SOLEDAD — City council members from Soledad heard the proposal for a dog-breeding ordinance during their Nov. 4 meeting.
The idea was presented as a future ordinance by Melanie Scherer, president of SNIP Bus, in order to make Soledad a county leader in stemming abusive practices by backyard dog breeders.
The fix proposed by Scherer is to require an annual license fee, which she pitched at $1,000 per breeding animal, that must be posted at the breeding facility. Failure to do so would mean the animal would be impounded and the owner would have to pay a violation fee of $500 to release the animal.
That violation fee would go down to $25 if the owner proved their dog had been spayed or neutered. If an owner incurred such a penalty three times in the row, the animal would be considered surrendered. Scherer suggested all fees could be forgiven within 21 days of getting a pet fixed.
“This is a big issue in South County and throughout the entire county,” said Council Member Carla Strobridge-Stewart. “I would love to see Soledad implement something like this, and I believe it would pay for itself in enforcing it. The fees in the proposal I think are a little high, but of course this is just the first draft and we can work with that.”
Scherer has worked for years with animal advocacy for years, including when she purchased the SNIP Bus in 2016, and has worked toward providing access to spay and neuter services for pets in South Monterey County since 2018 in partnership with the City of Soledad and South County Animal Rescue.
By hosting at least one to two mobile clinics per month locally, Scherer said she has helped spay or neuter at least 1,500 animals in the region. Her familiarity with the needs of animal welfare countywide was why she encouraged an update to ordinances not updated since 1982.
“It’s not about just wanting to have puppies, they are backyard breeding these animals to make money and then dumping them when they’re beyond their cuteness date,” Scherer said.
For the puppies that can’t be sold in time to maximize profit, she said the alternatives turn grim.
“They typically end up in your local fields, or in a box, or to quote a local ACO in Greenfield, ‘tied to a tree or put into a ditch,’” Scherer said. “They see it all the time and they know who the same offenders are every time who are backyard breeding.”
She said animal control officers currently have no way to enforce abuses that revolve around backyard breeding, since local laws typically state an animal’s visual condition is used as evidence of neglect and resulting corrective action.
While a dog can be fed and housed so it doesn’t look neglected, Scherer said the abuses come from non-stop breeding of females from the time they can first produce a litter to many years afterward, as well as inbreeding between directly related dogs, which leads to sicknesses and medical issues, such as blindness.
Scherer said she knew of a breeder in Soledad who sells such puppies to Bay Area buyers for $800 to $1,500. Mayor Fred Ledesma said he recently ran into a woman who said she was selling French bulldog puppies for $4,000 each, which Scherer said she knew and who was an area breeder.
“Typically they’re not vaccinated, they’re sickly, you can tell there’s issues with them from the backyard breeding that’s going on,” Scherer said.
The breeding practices do lead to community effects, she added.
“An increase in abandoned puppies after the cuteness date, stray animals roaming your streets … there is an increase because of this in our animal shelters, to our kill shelters because of backyard breeding,” Scherer said.
No city in Monterey County has breeding licensing language or facilities in place, as confirmed when Council Member Anna Velazquez asked about existing resources, and Soledad would have to start from scratch on the process to be a forerunner for the region if it were to adopt such an ordinance.
“I wanted the City of Soledad to be the first city to implement this breeders license ordinance, and then I’d like to go on from here and go to other cities and end up with the county,” Scherer said. “It’s just time for all of us to catch up with these archaic laws and really start making people who are naughty on the internet selling animals.”
Velazquez asked to confirm that this would then leave Soledad having to establish the wording of such an ordinance and licensing process. Scherer affirmed that but said she has a lawyer she worked with who could help pro bono with the process.