California Healthy Pets Act Update

Sleeping Cat and Dog

AB 1634, the California Healthy Pets Act has passed the Assembly Floor and is now moving on to the Senate to be voted on. The California Healthy Pets Act would require the spaying and neutering of most cats and dogs by the time the pet is four months old. The act is being proposed as a solution to pet overpopulation.

On the other side, there are many opponents of this bill. They say that the bill does not really solve the problem of pet overpopulation, will affect reputable breeders, and many pet owners are concerned about the safety and health of their pet being spayed or neutered at a young age.

20 Responses to “California Healthy Pets Act Update”

  1. Lynne says:

    Anyone opposed to the bill should be required to spend a day in a shelter, helping them to kill dogs and cats. Actually those voting on the bill should be required to spend a day doing that. It is one thing to pontificate, quite another to see the actual matter being discussed.

  2. Gerry says:

    Will affect reputable breeders…and puppy mills. I pray it will pass!

  3. kaefamily says:

    Instead of monetary penalty, those who refuse or neglect to neuter/spaying their pets should be forced to have the procedure on themselves. That will solve the overpopulation of pets AND humans as well ;-)

  4. Gina Spadafori says:

    In fact, it specifically exempts puppy mills. Had to, or the pet-industry lobbyists — you know, the same who are fighting labeling and reform of pet food — wouldn’t allow it to pass.

    It’s a bad piece of legislation that’s nothing but “feel good.” It does nothing to address the true causes of pet overpopulation — feral cats and a massive surplus of dogs no one will adopt, most notably pit bulls.

    Instead, its nanny state provisions target responsible owners and reputable breeders. (Reputable breeds are NOT putting those animals in shelters. Here’s more on that.

    I have neve bred a litter, I have run a breed rescue and I have indeed held healthy, unwanted pets in my arms as they were euthanized. And I could not be more against this measure.

    Here’s why.

  5. Gerry says:

    Gina…I was WRONG! I just read your post on the pet c. I now see why the act wouldnt make any difference to the many back yard breeders. They could still stay out of the spot light and breed, breed, breed. Thank you for the info!

  6. Lynne says:

    Gina, thanks for the information.

  7. Cynthia says:

    AB 1634

    One problem is, people hear one thing about a bill and they think it’s good without researching it further. Before promoting any bill please look at all the facts and viewpoints, even if it’s something you don’t want to hear, This bill has serious flaws and needs to be reworked.

    Having a pet spayed or neutered before puberty is dangerous! I would NEVER consider having it done at 4 months.

    The sex hormones are needed for achieving peak bone density, healthy growth and development. Puppies that are sterilized before they are physically mature and their growth plates have closed can be identified by their longer limbs, a lighter bone structure, narrow chests and narrow skulls . Some may also be more prone to suffer CCL rupture, in addition to the risks listed above.

    Early Spay-Neuter Considerations
    for the Canine Athlete
    One Veterinarian’s Opinion
    © 2005 Chris Zink DVM, PhD, DACVP

    Those of us with responsibility for the health of canine athletes need to continually read and evaluate new scientific studies to ensure that we are taking the most appropriate care of our performance dogs. This article provides evidence through a number of recent studies to suggest that veterinarians and owners working with canine athletes should revisit the standard protocol in which all dogs that are not intended for breeding are spayed and neutered at or before 6 months of age.

    Orthopedic Considerations
    A study by Salmeri et al in 1991 found that bitches spayed at 7 weeks grew significantly taller than those spayed at 7 months, who were taller than those not spayed (or presumably spayed after the growth plates had closed).(1) A study of 1444 Golden Retrievers performed in 1998 and 1999 also found bitches and dogs spayed and neutered at less than a year of age were significantly taller than those spayed or neutered at more than a year of age.(2) The sex hormones, by communicating with a number of other growth-related hormones, promote the closure of the growth plates at puberty (3), so the bones of dogs or bitches neutered or spayed before puberty continue to grow. Dogs that have been spayed or neutered well before puberty can frequently be identified by their longer limbs, lighter bone structure, narrow chests and narrow skulls. This abnormal growth frequently results in significant alterations in body proportions and particularly the lengths (and therefore weights) of certain bones relative to others. For example, if the femur has achieved its genetically determined normal length at 8 months when a dog gets spayed or neutered, but the tibia, which normally stops growing at 12 to 14 months of age continues to grow, then an abnormal angle may develop at the stifle. In addition, with the extra growth, the lower leg below the stifle likely becomes heavier (because it is longer), and may cause increased stresses on the cranial cruciate ligament. In addition, sex hormones are critical for achieving peak bone density.(4) These structural and physiological alterations may be the reason why at least one recent study showed that spayed and neutered dogs had a higher incidence of CCL rupture.(5) Another recent study showed that dogs spayed or neutered before 5 1/2 months had a significantly higher incidence of hip dysplasia than those spayed or neutered after 5 1/2 months of age, although it should be noted that in this study there were no standard criteria for the diagnosis of hip dysplasia.(6) Nonetheless, breeders of purebred dogs should be cognizant of these studies and should consider whether or not pups they bred were spayed or neutered when considering breeding decisions.

