Riverside County, California Considers Mandatory Spay/Neuter and Microchipping Law

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In Mandatory Microchipping
Dec 15th, 2008
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Cat Fanciers’ Association Legislative ALERT
Forwarding encouraged

List and Riverside fanciers – sorry this is so long and so sudden. We just received word about TOMORROW’S [Dec. 16, 2008] meeting of the Riverside County CA Board of Supervisors – thanks to Concerned Dog Owners of California. An ordinance will beintroduced, based on previous proposals but revised. In checking the County Board of Supervisors’ Agenda it seems this ordinance will be introduced tomorrow with a hearing scheduled for January 13th Please double with the clerk, Nancy Romero,PHONE
951-955-1060.

3.16 COMMUNITY HEALTH AGENCY/ANIMAL SERVICES: INTRODUCTION OF ORDINANCE NO. 630.12,
an Ordinance of the County of Riverside Amending Ordinance No. 630 relating the Dogs and Cats (to include provisions of mandatory microchipping and mandatory spaying/neutering). (Hrg. set 1/13/09 @ 9:30 a.m. – Clerk to advertise)

Many meetings were held last year and numerous letters sent by fanciers opposing the planned mandatory spay/neuter ordinance and separate mandatory microchip ordinance. They have gone ahead and revised these anyway as one ordinance.

WHAT to DO: Attend tomorrow’s meeting and report Email the Board members to express opposition to these mandates that the community strongly opposed at numerous meetings.

WHAT to SAY: Microchipping technology is not perfect – scanners malfunction, chips migrate. Using this form of ID should be the pet owner’s decision. Pet owner personal information should not be held by animal control – those who choose microchipping should enroll with a national recovery for high quality service dedicated to reuniting animals. Microchipping used as a tool for animal control enforcement is a misuse of this technology. Microchipping is expensive for and will deter people trapping and neutering
feral cats or taking stray/unowned into their homes. The low-tech collar and tag is fine for many pet owners. Public education is needed, not coercion.

MSN – this proposal has been revised to now punish those “individuals who violate existing state or local law relating to animals”. Sterilization is severe punishment for every possible law no matter how minor. This is surgery and veterinary procedures should be the decision of pet owners, not that of government. Any animal impounded must be sterilized no matter what the reason – what happens in case of fire or other disasters when animals are taken into the shelter? Hearings will be expensive.

Joan Miller
CFA Legislative Coordinator
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In a message dated 12/15/2008 2:01:31 PM Pacific Standard Time,LFINCO@AOL.COM writes:
Riverside County Spay/Neuter Ordinance — Permission to crosspost

Please review this information if you live in or nearby Riverside County and consider attending the meeting and/or sending emails to the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Bob Buster: district1@rcbos.org
Supervisor John Tavaglione: district2@rcbos.org
Supervisor Jeff Stone: district3@rcbos.org
Supervisor Roy Wilson: district4@rcbos.org
Supervisor Marion Ashley: district5@rcbos.org

The Department of Animal Services will introduce the spay/neuter ordinance to the Board of Supervisors on December 16, 2008.

Board of Supervisors, County of Riverside
4080 Lemon Street Riverside Calif.
1st Floor, County Administrative Center

Tuesday, the 16th of December, 2008. The meeting begins at 9 am.

Agenda item 3.16

The following is the text form of the proposal and some of the discussion items from organizations that are supporting this ordinance. The idea is that this ordinance would be like the “seat belt laws” as secondary enforcement. We need to remember that driving without a seat belt is against the law in the state of California; however, owning an intact pet is not. Therefore, we cannot tolerate or support ordinances that make it a crime, even a secondary crime, to own an intact animal.

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It is estimated that there are two million dogs and cats in Riverside County. Consequently, the Department of Animal Services has been overwhelmed with dogs and cats on a daily basis. Many of these pets are either impounded by our Animal Control Officers or presented to the shelters by their owners and citizen Samaritans.

The Department estimates that more than 33,000 animals will be housed in County shelters this coming year with an average daily shelter count in excess of 1200 animals. Despite great strides to increase the adoption and redemption rates, there remain very few post-impound strategies capable of dealing with this number of apparently unwanted pets. In February 2006, the Department of Animal Services (“Department”) adopted the policy that healthy, adoptable animals will no longer be euthanized. As the County’s pet population continues to grow, there is simply not enough shelter space to house this surplus. The Department’s solution is to decrease the population of unwanted pets through a multi-pronged approach. The revisions included in Ordinance No. 630.12 include two steps to help achieve this goal:

1. Inclusion of a mandatory identification microchipping provision of all dogs and cats in the unincorporated areas; and

2. Inclusion of a mandatory spaying/neutering provision for all dogs and cats over four months of age, subject to certain exceptions, in the unincorporated areas.

