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L.A. council committee backs curbs on dog breeding licenses

A Los Angeles City Council committee on Wednesday backed a moratorium on breeding licenses for dogs, citing the overcrowding crisis at city-run animal shelters.

Members of the Neighborhoods and Community Enrichment Committee voted 3 to 0 to support the temporary moratorium, which now heads to the full City Council for consideration.

Staycee Dains, the Animal Services Department’s general manager, told council members that dogs are being stored in crates in the hallways at shelters because of a lack of space.

The moratorium is intended to show that “breeding is not an activity that is supported by the city of L.A.,” Dains said.

“Organizations that are very pro-breeding are not organizations that do anything to help animals in animal shelters,” she added. “They’re simply creating animals for us to kill later on. And that is not appropriate.”

The American Kennel Club, which bills itself as the world’s largest not-for-profit all-breed registry, opposes the moratorium. The group said in a statement that “suspending the rights of responsible, law-abiding breeders will not help shelter overcrowding.”

Breeder licenses can be purchased from the city for $235, Dains said. The city doesn’t regulate breeders, however, and there are no rules about how often a dog can be bred.

Dains said that over the last two decades, she’s seen more purebred dogs in shelters.

“I don’t know if these animals are papered, but you go into shelters, every single husky and German shepherd that’s in there, almost every single one of them is purebred. Same with pit bulls.”

Still, there are questions about how the proposed moratorium would play out.

Dains told the committee that anecdotal evidence suggests the majority of people who purchase licenses from the city aren’t breeding. Rather, many dog owners buy a breeder permit so they don’t have to spay or neuter their pets.

Owners of intact dogs must also obtain a separate license from the city.

Under the proposed moratorium, the city would resume issuing breeding permits when the city’s shelters fall under 75% of capacity.

The city issued 2,152 breeding licenses in 2022, a 15% rise over the previous year, according to the city’s Animal Services Department.

“It’s not a bad idea, I just don’t how it will affect our current crisis,” Michelle Cornelius, a volunteer at West Valley Animal Shelter, said about the proposal.

“If the breeding issue is coming from outside the city, like a breeder in Glendale, or it is coming from unlicensed backyard breeders, I’m not sure how much of an effect this will have,” added Cornelius, who spoke to The Times in her individual capacity, not on behalf of the department.

Dains, who was appointed general manager earlier this year, also told the committee members that the department continues to face staffing shortages.

Dains said she’s looking to add $3 million to the department for staffing. She also wants to hire shelter volunteers for part-time positions.

The Times has chronicled poor conditions at shelters, including a lack of dogwalking and inadequate food supplies for small animals.

Two recent reports — one by former City Councilmember Paul Koretz, the other from City Controller Kenneth Mejia — detailed staffing problems and friction between staff and the volunteers that the department relies on to care for the animals.

In particular, the city’s Chesterfield Square Animal Shelter in South L.A. is facing a lack of employees, according to City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson. The councilman’s office helped lead a cleanup operation of the shelter on Sunday.

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