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Bitch Noone Wanted
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Santa Barbara ponders new pet rules

By NICK C. TONKIN -- OCT. 5, 2010
Veterinarians, shelter workers, and animal welfare advocates agree: fixing your pet is one of the most important things you can do to increase the health of your animal and all the other animals in the community.

"[Fixing] is very beneficial for both health and well-being and longevity," Veterinarian Paula Kislak said.

Kislak said that fixing pets reduces the chances of infections and certain kinds of cancer.

Additionally, fixed animals are less likely to wander, more easily housebroken and, especially in male dogs, less likely to bite.

The Santa Barbara City Council today will consider sweeping new ordinance that will encourage pet owners to have their animals spayed or neutered.

Every year, more than 4,000 stray dogs and 3,000 catsare taken into animal shelters where the average length of stay has increased to nearly 70 days in the last five years.

At that rate, the shelters are packed and the animals have no other place to go.

"It's just unrealistic to continue to keep status quo as far as the numbers of litters that we are continuing to see here that are coming in for spay and neuter surgery, and we can barely keep up with the need in the community on a voluntary basis," said Peggy Langle, executive director of the Santa Barbara Humane Society.

Since the 70s when spaying and neutering education began, the number of animals in shelters began to decline. By the 2000s, however, the numbers were flattening out and began to increase in 2005.

"The limit on the regular element of outreach and education was hit," Dr. Lee Heller, an animal welfare activist said. "We kind of reached the population of the people that are easily reachable and willing to react."

With that in mind, the county appointed a committee to look into creating an ordinance with neutered animals. Some areas have enacted mandatory spay/neuter laws, however the committee found that mandates proved polarizing and created their own bureaucratic issues as many animals, such as seeing eye dogs, require exemptions.

The county chose to increase fees on unaltered dogs and require cat-owners to obtain a license. It also required that owners consult with a veterinarian to know the risks of owning an unaltered animal. The ordinance was implemented in January

Santa Barbara City Council today will consider a similar ordinance. The original proposal, nearly identical to the county's, drew criticisms from some quarters because it required licensing of all cats and an additional veterinary visit at the owner's expense.

Council member Frank Hotchkiss said that he was concerned about implementing an ordinance that had not yet proved successful and felt the requirement to license all cats was "a money grab."

City staff's proposed changes eliminated license requirements for fixed cats and allowed the veterinarian consultation to occur during state-mandated rabies checks.

"We've really addressed all the concerns that anybody could possibly have that would be legitimate," City Council member Grant House said, "and still got to the point of a really good conditional tool to help educate the public about the responsibility they have with pets."

Isabelle Gullo, President of CARE 4 Paws, a nonprofit that helps provide low-income families with pet education and spay and neutering services didn't want to take an official stand on the position, but hopes it will raise awareness of the issue.

"Whether or not you support the ordinance, spaying and neutering is an extremely important issue, we need to reach pet owners that keep having unwanted litters of dogs cats and bunnies to ensure that they fix their animals and stop contributing to the pet overpopulation problem," Gullo said.

Daily Sound ? Santa Barbara ponders new pet rules

Daily Sound ? Santa Barbara ponders new pet rules
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