On Tuesday Feb. 22, the Irvine City Council heard from city staff, local activists groups and public speakers from the community who urged the council to take some action against cruelty practices within their reach.
The Irvine City Council reviewed a lengthy ordinance proposal that if implemented would prohibit the retail sale of dogs or puppies and cats or kittens at retail establishments within the Irvine city limits, require that pets over the age of six months be spayed or neutered and potentially ban travelling exhibits that showcase animal performances.
Although the city of Irvine has held a very strong sentiment against animal cruelty in the past, the underlying repercussions of this ordinance are very complex. The mandate that will require pets over the age of six months or older to be spayed or neutered has not been clarified to state whether it will require all registered pets, or merely those who are brought into the Irvine Animal Care Center as strays. The mandate contradicts those who do not fix their animals because they breed purebred dogs or cats to better the breed overall or even because the owners may show the dog in competition, which mandates that animals who are shown be unaltered in any form (i.e. spayed or neutered).
The proponents of the ordinance claim that this mandatory spaying and neutering will greatly decrease the number of strays captured by Animal Control and will also control the animal population within the city by keeping the number of unwanted pregnancies during the seasons of heat at a minimum.
The second mandate that will prohibit the sale of dogs/puppies and cats/kittens will not affect current sales within the city with the exception of the one store that continues this sale, Russo’s Spectrum Pets at the Irvine Spectrum, and will even carry a “grandfather” clause to protect this store for a defined period of time. While this mandate deliberately attempts to not single out Russo’s Spectrum Pets by introducing the “grandfather” clause, it directly opposes its practices.
The proponents of the proposal find this portion to be essential with so much light being shed on the practices of puppy/kitten mills and the fact that many retail stores knowingly purchase animals from these mills in order to increase profits, without considering the moral aspects of the situation. These puppy/kitten mills mass produce puppies and kittens by over-breeding mature females and keeping the studs in less than ideal conditions — leaving these poor creatures to live entire lives in cages, often in poor conditions, all for the purpose of profit.
Finally, the third mandate that bans animal exhibits will prohibit the performances of equine or exotic animals, which will directly affect shows like Cirque de Soleil which frequents Irvine, from using horses in their show. The council has already addressed their current contracts with Cirque de Soleil, and said that if the ordinance is passed, a committee may be formed to oversee the practices of these travelling shows ensuring that they abide by all animal rights laws.
“The City has been on the forefront of providing the ‘gold standard’ of municipal animal care and in general, Irvine residents have shown great interest in animal welfare,” said Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang, openly showing his support of this proposal for legislation. “The ordinances proposed by the group would position Irvine with other progressive cities implementing ordinances to prevent mistreatment and exploitation of animals within their respective city boundaries.”
After illuminating the benefits and deficits that the proposal would entail, the city council voted with a majority of four to one council members to send the proposals back to city staff to be re-evaluated and re-submitted for consideration in 120 days. Only one city council member openly voted against the proposal, Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway, who warned the council of proposing legislation that potentially would encroach on the individual rights of citizens of the city of Irvine.
“I would do everything possible to encourage [the notion], and I think the city should get more involved in encouraging it in any way possible, but I just don’t feel it’s the right thing to do to make people take their dogs and cats to be spayed and neutered,” Lalloway said before casting his vote against the proposal. He also later expressed his concerns of the backlash these mandates would have on local businesses such as breeders and veterinary offices.
In four months, the legislation will pass by council members again for another vote, and if the preliminary vote indicates anything, it is sure to be a landslide.