Friday, September 9, 2011

ACTION ALERT - CA AB 1121

ACTION ALERT - CA AB 1121 - dog sales reporting and puppy licensing
 
TAKE ACTION / CALL Gov. Jerry Brown, tell him to veto AB 1121.
Phone: (916) 445-2841 / Fax: (916) 558-3160

This bill was rushed through both legislative bodies yesterday, and passed the assembly despite only 49 out of 80 assembly members voting for it.
 
CA AB 1121 would require each pet dealer, dog breeder, humane society, rescue group, or SPCA to report details of their puppy sales to the local licensing agency. Required information to disclose would be the new owner's name and address, breed and age of dog, and reproductive and microchip status of the dog. The bill would allow puppies to receive a discounted license, contingent upon being microchipped. It would allow veterinarians to license dogs through their offices.
 
Here are some details of who would need to comply with the seller reporting provisions:
 
  • A "pet dealer" means a person engaging in the business of selling dogs or cats, or both, at retail, who is required to possess a sales tax permit. A current sales tax permit is required of anyone who sells more than two animals in a year.
  • A breeder who has three litters per year OR sells twenty or more dogs in a year must also comply with the breeder reporting requirements.
 
A retailer who sells less than 50 animals in a year is not currently considered a "pet dealer." However, the first sentence of the bill states:
 
"It is the intent of the Legislature to encourage anyone transferring ownership of a dog to advise the new owner that all dogs four months of age or older must be licensed under state law. It is further the intent of the Legislature to encourage all veterinarians to advise their clients to license all of the clients' dogs that are four months of age or older."
  
This bill is ripe for incrementalism. It establishes a new reporting requirement that is limited to a relatively small group at the onset, but could easily be expanded or tightened up in the future to include a wider group of breeders or even veterinarians. Since the stated intent of the bill is to "encourage" licensing by anyone transferring a dog or by all veterinarians, no doubt the proposed law will eventually be amended to include more hobby breeders. It could even be amended to require veterinarians to verify that dogs they treat are licensed. (A bill like this recently passed in Philadelphia. No doubt the ARs have a plan to expand this to other areas)
 
Speaking of incrementalism, did you realize that the only initial purpose for dog licensing was rabies control? This is a perfect example of incrementlism at its worst. Licensing has expanded significantly beyond the role of protecting public health from the threat of rabies, to where we now have all manner of government control over our animals associated with licensing, such as forced sterilization, mandated microchips, limits on the numbers of animals we can own and limits on the choice to breed. 
 
Unfortunately, a group claiming to represent the interests of California dog owners is sponsoring this bill. We can only emphasize that this is extremely foolish and shortsighted on the part of this group. PAWPac, an animal rights lobbying group, is actively supporting AB 1121. Other supporting groups include the HSUS and the ASPCA.
 
The animal rights groups just want to get this law passed. They know that once the law is on the books, they can refine and strengthen it later.
 
There are several serious concerns regarding this bill:
  •  Licensing is ultimately the legal and moral responsibility of the dog owner, not the seller. Sellers should not be required to report personal details of animal buyers to the state. This smacks of the very worst type of "snitch" activity.
  • Currently, most veterinarians in the state already are required to report to the local animal control agency the owner name and address for pets vaccinated against rabies in order to comply with state health requirements for rabies control. This bill is duplicative and unnecessary.
  • This bill imposes a state-mandated local program. The seller reporting requirement adds an additional bureaucratic layer to animal control, with increased costs that will be borne by all of us as dog license holders and taxpayers.
  • Rescue groups currently operate on a shoestring budget with volunteers handling the bulk of the work. The recordkeeping and reporting requirements contained in this bill are onerous for nonprofits to contend with and could have a dampering effect on continued rescue activities.
  • In addition, this bill will likely bring more puppies into the system for their owners in certain areas to find out only too late that they may face mandatory, unnecessary and costly sterilization surgery, or else pay an exorbitant intact license fee for their dog once the puppy license expires.
  • Only puppies who are microchipped qualify for the puppy discount license. The discount is only applied during the first year of life.  
  • Unfortunately, as happens with all punitive laws, under the provisions of this bill, more dogs will end up in shelters. There is no thought about the unintended consequences of the seller reporting requirements in areas with local mandatory sterilization laws or stringent limit laws.
  • The bill allows for "veterinarians to issue the licenses to owners of dogs who make application." There is a concern that this concept could be expanded in the future to turn veterinarians into the dog licensing police, which would cause some owners to avoid seeking needed veterinary care for their pets.
"No Kill" methodology advises against punitive, coercive legislation because they know such laws create more problems than they solve. AB 1121 certainly falls into the category of coercive legislation. The small benefit of a reduced fee puppy license is far outweighed by the onerous seller reporting requirements.
 
Please contact the governor today to urge his veto.

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