Fur Flies Over Bill to Sterilize Dogs, Cats

Pet owners who don't comply could face $500 fine.

ByABC News
June 28, 2007, 12:05 PM

June 28, 2007 — -- Oh, for the love of dog.

The fur is flying in California, and it's all because of a bill that's working its way through the state legislature that would require pet owners to sterilize their dogs and cats by the time they're 4 months old. It is being put on the table in an effort to reduce the estimated half a million stray animals that are euthanized in California shelters year after year.

"There are 3 to 4 million dogs and cats paying with their lives for homelessness in the U.S. [annually], and there's no excuse for that," Daphna Nachminovitch, director of rescue operations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told ABC News. "This bill is a life-saving measure."

The bill has the support of the California Veterinary Medicine Association, the California Healthy Pets Coalition, and several local humane societies. It's also become a cause celebre for some animal-loving stars, including actress Pamela Anderson, singer Lionel Richie, and retired "Price Is Right" host Bob Barker.

"We desperately need it passed," Barker told The Associated Press. "The overpopulation is really tragic, and it's not just in California -- it's all over the country."

But critics of the bill, many of whom agree something needs to be done to reduce the number of strays, say the would-be law -- which would fine pet owners refusing to comply $500 per animal -- is unenforceable, overreaching, and heavy-handed.

"This is big brother stuff," dog owner Greg Cross of Irvine, Calif., told ABC News. Cross owns a pitbull purebred and two mutts, all of which are fixed. "They should not be telling us what we should do with our poor dogs."

Cross isn't the only one snarling. The 122-year-old American Kennel Club -- which sponsors the annual Eukanuba National Championship in Long Beach, the country's second-largest dog show after New York's Westminster Kennel Club event -- has threatened to pull the internationally televised competition out of California if the bill passes. Last year, the show drew 28,000 dog enthusiasts and poured nearly $22 million into the local economy.