October 8th, 2013, the Riverside County California board of commissioners met for a public hearing on the proposed breed discriminatory law targeting pit bulls for mandatory spay/neuter.
The commissioners voted 5-0 to enact the proposal, which makes it mandatory for any owner of a dog deemed to be a pit bull to have their dog altered by the age of 4 months in unincorporated areas of Riverside County.
The commissioners gave several different reasons for wanting enact the ordinance, from “protecting” the public from dangerous dogs, to curbing populations of pit bull like dogs in shelters. The conversation on this law started out with the familiar anti-pit bull rhetoric, that all pit bulls were different from other dogs, vicious by nature, etc. It was not until the blow back from a statement made about challenging the state law that prohibits restrictions or bans that officials began changing their story to attempting to “protect” pit bulls. This is a familiar end run that is used by pro-BDL groups when they are backed into a corner. It is a tactic that has been more and more common, and one that some cannot seem to see for what it is.
As Josh Liddy, from SwayLove.org, said in an interview on Pit Bulletin Legal News Radio, that even at the passage of the spay/neuter law, the language employed by officials was that which is used to justify bans. The interview details the events of the ordinances passage.
Acceptance of any breed discriminatory law is acceptance that “these dogs are different.” Regardless of how one feels about mandatory spay/neuter in general, this is something that the dog community strongly opposes in theory, but the in person presence did not reflect that at today’s meeting.
There are some exemptions in the ordinance for animals who are unable to undergo the procedure, registered breeders, law enforcement and other service dogs, dogs who are only in Riverside County but licensed elsewhere and dogs that are pending a breed determination. There is nothing about service dogs that are in training or show dogs.
“Pit bull” is defined by the ordinance as, “Any Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, or American Stafford (the typo is in the ordinance) Terrier breed of dog, or any mixed breed of dog which contains, as an element of its breeding, any of these breeds so as to be identifiable as partially of one or more of these breeds.” The “as an element of its breeding” is problematic, from an enforcement and constitutional standpoint, because it is implicit of 1% of the targeted breeds. How officials intend to prove 1% of a breed in a mixed breed dog is still a mystery. This is an open door to litigation and has resulted in the overturning of other ordinances with this language.
The new law mandates that all targeted dogs, that are not exempted, be altered by 4 months of age. There is a lot of debate about the detriments of pediatric spay/neuter in the veterinary community. It is disturbing that officials would mandate a procedure that has a potential for serious health repercussions down the line. What is even more disturbing is that a vet was on the panel today and this issue seems to have escaped his notice entirely.
People have 30 days from the ordinances passage to come up with the money to have their puppies and dogs fixed.
Officials have said nothing about low-cost options for people who do not have the hundreds of dollars immediately, or people who may have been saving to have their dogs altered. That would have been the better route, community outreach, education and extreme low cost spay/neuter for anyone who needs it, and making these things accessible to people who do not have transportation. Many places have chosen this route over mandatory laws, which usually end in higher shelter intake, and have amazing successes. It is a shame that this option was not implemented.