Entry for August 21, 2008

EVOLUTION OF DISCRIMINATORY FACTORS IN CALIFORNIA DIFFERENTIAL LICENSING, PARTS I & II

Originally published in The Animal Council Updates, July 8 & 16, 2008All rights reserved.

EVOLUTION OF DISCRIMINATORY FACTORS IN CALIFORNIA DIFFERENTIAL LICENSING: Stanislaus County (enacted 2005) marked the first appearance of an unaltered dog license fee reduction other than basic unaltered differential authorized by state law available to all owners paying the fee without further discrimination or restriction: 

2005 Stanislaus County Code, 7.54.060 Licensing.

“A. Any person owning or having custody of any dog four months or older shall pay an annual license fee. The license fee for dogs shall be established by the board of supervisors and listed in the license fee section of this title. The increased fees collected by the department of animal services for unaltered dogs, less administrative costs, shall be used to pay for vouchers to support spay/neuter programs.

B. Any person owning or having custody of any unaltered dog who meets any of the following criteria shall pay a reduced unaltered annual license fee as listed in the fee section of this title:

1. An owner who owns or operates an actual livestock working ranch or livestock farming operation of more than two acres; or

2. An owner who registers and participates in an American Kennel Club (AKC), United Kennel Club (UKC), or other state or nationally recognized organization and is a member of a parent club or organization for the purposes of showing, training, agility trials, or hunting and provides documentation to the department of animal services of such membership and participation in the above animal activities.”

Former Stanislaus Animal Services Director Michael McFarland had in late 2006 proposed repeal of the reduced fee provision (along with enactment of “mandatory” sterilization provisions), and it has never been clear if these reduced fee licenses have actually been issued and in what numbers.  Presumably, most if not all unaltered licenses are at full $100 or there would be little reason to increase the fee in hopes of further reducing numbers of unaltered licenses.  In the past 3 years, the concepts of dog (or sometimes cat) club membership and participation in competitive activities have been used, instead of conferring benefit on certain dog owners, as a bar to obtaining an unaltered license or further restriction even with a license. 

In Sacramento County, many contentious meetings took place through 2006 concerning revisions to the animal ordinance, with final enactment in 2007 of the $150 unaltered licensed with a reduced fee unaltered license not as a benefit but restriction.  The County does, however, publicize and issue these licenses to owners who can successfully present qualifying documents: 

“Sacramento County $45.00 Reduced Unaltered Fee

The reduced unaltered license is available to Competition Dogs and Cats and Working Ranch Dogs. A Reduced Unaltered License does not allow the animal to be breed. Any animal that is breed must have an unaltered license. 

Competition Dogs –

The reduced unaltered license is available to owners who’s animals are registered with a valid registry such a AKC, UKC or CFA and are actively showing or have competed with their animal during the previous 12 months, or the animal has achieved a title from a purebred dog or cat registry.

In the case where the animal has recently been purchased or has not competed due to it’s current age, a letter from the breeder of the animal stating that this animal is of show quality and was purchased with the intent to be show and a copy of the animals pedigree will met the definition of this category.

Proof that an animal has competed in a show or event can consist of a cancelled check indicating entry fee paid or photo copy of entry catalog with name of owner, animal name and date of show or event.

Working Ranch Dogs –

Working Ranch Dogs are defined as a dog that has been trained and is used to herd and or guard livestock and the dog owner resides on or is the owner of property designated in the Sacramento County Zoning Code for agricultural use.

Application for a working ranch dog license can be in the form of a personal letter stating the address and zoning of the property and the training and use of the dog.

How to Purchase a Reduced License:

A reduced license can be purchased at the shelter or by sending in the required information as indicated above. If you have further question please contact the shelter staff at CountyAnimalCare@SacCounty.net or (916) 368-7387”

Also in 2006, the Los Angeles County ordinance took the concept of membership and competition a step further to issue unaltered dog licenses only to owners who could meet the County’s interpretation of these new “standards”.  The concept has spread to some other jurisdictions in southern California until the always conservative Los Angeles City Attorney’s office added a non-discriminatory alternative qualification – obtaining a breeding permit, albeit at extra cost but without exclusions based on membership or competition.  Other local jurisdictions had proposed exclusionary models but delayed action while AB 1634/CAHealthyPets version had been pending. 

Now that AB 1634 has been amended to punitive mandatory sterilization rather than a qualifying and exclusionary qualification for all unaltered dogs and cats, the future of local unaltered licensing of dogs, and cats where cat licensing is required, is of critical importance.  In this context, a simple high fee such as proposed now in Stanislaus County is preferable to other qualifications that can be either difficult or impossible to meet or implemented in discriminatory ways.  While these “qualifications” were initially proposed as distinguishing and even rewarding “responsible” owners, they were quickly turned into tools to make owning unaltered animals difficult or impossible. 

