'm immediately suspicious of a claim that a bill is intended to outlaw "mixed breed" animals, so I decided to follow the links for myself and see what they're talking about. So I visited PetPac.com and immediately noticed the hyperbolic language in opposition to this bill: "AB 1634 kills pets", or referring to the bill as the "Pet Extinction Act", and so on. So I decided to read up on the bill a little bit myself, and I discover that what the bill that Mr. Bailey refers to as "ridiculously draconian" actually requires that anyone who owns a pet must spay/neuter their pet by the time it's four months old, unless they are granted a special permit as a breeder. Fees that are collected as a result of violations would be used entirely to implement the program, fund educational programs related to the act and fund low-cost spay and neuter programs, and even those fees will be waived after the fact if the pet owner provides proof that their animals has since been spayed or neutered.

It would appear that a dogmatic libertarian such as Mr. Bailey would prefer that government have little to no say in how animals are bred in this country. To him, any such legislation would be "draconian" merely because it would attempt to prevent people from allowing their animals to produce offspring that end up on the street, abused or mistreated at the hands of their owners, or euthanized. I suppose it's a matter of priorities, but according to this article 500,000 strays are euthanized each year in California at a cost of about $300 million, most of which is paid for by the taxpayers as many irresponsible pet owners simply dump their pets off at the pound or out on the street, to later be captured by animal control and then euthanized. The article also points out that the legislation is supported by many animals shelters who, it is presumed, might have the best interests of their charges at heart. So exactly why is PetPac against his legislation? Well, here's a partial list of who's signed up with PetPac to oppose the bill as compiled by an "independent" website that I suspect has fairly close links to PetPac:


  • American Dog Breeders Assn.
  • Barbary Coast Bull Terrier Club
  • City of Angeles Pomeranian Club
  • Gordon Setter Club of America
  • American Brittany Club of America
  • Poodle Club of Central California
And so on, and so on. What do all these groups have in common? They're all breeder's associations, unified apparently by a provision in the bill that would allow local jurisdictions to establish the fees that breeders would have to pay to avoid the mandatory spay/neuter provision. "Save our dogs" indeed.

As for PetPac themselves, they are at best of dubious provenance. The group appears to be the creation of a political consulting firm Moran & Associates, and it didn't take me long to find a website that takes aim at PetPac and some of their more hyperbolic claims, as well as the man who spearheads PetPac, a hired political consultant.

So who's supporting this bill? Well, from the bill's "official" website, it appears that anybody who might have the interest of either animals or taxpayers at heart is behind AB 1634, including:

  • The State Humane Association of California
  • The California Veteranary Medical Assn.
  • The California Animal Control Directors' Assn.
  • The Humane Society of the United States
  • The Animal Legal Defense Fund
  • The Hope Animal Foundation
And so on, and so on. If you haven't guessed already, I'm completely behind this bill. Concerns of libertarianism aside, no one has the "right" to allow their pets to breed and produce more animals that no one will take care of (except the state, by killing those animals.) Breeders are not entitled to breed and sell their pets (for hundreds of dollars, incidentally) without expecting to have to pay a fee to the state for the privilege to do so. Millions of dogs and cats are killed every year as a result of irresponsible ownership, and this bill is a step in the right direction. It's unfortunate that Mr. Bailey could not see fit to educate himself more on the issue before he decided to write about it, but I guess that's what they pay me the big bucks for. I encourage you to follow the links and decide for yourself.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

please visit www.petpacnonsense.com
there is more to the story.

Xanthippas said...

That was fast. All hail google!

Actually, I do link to PetPac Nonsense above, as I found it to be a useful counter to PetPac and their...well, nonsense.

Anonymous said...

It's all about greed with these people. AKC the 'hobby' breeders, etc. They don't want to pay sales tax or income tax, it's like drug money. They prostitute their animals in the backyard for a quick buck and by golly don't tell me what to do with my property. They make me sick.

adam said...

Great post!

Nat-Wu said...

Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous commented about hobby breeders' income being like "drug money."

Well, no -- not yet. But it will become exactly like drug money if this bill becomes law. Think you've seen unscrupulous breeders now? Just wait 'till next year!

Regardless of the intentions of the organizations which support this bill, the effects will be: an expanding black market, this one with living animals, and the eventual elimination of legal mixed-breed pets.

That's the reality of this bill, regardless of who supports or doesn't support it.

Xanthippas said...

Anonymous(3?):

One thing I didn't touch on was the enforceability of this provision. Everyone knows that while there are many valuable regulations pertaining to the licensing, spaying/neutering and treatment of animals, they all too often go unenforced because of the difficulty of enforcing them (among other reasons.) That does not mean that they're not good regulations. It does mean that more effort must go into enforcing them.

I'm inclined to agree with you that a law that requires the spaying/neutering of pets owned not for the purpose of breeding and sale, will result in a lot of people who aren't obeying the law. The remedy for that is not to not draft such laws; it is to spend more money enforcing them, and penalizing those who disobey the provision in such a way that others will see the value in obeying.

As for illegal breeders...yes, quite a few will not obey the law either, and will sell dogs/cats they breed without bothering to obtaining the proper licensing to do so. And people will buy those animals. The only remedy for this is the punish the ones you catch, and to educate people that what little money they'll save by buying from an illegal breeder is not worth the potential problems they face from poorly bred animals. Besides, this whole field is largely unregulated as it is. I seriously doubt a law that merely requires some sort of permit is going to foster a huge underground market.

As to the elimination of mixed-breed pets...to me that is a small-price to pay to attempt to prevent loose animals from roaming the streets and being put down. There is no right under any moral philosophy I subscribe to, to breed your pets indiscriminately. Few people allow their pets to breed with pets of other breeds because they're deliberately attempting to create a new breed of dog; they do so because their pet runs free, unspayed/unneutered and they really don't care if it breeds or not.

The reality of this bill is that it will be more expensive for legal breeders to breed pets. I have no problem with that. The reality of this bill is that it will punish those who are too irresponsible to spay/neuter their pets. I have no problem with that. And any unintended consequences are far outweighed by the benefits.

Anonymous said...

Xanthippas, it would certainly become more expensive for legal breeders to supply dogs, with the result of increasing the profits of those breeders who operate outside the system. Not to mention the creation of an immediate for-profit market for people with one or two dogs who occasionally pop out a litter or two.

The similarities to the drug war are becoming more obvious: without viable enforcement none of your asserted benefits of this bill will come to pass; I think we can agree on that.

So what's the answer for enforcement? Deputize all veterinarians, perhaps? Followed by asset forfeiture proceedings against habitual offenders? The latter would at least work as well as it has to reduce marijuana use.

Add to the list of unintended consequences fewer people taking their now-illegal mutts to the vet for routine vaccinations. Will the resulting increase in rabies still be outweighed by all those other benefits to society?


- Annonymous (3)

Nat-Wu said...

Slippery slope arguments don't carry much weight, but in any case your argument means that at worst, the situation would be no worse than it is today, where every idiot in the world allows their pets to breed, then casts off responsibility by dumping their puppies or kittens. Anyway, that's already been covered.

So what if breeders do start running around breeding illegally? They're already unregulated; why would regulating them make them do less than they already do? And hell, to catch them, pretty much all you have to do is check certificates at dog shows.

There's basically no downside to this legislation, and if it works as intended, the vast majority of people will not lightly take on the burden of a pet, and those who do have much more cause to make sure their pets don't breed. Keeping those thousands upon thousands of unwanted animals from being born and becoming the city government's problem is easily worth the cost of enforcement.