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 V.15 No.17 | April 27 - May 3, 2006 

Council Watch

Preview of Coming Attractions

Councilor Sally Mayer’s substitute for her animal ordinance creates a 10-day “safe haven” grace period at city animal shelters before an animal is euthanized.
Wes Naman
Councilor Sally Mayer’s substitute for her animal ordinance creates a 10-day “safe haven” grace period at city animal shelters before an animal is euthanized.

Items on the short April 17 City Council agenda were deferred or withdrawn except for passage of a water authority bill and approval of a 20-unit condominium on South Broadway and a contract with H.D.R. Engineering for design work on a streetcar-light rail system. But two upcoming bills sent arguments echoing through the chamber.

Council President Martin Heinrich presented a proclamation to the SGI Buddhist Center, organizers of the Seeds of Change exhibit, a series of panels that were on display April 17 at UNM illustrating the principles of the Earth Charter. Check out the staggeringly sane document at www.earthcharter.org.

Send your comments about the City Council to laura@alibi.com.

Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
Thought? Word? Deed?

Councilor Michael Cadigan introduced a version of "Kendra's Law" proposed by Mayor Martin Chavez. The original "Kendra's Law" was named for Kendra Webdale, a young woman thrown under a New York subway train by a mentally ill man who had not been taking his medicine. Similar laws are called Assisted Outpatient Treatment (ACT) programs, but they allow a roommate, family member, city official or health care professional to petition the court for mandatory mental health treatment for persons who meet certain criteria. The criteria include mental illness, inability to survive safely in the community without supervision, a history of treatment noncompliance, hospitalization, incarceration and attempted violence.
Several speakers commented on the pending bill. Sherry Pabich, board member at the New Mexico chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), strongly supported the bill. Nine people opposed the bill, including Susan Musante, who said other states with a Kendra’s Law use it only as an alternative to inpatient commitment. Sara Couch said she was bipolar but perfectly capable of making treatment choices, and that the bill "doesn't address people at all, it addresses fears."

Several people complained about the current lack of mental health services [see last week’s feature, “Losing It,” April 20-26]. Another speaker objected to a physician prescribing treatment instead of a psychiatrist familiar with the patient's history, lack of provision for a second opinion and no identified source of money to pay for the program.
Reports are mixed on the first five years of the original Kendra's Law, the basis of Albuquerque's bill. Some studies show a 44 percent overall decrease in harmful behavior. Other studies say five times as many African-Americans and two-and-a-half times as many Hispanics have been subjected to mandatory treatment.

It's hard to get past a knee-jerk suspicion of laws named for individuals. Such highly personalized laws invariably frame the issue in terms of the terrible suffering of the victims, implying opponents of a law must be in favor of other innocents suffering equally. Attention is diverted from the restrictions placed on numerous people who have, in fact, done nothing, with only educated guesses to predict their future behavior.
Woof, Woof, Woof and Woof

Councilor Sally Mayer distributed a floor substitute for her Albuquerque Humane and Ethical Animal Rules and Treatment (HEART) ordinance, only to defer it for the 15
th time so that another 20 pages can be added to the 65-page bill.

Mayer said the new version was quite different. A few differences include allowing each breeder four intact animal permits at $150 each, limiting each female to one litter per year, banning puppy and kitten sales in pet stores, requiring a secure enclosure to keep cats from escaping yards and requiring dogs in truck beds to wear chest harnesses attached to two points. The bill also creates a 10-day "safe haven" grace period at city animal shelters before an animal is euthanized, which Mayer said was one step on the way to no-kill shelters.
Mayer chided Councilor Don Harris for introducing Mayor Chavez' competing spay and neuter bill, recently unveiled in the context of the 2007 budget. During public comment, Sandra Han, who emigrated from South Korea as a child, said Americans visiting South Korea were horrified that people ate dogs, whereas Albuquerque euthanized 300 dogs and cats a week for no purpose at all.

Sixteen people, mostly hobby breeders, opposed animal limits and permit prices. Mayer said the city always had a limit of only four dogs per household. The hobby breeders stressed the care they gave their animals, worried about narrower, four-dog gene pools, and disdained amateurish "backyard breeders." The hobby breeders condemned anything they saw as influenced by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Who would have guessed there were so many factions on Animal Planet? Hobby breeders versus backyard breeders. Hobby breeders versus PETA, which, according to one speaker, made the list of "FBI domestic terrorist organizations." Asked about the different philosophies, a spokesperson for the hobby breeders said groups like PETA and the Humane Society of the United States wanted to break the bond between humans and animals, whereas breeders wanted to strengthen the bond between humans and animals. She recommended the Center for Consumer Freedom, whose website attacks PETA and other animal rights groups, and the National Animal Interest Alliance Online, which describes itself as "an association of business, agricultural, scientific and recreational interests." Stay tuned. Get your tickets now for the Mayer-Mayor Neuter Duel.
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