California AB 1634 has brought together many people from diverse backgrounds for
a common purpose: to defeat this draconian bill. Many of us are
genuinely unaware just how different our various worlds are. I am part of the
working dog world and I don't claim to be an expert (or even a
novice) in show dogs. One thing that's become apparent to me is that working
dog people and show dog people have very different views about spay/neuter.
In conformation show dog communities, I'm told that most pups are
sold on spay/neuter contracts and only a small number are kept intact - those kept by
the breeder or sold as "show prospects", often to other breeders.
There is a common refrain from show and pet dog communities that "responsible dog
owners spay/neuter their dogs", and I've recently seen statements suggesting
that if a dog owner doesn't wish to participate in conformation show
events they should s/n their dog. Correct me if I've characterized this wrong.
In working dog communities, most and ideally nearly all dogs are kept
intact. Often times it's just a given that this will happen. In other
cases, working dog breeders beg their puppy buyers to keep their pups
intact. That's why we are starting to see working dog breeders refuse to sell pups into
California - since they don't want ANY of their pups to face mandatory s/n (at ANY age).
There are a number of reasons why most dogs are kept intact in
working dog populations, but the main one is because it is simply impossible to
select the breeding quality dogs at eight weeks of age, four months of age, or one
year of age. We don't know if a dog is suitable for working dog breeding
until he or she is two years old or older. It's common in some cases for the
males not to get breedings until they are four or five years old, or older.
Working dog people want to see health and working abilities that hold up over
time before breeding these dogs. It's also well known in working dog
communities that working abilities aren't maintained unless we breed
the outstanding dogs... "best to best" in simplified terms. Given all
this, it's imperative to keep nearly all dogs intact until they are mature
adults in order to select the breeding dogs... not just the small fraction
owned by established breeders. Working dog populations have been bred this
way for thousands of years.
Most working dog studs are not owned by breeders... they are owned by
people who bought a male to perform some working or performance dog
function, and it turned out their male grew up to be an outstanding
dog so he ends up getting bred. The same is true for many females that are
responsibly bred. In working GSD and Malinois populations that I'm
most familiar with, the most demanding selection for working abilities is
with the male dogs, and again, most of these dogs are not owned by
It's totally inadequate to give special status to "legitimate working
dog breeders" as AB 1634 does when truth of the matter is EVERY dog in
these populations needs this option, not just those owned by established
breeders. The alternative is an inevitable decline of health and
working abilities in the population. There's really no way for a law to
single out working dogs either, since there's no meaningful distinction a law
could make between working dog populations and other dog populations. So
bottom line: either all dogs get to stay intact or the law is bad for
working dog populations.
It seems a lot of people have looked at the working dog language in
AB 1634 and its exemption for "legitimate breeder of working dogs" and
concluded that it's OK for working dogs now. Not so. I hope I've explained
one of the reasons why this bill doesn't work for working dogs. There's
other reasons, this is just one of them.
Many people are quite capable of responsibly keeping dogs intact, not
just an elite few. If you want to see an illustration of regular people
keeping dogs intact responsibly, consider that in Europe most dogs are kept
intact, and yet, they don't have nearly the numbers of dogs in their animal
shelters that we have. Spay/neuter is not the answer to the so-called and mis-named
"pet overpopulation" problem, and those of us in the working dog world just
don't buy the "responsible dog owners s/n their dogs" mantra. For example:
California: 36 million
UK: 60 million
% dogs s/n:
California: about 70%
UK: about 20%
# dogs euth'd annually in animal shelters:
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