    Cancer Considerations
    A retrospective study of cardiac tumors in dogs showed that there was a 5 times greater risk of hemangiosarcoma, one of the three most common cancers in dogs, in spayed bitches than intact bitches and a 2.4 times greater risk of hemangiosarcoma in neutered dogs as compared to intact males.(7) A study of 3218 dogs demonstrated that dogs that were neutered before a year of age had a significantly increased chance of developing bone cancer.(8) A separate study showed that neutered dogs had a two-fold higher risk of developing bone cancer.(9) Despite the common belief that neutering dogs helps prevent prostate cancer, at least one study suggests that neutering provides no benefit.(10) There certainly is evidence of a slightly increased risk of mammary cancer in female dogs after one heat cycle, and for increased risk with each subsequent heat. While about 30 % of mammary cancers are malignant, as in humans, when caught and surgically removed early the prognosis is very good.(12) Luckily, canine athletes are handled frequently and generally receive prompt veterinary care.

    Behavioral Considerations
    The study that identified a higher incidence of cranial cruciate ligament rupture in spayed or neutered dogs also identified an increased incidence of sexual behaviors in males and females that were neutered early.(5) Further, the study that identified a higher incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs neutered or spayed before 5 1/2 months also showed that early age gonadectomy was associated with an increased incidence of noise phobias and undesirable sexual behaviors.(6) A recent report of the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation reported significantly more behavioral problems in spayed and neutered bitches and dogs. The most commonly observed behavioral problem in spayed females was fearful behavior and the most common problem in males was aggression.(12)

    Other Health Considerations
    A number of studies have shown that there is an increase in the incidence of female urinary incontinence in dogs spayed early (13), although this finding has not been universal. Certainly there is evidence that ovarian hormones are critical for maintenance of genital tissue structure and contractility.(14, 15) Neutering also has been associated with an increased likelihood of urethral sphincter incontinence in males.(16) This problem is an inconvenience, and not usually life-threatening, but nonetheless one that requires the dog to be medicated for life. A health survey of several thousand Golden Retrievers showed that spayed or neutered dogs were more likely to develop hypothyroidism.(2) This study is consistent with the results of another study in which neutering and spaying was determined to be the most significant gender-associated risk factor for development of hypothyroidism.(17) Infectious diseases were more common in dogs that were spayed or neutered at 24 weeks or less as opposed to those undergoing gonadectomy at more than 24 weeks.(18) Finally, the AKC-CHF report demonstrated a higher incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines in neutered dogs as compared to intact.(12)

    I have gathered these studies to show that our practice of routinely spaying or neutering every dog at or before the age of 6 months is not a black-and-white issue. Clearly more studies need to be done to evaluate the effects of prepubertal spaying and neutering, particularly in canine athletes.

    Currently, I have significant concerns with spaying or neutering canine athletes before puberty. But of course, there is the pet overpopulation problem. How can we prevent the production of unwanted dogs while still leaving the gonads to produce the hormones that are so important to canine growth and development? One answer would be to perform vasectomies in males and tubal ligation in females, to be followed after maturity by ovariohysterectomy in females to prevent mammary cancer and pyometra. One possible disadvantage is that vasectomy does not prevent some unwanted behaviors associated with males such as marking and humping. On the other hand, females and neutered males frequently participate in these behaviors too. Really, training is the best solution for these issues. Another possible disadvantage is finding a veterinarian who is experienced in performing these procedures. Nonetheless, some do, and if the procedures were in greater demand, more veterinarians would learn them.

    I believe it is important that we assess each situation individually. For canine athletes, I currently recommend that dogs and bitches be spayed or neutered after 14 months of age.

