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Torrance Chooses Middle Road on Pet Control : Animals: SPCA, animal breeders both hail proposal to require spaying or neutering unless a pet owner has a breeding license.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

They profess to have one thing in common--a love of animals--but they divide into two camps when it comes to regulating pet breeding in Torrance.

One camp wants the city to require that pets be sterilized in hopes of reducing the hundreds of stray or abandoned dogs and cats killed every year. The other urges less dramatic steps, such as better education, to control the city’s burgeoning population of unwanted pets.

After hearing from both sides at City Hall on Tuesday, the Torrance City Council took a middle road, asking the city’s environmental quality administrator to study a proposal that would require that cats and dogs be spayed or neutered unless the owner obtains a breeding permit. Both supporters and foes of the idea said they are pleased at the outcome.

“We want to find ways to kill the crisis and not the animal,” Edward C. Cubrda, president of the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the council.

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The debate was unleashed when the SPCA targeted Torrance in its efforts to persuade South Bay cities to adopt breeding controls such as required sterilization.

Some Torrance residents called on the city to consider a pet sterilization ordinance, citing figures that show 600 dogs and 1,200 cats from Torrance are killed each year at the SPCA shelter in Hawthorne. The SPCA destroys 10,000 dogs and cats a year from all the Los Angeles-area cities it serves. The city of Los Angeles alone put to death more than 58,000 dogs and cats last year.

But a handful of dog breeders who attended the council meeting said they fear the ramifications of pet population controls.

“I don’t think it’s been talked through,” said Dawn Woods of Gardena, who raises a rare type of hunting dog called the Finnish Spitz. She worries that her own dogs would be aversely affected if South Bay cities approved controls.

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“What if they decided they had to alter my wonderful dog--if there are only 500 of the kind in the country?” Woods asked. “The best birth control for a dog is a six-foot leash and someone at the end of it with a bit of brains.”

Cathy Turner of Sherman Oaks, executive secretary of the California Federation of Dog Clubs, said her group was formed to address dog overpopulation. Even so, the organization generally opposes mandatory sterilization ordinances, preferring less aggressive strategies such as public awareness campaigns.

“We need to sell ‘spay-neuter’ just like we sell any other product,” Turner said.

But others are calling for stronger action to stop the destruction of unwanted pets. A Torrance-based group called Pet Overpopulation Prevention has collected 950 signatures on a petition calling for mandatory spaying and neutering unless a pet owner obtains a breeding license.

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Nancy Sue Martin, a leader of the group, asserted that a majority of Torrance residents favor such controls, which she said could be instituted without penalizing residents who breed animals responsibly.

“It’s too bad if this turns into a battle between responsible breeders and animal rescuers,” Martin said.


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