Community Columns

Pet sterilization bill was a no-brainer — or so I thought

Yes, I confess to having some pleasant memories involving those several sets of newborn cats and dogs that blessed my household in years long past. The contemplation of new birth — whether human, feline, canine, or what have you — must be classified among life's inspiring moments; and I have no regrets about my children getting in on the excitement whenever new kittens or puppies came into our family.

But, sad to say, such inspirational moments do not fit so well into today's world. Modern families need to find ways of experiencing the wonders of existence without requiring our household pets to be fruitful and multiply. The reasons are obvious: The vast majority of those lovable little pups and kitties are doomed to a miserable existence and an early demise. Far too many will have no destiny but to roam our streets and fields unwanted, abused, forlorn — regarded as nuisances while they live out pathetic lives or wind up in the pound's execution chamber.

The solution seems pretty obvious — birth control on a very large scale. So the recently proposed legislation requiring the sterilization of household pets — with a number of reasonable exceptions — would seem to be a no-brainer. In my naiveté I actually thought it was headed for quick and noncontroversial passage: a stroke of the governor's pen and — voilà! — a significant drop in the stray cat and dog populations.

Instead, an uproar has erupted. What started out in the mind of the bill's author, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Sherman Oaks, as a common sense measure to curb the proliferation of unwanted animals has morphed into a draconian violation of human rights, or so say the proponents of unlimited pet breeding.

All the clichés have been dragged out — the same ones that have always confronted attempts at any level of government to solve social problems. This law threatens our most basic freedoms, we are told; it's another example of "nanny government" gone wild, etc., etc.

We've heard it all before: When smoking restrictions were imposed, when seat belts were mandated, when cyclists were made to wear helmets, when zoning laws were enacted, andso on.

Of course, we need to hear out the protesters, because government can and does become too intrusive at times and needs to be checked and balanced (consider recent developments at the federal level, for example), but we need to maintain common sense and recognize that a complex and dynamic society cannot avoid restricting some liberties in the interest of the common good.

The pet sterilization bill is good legislation, but unfortunately it has failed in this session — put on hold in the state Senate after barely passing in the Assembly. Its supporters were overwhelmed by a potent propaganda machine, and we only can hope they will make their case more effectively next year.

Shaw, a Turlock resident, has taught English atDowney and Beyer high schools. E-mail himat