IAADP
International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners


International Association of Assistance Dog Partners


President: Ed Eames, Ph.D.
3376 N. Wishon, Fresno, CA 93704-4832
Phone: (559) 224-0544 Fax: (559) 224-5851 E-mail: eeames@csufresno.edu

Board of Directors:
Dino Brownson, Toni Eames, Tanya Eversole, Jill Exposito, Joan Froling,
Carol King, Wendy Morrell, Devon Wilkins

April 7, 2007

Assemblyman Mike Eng, Chairperson
Business and Professional Committee
California State Assembly

Re: Levine AB1634 California Healthy Pets Act - OPPOSED

Dear Assemblyman Eng,

As president of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), I am writing in strong opposition to AB 1634. I request inclusion in the listed opposition to this ill-conceived legislation being considered by your committee.

IAADP is a cross-disability consumer advocacy organization with more than 1,700 people with disabilities working with guide, hearing and service dogs. Our independence, safety, mobility and an improved quality of life are interwoven with our trained canine assistants' ability to mitigate some of the effects of our disabilities. AB 1634 threatens the very foundation of the relationship between us and our canine partners in independence.

Many assistance dog programs rely on breeding their own stock to supply puppies for future guide and service dog work. Among these are Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) in San Rafael, the largest guide dog training program in the country, and Canine Companions for Independence, (CCI) in Santa Rosa, the originator of the service dog concept.

AB 1634 requires neutering or spaying at four months of age, considerably earlier than dogs demonstrate their ability to work as canine assistants. GDB and CCI, as California-based internationally recognized programs, would face virtual annihilation. My wife and I have guide dogs trained at Guide Dogs for the Blind, and we, as well as more than 2,000 blind and visually impaired GDB graduates throughout the United States, would face a future without successor canine assistants if AB 1634 were implemented. This would threaten our ability to safely travel, work and enjoy other aspects of daily life.

Exemptions in AB1634 are not provided for assistance dog training programs breeding their own future working dogs. However, exemptions are recommended for commercial and for-profit breeders, thus excluding not-for-profit programs like GDB and CCI. Since only registered pure-bred dogs would be permitted to breed, successful working dogs, such as Golden/Labrador Retriever, Labrador/Poodle and other cross-breeds, would be eliminated.

The suggestion in the bill that active working assistance dogs be used for breeding purposes shows a lack of understanding of the assistance dog movement. Working assistance dogs are spayed and neutered to guarantee that sex drives will not interfere with their work ethic. Thus, they are eliminated from the breeding and gene pool.

Although some training programs breed their own stock, many smaller programs rely on hobby breeders, most of whom are not commercial or for-profit breeders, to donate puppies as future working dogs. This is the case for Guide Dogs of the Desert of Palm Springs and Pawsitive Teams of San Diego. Here again, AB 1634 threatens future recruitment of dogs to help disabled people.

California is not only the home for more than 15 guide, hearing and service dog programs, it is also the home of more disabled people partnered with assistance dogs than any other state. If AB 1634 is passed, it will have a negative impact on disabled Californians, but also on people with disabilities throughout the United States.

The basic premise of the bill is that mandatory spay and neutering will result in a decline in animals brought to shelters. Actually, animals in California shelters have shown a significant decline during the last two decades based upon continuing educational efforts. A large number of dogs and cats are brought to shelters between the ages of 18 and 36 months by their owners because of behavioral issues and AB 1634 would have no impact on these relinquishments.

Instead of being called the California Healthy Pets Act, this piece of misguided legislation should be the California Deprive People with Disabilities of Their Assistance Dog Act!

Thank you for taking the views of IAADP into consideration

Sincerely,

Ed Eames, Ph.D., President
IAADP


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