Mandatory Microchipping

Microchips are positive identification aids that act as essential tools in reuniting lost pets with their families. Unlike dog tags or tattoos, which can become lost, damaged, faded and/or altered, microchips provide a permanent identification system with unique numbers that cannot be changed. Microchipping of animals has largely become a customary practice; millions of dogs, cats, horses, livestock, birds, wildlife, and endangered species have been “chipped.” The process is simple and non-surgical. The
chip, which is approximately the size of a grain of rice, is injected underneath the skin with a needle. Anesthesia is not required, and even the smallest animals such as fish, puppies, and kittens are safely microchipped.

Of the 18,569 stray dogs that were impounded during the last calender year, only 2,731 (14%) were reclaimed by their owners. Of the 13,307 stray cats that were impounded in the same timeframe, only 120 (0.9%) were reclaimed by their owners. The most common reason dogs and cats are not reclaimed is due to lack of identification and the inability to contact the owner. Microchips will improve the Department’s
returned-to-owner rate and lessen euthanasia in County shelters.

Microchipping of pets will also help the Department positively discern and differentiate dogs of the same breed to efficiently enforce state and local law with no risk that the dog at issue has been substituted, including rabies and other vaccinations, and licensing requirements. Microchip identification will also greatly aid the Department’s ability to investigate bite cases and animal cruelty cases. The Department has been able to reunite more than 400 distraught owners with their pets through use of microchip identification. Furthermore, it will be an invaluable tool in the Department’s goal of reducing the number of impounds into our shelters and increase the percentage of redeemed pets.

Mandatory Spay/Neuter

Veterinary science has demonstrated the safety and positive health benefits of spaying and neutering, which is especially true if the pet is sterilized before maturity. Pursuant to state law, the Department has sterilized every adopted pet for the last eight years, including puppies and kittens as young as two months, and has had positive results with very few complications relating to this practice.

Of the 19,008 stray and owner-surrendered dogs that were impounded during the last calendar year, 59% were two years or less of age. 1,671 were puppies, younger than two months, and not old enough for adoption. Similarly, of the 14,448 cats impounded in the same timeframe, 78.5 % were younger than two years and 3,219 or 22.3% were less than two months old. Given the age of the animals, it is safe to attribute these significant numbers as the results of the two latest breeding cycles. Accordingly, it is clear that the animals in Riverside County need some type of further management/limitation relating to their unrestrained reproduction. This degree of fecundity can only be lowered by enforcement of a mandatory spay/neuter provision.

The spay/neuter provisions shall be secondary enforcement only; accordingly, focus of the spay/neuter requirement is directed at individuals who are likely to contribute to the overpopulation problem. These are individuals who violate existing state or local law relating to animals, including animals at large, bite cases, animal cruelty cases, and noncompliance with citations. The requirement to spay/neuter dogs and cats whose owners and/or custodians fail to comply with the law will greatly help to implement the
Department’s plan to solve the burdensome unwanted animal surplus in our County.

In addition to the above, the Department also implements a low-cost spay/neuter voucher program called ASAP (Animal Sterilization Assistance Program), formally known as the POPCO program, which serves as a financial incentive toward voluntary spay/neuter. In further efforts, the Department also includes deployment of the Animal Neuter Spay Wellness and Education Resource vehicle, the “ANSWER” on wheels, for community outreach measures on education of the process and long term benefits of pet sterilization.

IMPLEMENTATION/ENFORCEMENT:

The ordinance will be enforced when Animal Control Officers check the status of pets they contact during the normal course of their work. A stray dog or cat impounded by the Department will be microchipped and altered prior to being reclaimed by its owner or custodian. An appeal process is prescribed for those owners who may dispute the circumstances or application of this ordinance.

FISCAL IMPACT/FINANCING:
The fiscal impacts of this ordinance will be neutral to positive depending upon the level of initial voluntary compliance. Overall, as the number of intact animals decreases, so too will the absolute number of pets produced from unplanned reproduction decrease, which would over time reduce the funding required to impound, house and care for such animals. The segment of the impounded pet population most capable of marked improvement is that population which is to be “returned to owner.” These pets generally are held for fewer days, require less care by Department personal, and generate revenue for the County. Microchip identification will permit these efficiencies

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