Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pet limit laws limit positive solutions

Back when I worked as the office manager of a veterinary hospital in Sacramento, I had the good pleasure of knowing a woman who owned 22 cats. Yes, 22 --- and every last one of them were spayed or neutered, up to date on their vaccines, licensed and well cared for. We’d see her a couple of times a month, because with 22 cats someone was always either due for shots or one of the “special needs” felines needed a check-up of some sort. She’s one of the first people I think of when discussions come up about limiting the number of pets a person can have.

Kern County Animal Control Director Guy Shaw is proposing an ordinance that would, among other things, require people with 10 or more dogs and/or cats to apply for a permit to keep them. The Board of Supervisors expects to receive plenty of feedback from people when the topic comes up for discussion at its Sept. 29 meeting, and I’m sure the public will not let them down.

Don’t get me wrong. I empathize with Mr. Shaw’s frustration about the pet overpopulation problem we have in Kern County and the endless cycle of homeless pets that are brought to the shelter every day, more than can possibly find homes even during the best of economic times. I just don’t think an arbitrary number limit is going to help.

The problem with using a number is that people immediately seize on the number as a topic of debate, rather than discuss what it means to be a responsible pet owner. If Jane Citizen has eight cats and four dogs, and all are altered, current on their vaccinations, licensed and aren’t bothering the neighbors, what difference does it make to me how many pets she has? What difference should it make?

If, on the other hand, Judy Citizen has two dogs who are unaltered, produce litter after litter of half-breed “designer dogs” and are left to live the bulk of their lives in a concrete run on the side of the house, with little family interaction or stimulation, should that pass as O.K., just because they are within the prescribed limit?

It’s a big discussion, worthy of far more consideration than haggling over the appropriate “quantity”. Let’s treat it as such.

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