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Dog owners on neutering: It bites
They say it is wrong response to series of dog maulings
A proposed mandatory neutering and spaying ordinance for all dogs is aimed at reducing the kill rate at the Manteca Animal Shelter. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin
It was a discussion about dogs in heat.

And it definitely got heated.

More than two dozen dog owners stridently defended their position against a possible ordinance that would make the fixing of all dogs mandatory under city law if the City Council were to approve the same piece of legislation that is already in place the similarly sized City of Santa Cruz.

The council is expected to discuss the possible ordinance – which tentatively includes exceptions for recognized show dogs, livestock dogs, police dogs, or assistance dogs in addition to city-licensed breeders – when they meet again on Tuesday, April 7, at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

While the reasons behind the opposition varied from person to person, the overwhelming consensus presented to Police Chief Dave Bricker was clear – leave man’s best friend alone.

“I think that registering your dog is the responsible thing to do, and it’s something that every owner should take care of,” resident Mike Learned said. “But making it mandatory to spay or neuter your animal makes it seem like we’re living in a dictatorship.

“It just doesn’t seem responsible for the government to be mandating something like that.”

And of all of the owners and supporters who turned out for the meeting, Learned – who has two labs of his own at home – might have been the only one in the crowd that has seen the outcome of the brutal maulings that are heavily publicized and often include certain breeds that are left unattended.

During his tenure working as a nurse in Modesto, Learned saw several instances where owners left their animal alone only to come back to find it brutally attacking either another family member or a stranger who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The end result, he says, almost always includes people talking about how if they dog had been spayed or neutered it never would have happened.

“I have two labs at home, and the female that’s fixed is the one that always makes a break for it and takes off down the street if she gets even the slightest chance, and the male that isn’t fixed could care less – he just tags along because she went,” Learned said jokingly. “Just because a dog is fixed doesn’t always mean you’re going to know how it will react.

“I have a real understanding of what happens to the victims in these maulings. There are a lot of dogs around here that are bred to fight, and when an owner irresponsibly leaves that dog with a very large bite around somebody that it’s not familiar with bad things can happen. But this seems like it’s just a mommy ordinance – where someone does something bad and everyone has to pay for it.”

At the start of the meeting Bricker told those in attendance that the entire issue was born out of a series of dog maulings last year and eventually prompted the council to look into passing an ordinance making the sterilization of certain breeds mandatory.

That initial proposal was eventually adapted to include all dogs to both control the overall population and address the concerns that people may have about large dogs or others that commonly end up the subject of horror stories that people end up reading about.

It’s an idea, Bricker said, that will definitely be shaped by what the dog owners and responsible citizens want to see – noting that it’s not those people that the city is trying to hurt by looking into this.

“Responsible pet owners that keep their animals confined and enclosed aren’t going to have a problem with the Manteca Police Department,” Bricker said. “But if you’re an irresponsible pet owner with your animal out running the streets or if we find it unattended, then that would be a violation of this ordinance and we would proceed accordingly.”

Bricker encouraged all who attended the informational meeting Monday to show up at the next council meeting to share their concerns if they feel his report doesn’t adequately represent their thoughts.