Wednesday, January 14, 2009
3 strikes, then pets get spayed PAUL YOUNG • City News Service • January 14, 2009 RIVERSIDE — After a daylong hearing during which about 100 people spoke, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday night approved an ordinance mandating that cats and dogs caught running loose more than three time in the county be spayed or neutered — regardless of a pet owner's wishes. People on both sides of the proposal filled the board chambers Tuesday. One group, supporters of the ordinance, chartered a bus from the Coachella Valley to address the board. About 50 people met at the Palm Desert home of Gene and Lindi Biggi, where half of the group boarded the bus to Riverside. At least 20 dogs — and one cat — were among those who showed up at the Biggis' doorstep to wish the supporters well on their journey.“We're hoping it gets passed,” said Lindi Biggi. “It's the right thing to do.” The new ordinance, which goes into effect in 30 days and applies only to unincorporated areas, will also require that every pet be microchipped as part of the process of registering an animal in the county. Microchipping involves inserting a data chip the size of a rice granule under an animal's skin, which can be used to locate a pet's owner if the animal gets loose and is impounded. Microchips would not be implanted in puppies or kittens four months old or less for safety reasons. Exclusions will also apply to dogs whose athletic ability or health might be impacted by microchipping.The hearing started around 11a.m. and ended just before 7p.m., with a 40-minute lunch break.The county clerk received nearly 150 speaker request cards, but roughly 100 people actually made it to the lectern. The majority of opponents were dog breeders and owners of show dogs and cats, while supporters included animal rights activists, nonprofit kennel operators and county Department of Animal Services employees. “I want the freedom to make my own medical decisions about my dog and not have to worry about animal control coming to my house,” Mary Bradley said. Susan Scholar told the board that pet sterilization ordinances in other states and Los Angeles had not proved successful, resulting in revenue declines as fewer people register their pets. “History shows that mandatory spay/neuter laws are not wise,” Scholar said. Animal Services technician Lisa Chavez encouraged the board to enact the law to spare county workers the daily agony of having to euthanize animals. “A lot of people don't know what we go through,” Chavez said tearfully. “We care and love these animals.” Animal Services Director Rob Miller said of the 19,000 stray dogs and 14,000 stray cats impounded in the county in 2007, 60 percent were euthanized because they were never claimed. “Litters of kittens and puppies end up on our doorstep on a day-to-day basis,” Miller said. “Our biggest issue is trying to curb euthanasia in the shelters and promote responsibility (among pet owners).” The expense of processing and boarding stray cats and dogs impounded at county animal shelters exceeds $20 million annually, according to Miller. According to Miller, it could take five to 10 years to determine if the ordinance is having the desired effect. The cost to microchip an animal runs about $15 in Riverside County, according to Riverside County chief veterinarian Dr. Allan Drusys. County animal shelters charge $25 for spaying or neutering a cat and $50 per dog. Costs vary at private veterinary clinics. Desert Sun reporters Denise Goolsby and K Kaufmann contributed to this story.
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