2013-11-15 / Community

Spay, neuter law will affect breeders, owners

By Rick Hazeltine

‘COME GET IT!’—Volunteer Jerry Dulek of Camarillo gives Casey, an 11-month-old pocket pitbull, a possession test with a toy during Casey’s assessment at the Camarillo Animal Shelter Nov. 6. 
RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers ‘COME GET IT!’—Volunteer Jerry Dulek of Camarillo gives Casey, an 11-month-old pocket pitbull, a possession test with a toy during Casey’s assessment at the Camarillo Animal Shelter Nov. 6. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers Filing out of a Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, proponents of a county ordinance that mandates dog and cat owners in unincorporated areas have their pets sterilized appeared rather subdued for a group that just won a ruling it believes will be a key factor in making Ventura a no-kill county.

Although the mandate doesn’t cover individual cities, proponents hope the ordinance will spur cities to adopt it. Animal Services and Ventura County Health Care Agency officials said they plan to take the ordinance to each of the city councils.

On Tuesday, the pro-mandate group, consisting mostly of Animal Services personnel and private animal-rescue groups, quietly offered each other thankyous and congratulations.

Perhaps it was the three-hour-long discussion and debate, or the realization of the work that lies ahead, that left them on the quiet side.

“I’m happy,” said Donna Gillesby, deputy director of Animal Services for the county. “A little overwhelmed . . . but very excited.”

The amendment to the existing ordinance, approved in a 4-1 vote with Supervisor Peter Foy dissenting, is scheduled to receive final adoption at the board’s Dec. 10 meeting and would take effect 30 days later.

The ordinance will require pet owners living in the unincorporated areas of Ventura County to have their dogs and cats sterilized by 6 months of age or 60 days after being notified by Animal Services. Notification can begin when the animal is 4 months old.

Exceptions are made for pet owners who exhibit and show their animals; dogs working in law enforcement, military, and search and rescue; service and guide dogs; specified working dogs; and those who have a statement from their veterinarian that the procedure would be detrimental to the animal’s health.

Owners who wish to breed their animals can do so after paying a $100 permit fee for the year in which the dog or cat has a litter. Those pet owners found in violation of the spay/neuter ordinance will first receive written notice and low-cost sterilization information. After 60 days, the owner could be issued a citation with a penalty of $25 per day until the animal is altered. Unpermitted breeders will be given written notice and after 60 days could be fined up to $500 per cat/dog.

The ordinance also makes it unlawful for dogs, cats or rabbits to be sold in any commercial pet store within the unincorporated areas of the county. Animal Services personnel told the board there are just two retail pet stores in the county that sell dogs, and neither is in an unincorporated area.

Barry Fisher, chief deputy director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency, which oversees the Animal Services division, introduced the amendment to the board.

“The ordinance is 30 years old,” Fisher said. “Obviously, we need to bring it up to speed.”

A steady parade of people, most representing animal rescue groups or other shelters, spoke to the board in favor of the amendment, but others were against it.

Several dog enthusiasts and breeders also spoke. Most didn’t believe the ordinance would work primarily because Animal Services doesn’t have enough resources to enforce it and thought it would be a burden for responsible breeders. Others were concerned with intrusion.

Nancy Rapaport of Simi Valley, who said she was not a breeder but if she wanted to become one, she was concerned she would have to open her home up to inspection. She told the board she thought more public-education programs would be a better way to reduce overpopulation and that the ordinance was “unfair to responsible owners.”

Foy, whose district includes Simi Valley, told the audience he struggled with his vote. Ultimately, Foy, a noted proponent of limited government, voted no.

“I wish I could break it up into pieces that I could vote for,” he said.

Foy said he would have preferred, instead, to add incentive to the ordinance by significantly raising the license fee for unaltered pets from $75 to “$100, $150.”

He said he’d rather citizens decide it’s “my choice” rather than “government telling me what I need to do with my dog.”

“I can’t support (the amendment),” Foy said. “But I support (your effort to reduce euthanizations.)”

Supervisor Kathy Long, whose district includes Camarillo, said Animal Services needs the ordinance to help it become a no-kill shelter, a goal the board gave Animal Services in June 2012.

Several speakers noted that great progress had been made in the past year in reducing the euthanasia rate but there needs to be even more help.

“We can’t adopt our way out of this,” Long said.

One breeder who spoke in favor of the amendment was Donna Hollingsworth of Camarillo. Hollingsworth is a longtime breeder of Samoyeds and is designated a Breeder of Merit by the American Kennel Club, which sent a letter to the supervisors opposing the amendment to the ordinance.

“I feel this is an ordinance whose time has come,” Hollingsworth said. “A year ago, if you used the words mandate and spay/neuter together, my hair would catch on fire.

“I have read this ordinance,” she said. “It is needed.”

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