Barking up the wrong tree

REMEMBER "BEST IN SHOW," the spot-on satire about the over-the-top world of show dogs? If only Los Angeles' real-life remake about show dogs were so funny. Call it "Dances With Pedigreed Lhasa Apsos."

A proposed ordinance being drafted for unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County aims, nobly enough, to reduce the number of unwanted dogs in animal shelters. But this regulation would have too many teeth, prohibiting people from owning almost any dog that isn't spayed or neutered -- except for show dogs.

It's as though anyone who isn't in angst over a dog's muzzle-to-head ratio can't possibly be a responsible pet owner. What started as a law aimed at controlling vicious Rottweilers and pit bulls is morphing into the canine snob rule. What's next, randomly pulling over cockapoos for a license check?

Show dogs are fine, for people who like that sort of thing. And they're seldom seen in the pound. But they come with their own issues, starting with prices that approach $1,000. There's also inbreeding and its related health and temperament problems. Many people prefer mutts for their variety and health -- not to mention their low price.

As it happens, the trend now is the designer dog: the intentional crossing of purebreds to create new breeds. The labradoodle -- combining, in theory, the easygoing mien of a Labrador retriever and low-allergen coat of a poodle -- is particularly popular, but like other designer dogs, it is not recognized by the American Kennel Club and thus would be illegal for breeding under the proposed ordinance.

Owners who license their dog, and pay an extra fee to keep it unaltered, are probably not the ones whose pets end up crowding the pounds and being put to death. It's likely that the canine euthanasia problem is caused by people who don't license their dogs in the first place.

Still, why not just go after the problem of dog overpopulation? Anyone with an unaltered dog, whether show pooch or mystery mutt, should pay a hefty extra sum for a license. (At $30, the current fee is twice what owners of a spayed or neutered dog pay.) And anyone whose dog runs loose should pay a steep fine. The extra money would go toward increased license enforcement and to subsidize spaying and neutering.

In other words, require all dog owners to do the responsible thing -- and forget the de facto breedism.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World