    Reasons for Opposition
    Health Considerations of Our Animals

    AB 1634 does not address the health considerations associated with spaying and neutering animals at an early age, especially affecting the long-term health of working breeds or any dog (purebred or mixed breed) that participates in working or athletic events.
    • Orthopedic Considerations: abnormal bone growth due to lack of sex hormones;  lower bone density due to lack of sex hormones; increase incidence of CCL rupture; increased incidence of hip

    • Cancer Considerations: greater risk for hemangiosarcoma and bone cancers

    • Incontinence Considerations:  in both sexes due to lack of sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone

    • Behavioral Considerations:  increased incidence of fearful behavior and phobias; aggressive behavior

    • Metabolic Considerations: increased risk of hypothyroidism,  acute fatal pancreatitis, diabetes, obesity…

    • Infectious Disease considerations:  increased incidence of infectious disease

    • Surgical Considerations: surgical complications, anesthetic complications pediatrics and geriatrics, cardiac arrhythmias

    • Vaccine Considerations:  increased incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines

  8. Cynthia says:

    This is why C.O.P.S (California Organization of Police and Sheriffs.) is so against this. This is their reason…

    To: California Legislature

    From: (Your name and email)


    Dear California Legislature,

    We join COPS, the United States Police Canine Association, the Western States Police Canine Association, the North American Police Work dog Association and the Canine Specialized Search Team in opposition to California Assembly Bill 1634.

    The legislation has been craftily titled the “Healthy Pets Act” but the effect would be to force the surgical sterilization of all dogs and cats. Elimination of future police dogs would devastate police K-9 departments. AB 1634 would also eliminate many guide dogs for the blind and service dogs for the disabled.

    The bill mandates all dogs and cats must be neutered at four months of age, with few exemptions. And the remaining pure bred animals with exemptions would be taxed and regulated by a newly created government bureaucracy.

    The legislation even threatens criminal penalties for pet owners– we don’t want police spending time arresting citizens for having unneutered cats and dogs!

    Nearly all working police dogs were once somebody’s pet dog. They are bought as young pups, placed with families, and then if they pass all the working and health tests, eventually they may end up with a police department. If AB 1634 passes, these future police dogs would be sterilized before making it into police work. Neutering all non-breeding K-9’s will destroy law enforcements ability to have successful K-9 departments.

    It is already difficult for law enforcement to find dogs that are suitable for police work. AB 1634 would make an already difficult task nearly impossible. AB 1634 would increase costs to the taxpayers to purchase dogs from a shrinking supply of suitable dogs.

    Th AB 1634 takes away the rights of law abiding citizens, discriminates against our disabled citizens, and creates new taxes and government bureaucracies to regulate our dogs and cats. We don’t need AB 1634.

    (Your name)

  9. trucorgi says:

    Often legislation is written with good intentions but there are
    unintended negative consequences and the legislation actually ends up
    hurting the animals and people it is trying to protect.

    COPS Announces Public Safety Opposition to AB 1634 is Growing
    Loss of K9 Dogs and Costs to Cities and Counties Cited

    SACRAMENTO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The California Organization of Police and Sheriffs (COPS) announced growing opposition to AB 1634, “The Pet Extinction Act” (Levine, D-Van Nuys) because it will decimate police dogs, dogs for the blind, hearing impaired and disabled and is an unfunded state mandate threatening local public safety budgets.

    The newest opposition comes from the 25,000 members of the National Coalition of Public Safety Officers (NCPSO) CWA/AFL-CIO along with the California Rescue Dog Association, the largest K9 search-and-rescue organization, the United States Police Canine Association, Western States Police Canine Association, Manteca Police Officers Association, Manteca Police Employees Association, Canine Specialized Search Team, and John Riboni, K9 Training Director for Placer County Sheriffs Department, Roseville Police Department, Lincoln Police Department, and Rocklin Police Department.

    AB 1634 will decimate law enforcement K-9 departments. At a time when we need more dogs, especially for bomb detection, this bill calls for the extinction of the mixed breed dogs used as working dogs for these duties. In addition, the bill’s requirements to receive a government-issued exemption permit to raise intact police dogs are arbitrary and illogical. As a result, the number of police dogs available for crime prevention, bomb searches, drug detection and search and rescue operations will be greatly reduced.

    COPS Executive Director Monty Holden said, “In addition to eliminating dogs for law enforcement, the blind, hearing impaired and disabled, AB 1634 is an unfunded state mandate costing cities and counties over $1 billion annually. Local public safety funding is put at risk because of the unfunded state mandate in AB 1634.”

