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Northern California Community Approves Law to Prevent Dog, Cat Litters

December 12, 1990

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) _ Faced with too many stray dogs and cats, San Mateo County officials have tentatively approved the nation’s first law that requires nearly all pets to be neutered to prevent unplanned litters.

The ordinance approved Tuesday night would impose a moratorium on all breeding by private dog and cat owners for six months beginning in July.

After Jan. 1, 1992, only dogs and cats owned by professional and hobbyist breeders who hold special permits would be allowed to reproduce. All other cats and dogs in unincorporated areas of the county 15 miles south of San Francisco would have to be neutered.

″We’re very, very pleased. We definitely made history tonight and we hope (others) will follow suit around the country,″ said Sherry Richert, spokeswoman for the Peninsula Humane Society.

Supervisor Tom Nolan, who wrote the ordinance, agreed: ″We took an historic first step ... toward solving the animal overpopulation problem.″

Nolan introduced the measure in October after learning the humane society kills 10,000 strays each year.

If approved on final reading next Tuesday, the ordinance will become law, setting up a committee to set the specific rules and fees for licensing professional and hobby breeders. Violators would be fined $500.

Angry pet owners, including professional and amateur breeders, have threatened to sue if the law passes.

″It’s going to be heavily litigated,″ predicted Mark Rudy, a lawyer representing local dog breeders.

″Our canine defense fund has $350,000 in it and we will use it,″ said Betty-Anne Stenmark, a member of Responsible Dog Breeders of San Mateo County.

″A (breeding) moratorium is blackmail,″ added J. Alan Stern, spokesman for the American Kennel Club. He urged the board to seek other means of solving the problem and called for more education and tougher leash laws.

The board approved the ban 4-1 after a four-hour hearing that drew breeders from as far away as Washington, D.C. Among those who spoke in favor of the measure was singer Grace Slick of the Jefferson Starship, an animal rights activist who lives in Marin County north of San Francisco.

″We’re users, the human race. One of the things we use the most are the animals,″ Slick said.

Outside, one of about 50 demonstrators against the ordinance carried a sign reading: ″If the Humane Society had been in Hollywood, there would be no Lassie.″