Dear Dr. Sandy

A few months ago, you talked about a mandatory spay and neuter bill that was introduced to the state. What’s the status of that bill?

— Inquiring Mind in Irvine

The bill you’re referring to is California Assembly Bill 1634, which seeks to “prohibit any person from owning or possessing any cat or dog over the age of 6 months that has not been spayed or neutered, unless that person possesses an intact permit.”

In its current state, the bill calls for a $500 penalty to be slapped on any pet owner who does not abide by this law. One possible loophole is, essentially, a doctor’s note: If a veterinarian says the animal should not undergo the procedure, it may be put off.

Introduced by Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), the bill is well intentioned, aiming to keep stray cats and dogs off the streets and, ultimately, out of the pound.

But if a recent poll conducted by media outlet MSNBC is any indicator, there has been a strong public backlash to the bill. There are a range of arguments against this — that requiring every cat and dog to be “fixed” will cause medical issues for many of them, that such a measure would make breeding darn near impossible, or that it will lead to all but the extinction of our small furry friends.

Out of more than 40,000 respondents, only 32 percent supported to the bill itself, with an overwhelming 64 percent arguing that such a decision — to spay or not to spay — should be left to the pet’s owner. Only 3.4 percent were uncertain.

As it stands, Levine will re-introduce the bill in January after it failed to pass through the State Senate. If AB 1634 were to pass, it would make ours the only state that would require spaying or neutering.

Dear Dr. Sandy

Dear Dr. Sandy

I have a 5-year-old daughter. What do you suggest as a good first pet?

— Selective in Simi Valley

The issue of “starter pets” was revived recently with a discussion centered around turtles, of all things. A ban on small turtles was instituted in 1975, due to the rampant spread of salmonella. At the time, a “small turtle” was anything four inches in diameter or smaller, which is “mouth size” for young children.

But now that breeding practices have been cleaned up, salmonella is considered less of an issue, and the Food and Drug Administration is revisiting the issue.

So do I recommend turtles? Yes and no. First of all, most experts agree that heartiness a great factor in selecting a pet. Certain birds, like canaries, are more adaptable; goldfish are also a good choice. I know from experience that the larger box turtle is more rugged than his tiny cousins.

Consider age, both of your child and of the pet. The Humane Society of the United States recommends that you wait until a child is at least 6 years old before introducing a new pet, or one for which the child will be even a partial caretaker. In addition, a puppy or kitten might seem like a no-brainer, but consider how much time and energy will go into training and acclimating a young pet to his new surroundings. Although it’s sweet to consider a child growing up with her pet, the introduction of a kitten, for example, could involve scratches and unintentional injury to your child.

The Humane Society also recommends that you select a more mature pet. I myself was a year and a half when I was adopted, and by that point I was housebroken.

And if you do decide to adopt a dog or cat from the Humane Society, oftentimes the shelter will have already tested the animal in how he responds to children, so your choice is less of a gamble.

Dear Dr. Sandy

Dear Dr. Sandy

I have a 5-year-old daughter. What do you suggest as a good first pet?

— Selective in Simi Valley

The issue of “starter pets” was revived recently with a discussion centered around turtles, of all things. A ban on small turtles was instituted in 1975, due to the rampant spread of salmonella. At the time, a “small turtle” was anything 4 inches in diameter or smaller, which is “mouth size” for young children.

But now that breeding practices have been cleaned up, salmonella is considered less of an issue, and the Food and Drug Administration is revisiting the issue.

So do I recommend turtles? Yes and no. First of all, most experts agree that heartiness a great factor in selecting a pet. Certain birds, like canaries, are more adaptable; goldfish are also a good choice. I know from experience that the larger box turtle is more rugged than his tiny cousins.

Consider age, both of your child and of the pet. The Humane Society of the United States recommends that you wait until a child is at least 6 years old before introducing a new pet, or one for which the child will be even a partial caretaker. In addition, a puppy or kitten might seem like a no-brainer, but consider how much time and energy will go into training and acclimating a young pet to his new surroundings. Although it’s sweet to consider a child growing up with her pet, the introduction of a kitten, for example, could involve scratches and unintentional injury to your child.

The Humane Society also recommends that you select a more mature pet. I myself was a year and a half when I was adopted, and by that point I was housebroken.

And if you do decide to adopt a dog or cat from the Humane Society, oftentimes the shelter will have already tested the animal in how he responds to children, so your choice is less of a gamble.

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