    Over 50% of cities and counties general fund revenues are budgeted for public safety. AB 1634 will be a financial drain on cities and counties. Mandatory/spay neuter policies previously enacted have seen animal services budgets skyrocket. Law enforcement costs alone will increase by over $42 million if AB 1634 is passed into law.

    “All of the major organizations involved with providing K9 dogs to law enforcement officers and blind, hearing impaired and disabled citizens are opposed to this bill because they understand the next generation of dogs will be decimated. AB 1634 will leave our law enforcement officers and blind, hearing impaired and disabled citizens vulnerable to great harm without the assistance of their dogs,” Holden added.

    For more information go to

  10. Itchmo: News, fun and product info for cats, dogs and pet owners. » Spay And Neuter Law In Santa Cruz says:

    […] over the California Healthy Pets Act continue as the act has moved on to the Senate. One city in California has had a mandatory […]

  11. shirley jansen says:

    I wonder if the people who object to AB1634 have read the bill. It provides exceptions for all the issues raised. Police and service dogs are exempt. Any dog whose vet does not beleive in early spay/neuter can be declared medically exempt by the vet or have the procedure delayed. THE POINT IS THAT THE BILL HAS WORKED IN SANTA CRUZ WHICH HAS SEEN ITS IMPOUNDED ANIMALS DECREASE BY 60% IN 10 YEARS. FEWER ANIMALS ARE DESTROYED BECAUSE THEY HAVE MORE TIME TO BE ADOPTED WHEN SHELTERS ARE NOT SO CROWDED. And anyone who buys in to the lie that most animals in shelters have behavior problems has never taken the trouble to meet these poor lost and abandoned creatures!

  12. Jennifer says:

    I object to AB 1634 and I’ve read every word of the bill, and I suggest YOU double check the Sant Cruz shelter intake numbers before spouting them off as proof that mandatory spay/neuter works. As required under State law, Santa Cruz has reported their actual statistics to the California Department of Health Services, Veterinary Public Health Section. (CDHS-VPH). Since the passage of the Santa Cruz ordinance, there has been NO IMPROVEMENT in shelter intakes.

    For more information on the ACTUAL Santa Cruz statistics, please go to this website:

  13. Itchmo: News, humor and product reviews for cats, dogs and pet owners. » Animal Protection Amendment Act of 2007 says:

    […] Mandatory spay/neuter of dogs and cats over 6 months […]

  14. Phyllis says:

    Here is where you can get the latest:

    There will be a hearing for the CA Senate committe concerned with this on July 9th.

    I found out about the problems of early neutering AFTER I got Spice fixed. He was about 7 months old, but if I had known then what I know now, I would have waited. He is an indoor cat.

  15. Phyllis says:

    I Just wrote to the co-author of the bill. Here is my e-mail to Alex Padilla:

    Dear Sentator Padilla

    I am opposed to the bill AB 1634. Here is why:

    1. It is not in the best interest of pets to be neutered before puberty. In fact, reputable vets ask you if the testicles are descended, If they have gone into heat etc. This shows that thier grwoing is almost finished.

    2. Mixed breed pets are healthier — they do not inherit breed specific disorders such as deafness (Dalmations)

    3. I prefer mixed breed pets because in my opinion they are overall smarter, and more well adjusted. I do not want a pure bred pet.

    4. Earlier neutering of pets has been shown to increase likelihood of neurotic behaviors — anxiety, barking etc.

    5. This bill will not affect irresponsible breeders at all. They will just go farther underground and create more problems for law enforcement.

    6. Puppy mills will exempt. Please research about Puppy Mills. These pets are often kept exclusively in pens until sold. This does not make for a good, friendly pet.

    I am not against neutering, both my pets have been neutered, but after puberty. Pets neutered before puberty do not have their bone growth plates seal off at the right time. They then end up with out of proportion legs, narrow skulls and many other health related issues.

    Sincerely, Phyllis, San Diego ,CA


  16. Phyllis says:

    Humph — it bounced.

  17. Phyllis says:

    I have e-mailed the site for help contacting the big wigs.

  18. Nicole says:

    Does anyone know who took the picture of the dog with the kitten (at the top of this post), and when? The dog looks exactly (and I mean exactly) like my dog, who I adopted in December 2003. Is there any chance this is the same dog? I would love to track down her history. If you can provide any info, my email is

  19. Helen says:

    Can someone out here tell me if the problems from early alter apply to cats?? Large breed cats such as ragdoll and Maine coon?

  20. Joe says:

    Yes, in fact it applies to alot of animals that are spayed or neutered before 5 months. Does anyone have proof though? I am thinking it would be a problem for cats as well

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