 EVOLUTION OF DISCRIMINATORY FACTORS IN CALIFORNIA DIFFERENTIAL LICENSING, PART II:  In our July 11 publication, we detailed the progression from the 2005 Stanislaus County unaltered dog license differential discount for a qualified rancher with working dog or owner of registered dog belonging to a club and participating in events to the Sacramento version for “Competition Dogs and Cats and Working Ranch Dogs” where the discount prohibits breeding to the still evolving Southern California variants requiring owners to meet complex participatory requirements in order to keep an unaltered dog (or sometimes cat).  These categories of requirements have been presented to lawmakers as feasible for at least some owners to qualify for despite wide latitude given to the enforcing agencies to approve individual applications as well as registries, clubs, documentation of membership and participation as required.  Lawmakers, and ostensibly enforcing agencies, responded to “proactive” opponents of the most draconian proposals who describe all the ways they themselves are “responsible” owners, usually with disregard of the widely varying practices, registries and organizations devoted to dogs or the incongruities of wholesale application of these ideas to pedigreed cats. 

These self-descriptive factors, originally presented to distinguish “responsible” from “irresponsible” animal owners, become codified as requirements to exclude the “irresponsible” from owning an unaltered dog (or sometimes cat).  The latest twist in this progression is the possibility of enforcing agency interpretations that would exclude even the most “responsible”.

For example, the Los Angeles Animal Servic
es Department presented to the Board of Animal Services Commissioners on April 14, 2008, a document, “Solicitation of Qualified Dog and Cat Registries and Associations for Approval of Exemption from Spay or Neuter Requirements”.  The Commissioners, being unfamiliar with registries thought this was a routine step in preparing to implement the newly enacted city mandatory sterilization ordinance by October 1 and approved the proposal.  (Note, a legal challenge to the ordinance by Los Angeles residents was filed and served later in April and is still pending.)

The Department proposed that registries apply for “recognition” as a step in the process of exempting certain dogs and cats from the spay or neuter requirements:

“The application process will include affirmation that certain minimum requirements can be met, the provision of key information about the registry or association, and an explanation of the procedure that a dog or cat owner would follow and criteria to meet for the registry or association to issue a certification.

Those organizations which meet the minimum requirements below and appear to have valid backgrounds would be submitted to the Board with evaluation comments, for the Board’s consideration.  This process will produce an initial list of recognized registries and associations, but the application process will remain open on a continuous basis.  The minimum requirements for a registry or association to be recognized for the purpose of spay/neuter exemption certifications are:

• Established for three or more years.

• Maintains and enforces a code of ethics for breeding that includes:

     – Knowledge of the breed standard, the basic principles of genetics, and the pedigrees of prospective stud and matron;

     – Restricting the breeding of animals that are not physically or temperamentally sound or have defects and life-threatening health problems that commonly threaten the breed;

     – Requiring that animals are thoroughly examined by a veterinarian before breeding to determine that they are healthy, mature, and suitable for this purpose;

     – Denying, suspending, or revoking membership of any breeder in violation of its code of ethics or who is proven to have been convicted of a crime against an animal.

• Under no circumstances allows, endorses, or engages in any activity that is determined to be intentionally harmful or detrimental to the health and/or safety of animals or humans.

• Participates in, sponsors, or organizes bona fide competitions or shows that make awards based on merit.

• Proposes a method for assessing and certifying dogs or cats in conformance with LAMC that can be verified.

• Will hold the City of Los Angeles harmless from any liability relative to certifications or failure to certify a dog or cat as exempt.

Depending on the number of registry and association applicants received periodically, and upon dog and cat owner requests, additions to the Recognized List may be brought for the Board’s consideration quarterly or more frequently. Likewise, if new information comes to staff regarding a previously approved registry or association that has breached any of the requirements for recognition, and the registry or association is unable to correct the breach within 30 days after written notice by staff, that registry or association will be suspended pending reconsideration of the status at a subsequent Board meeting.

Other than if suspended or terminated as mentioned above, recognized registries or associations will remain in good standing for three years, at which time they may reapply for recognition.  Registries or associations not recognized at this first round of review will be allowed to re-apply at their discretion.

Subsequent to action by the Board and review of the City Attorney, staff will send solicitation of interest letters to known cat and dog registries and associations, and at minimum advertise the application process on the Internet and with the larger associations. This process, with its on-going character, is the most fair and impartial.”

The foregoing does not strike us as describing any dog or cat registry currently in existence and, if implemented, would negate the related ordinance exemptions.  LAAS General Manager Ed Boks attended The American Kennel Club’s invitational dog show in Long Beach last December and is acquainted with individuals associated with registries.  Had Mr. Boks been acting in good faith despite ignorance, he could have informally obtained some reality checks just from personal acquaintances before presenting this document in a public forum.  That it was approved by the Board without public objection may say more about us than the proposers.    

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