A returning bill that would give dogs and cats in California expanded legal protections and rights faced drastically increased opposition this week following many dog owner and veterinarian groups announcing their stance against the proposed law.
Assembly Bill 1881, authored by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), would set up a Dog and Cat Bill of Rights in California, which would be as as follows:
- Dogs and cats have the right to be free from exploitation, cruelty, neglect, and abuse.
- Dogs and cats have the right to a life of comfort, free of fear and anxiety.
- Dogs and cats have the right to daily mental stimulation and appropriate exercise considering the age and energy level of the dog or cat.
- Dogs and cats have the right to nutritious food, sanitary water, and shelter in an appropriate and safe environment.
- Dogs and cats have the right to regular and appropriate veterinary care.
- Dogs and cats have the right to be properly identified through tags, microchips, or other humane means.
- Dogs and cats have the right to be spayed and neutered to prevent unwanted litters.
The bill would expand beyond current animal abuse and neglect laws, specifically saying that “dogs and cats have the right to be respected as sentient beings that experience complex feelings that are common among living animals while being unique to each individual animal.” Besides the expanded rights, all public animal control agencies and shelters, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelters, humane society shelters, and rescue groups would be required to give a copy of the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights to new owners, as well as post a copy up in these places for public viewing.
While first-time offensers would simply get a warning for not complying in posting or giving out the Bill of Rights, all other violations within 60 days of the first offense would be fined up to $250.
AB 1881 was introduced earlier this year in February and was written by Assemblyman Santiago in response to millions being spent by the state each year for care and the euthanasia of animals in shelters, as well as create “healthy environments for adopted pets.”
“As an owner of two dogs myself, I am proud to author the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights to help our furry friends live happier, healthier lives,” Santiago said last year in a statement. “Our dogs and cats deserve to be loved, and cared for, and the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights will help inform potential adopters of the care needed to create a healthy environment for their adopted pets.”
Opposition against AB 1881
However, AB 1881 has yet to reach a single committee vote so far due to the bill being amended with numerous changes to the bill, including owners being given copies of the Dog and Cat Bill of Rights.
Despite not a single vote, numerous groups joined in opposition following the latest amendment changes this week. The American Kennel Club (AKC), along with the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and the Animal Health Institute (AHI), now stand against the bill over growing concerns that pet owner’s rights to make decisions around healthcare, diet, and other areas could be harmed.
“However, Assembly Bill 1881—named the “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights”—does not further that aim. Instead of simply providing a list of helpful reminders and guidelines for pet owners, the bill signals a radical shift in the legal status of animals and who is responsible for care decisions,” the three groups said in a letter this week. “Should this bill become law, it could undermine the rights of California pet owners and their veterinarians to make appropriate health care decisions ensuring the best possible care for their beloved pets.”
With AB 1881 now set to be heard in the Assembly Business and Professions Committee soon, many experts say the increased opposition will likely affect the votes of Committee members.
“Vets and other animal health care professionals will hold a lot of power in convincing lawmakers of the dangers of the bill,” explained Annette Chapman, a California Veterinarian who has helped several cities make decisions on Veterinary offices and practices in the past, to the Globe on Thursday, “Whenever lawmakers face some citizens trying to promote a pet-related bill, the vets are always the ones called in to give the expertise. It can be dogs, cats, horses, anything. Even in matters involving shelters, if there is anything remotely animal health related, vets are listened to the most. And look at how they are responding to this… Should give a good indication.”
AB 1881 is due to be heard in its first committee in the coming weeks.
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