Watching the defectives

One week after SN&R published a cover story on residential construction defects (”Rotten houses,” April 13), an initiative seeking to repeal key construction-defects legislation entered circulation. The initiative, called the “Homeowners Measure of Rights Act of 2006,” was authored by San Diego attorney Theodore Pinnock. The act seeks to overturn the current law that requires homeowners to negotiate complaints with builders through a non-adversarial procedure before filing suit.

“The procedures and standards for resolution of claims before the enactment of SB 800 shall be restored,” states the initiative. If passed, the measure would prohibit binding arbitration or mediation clauses in homeowner contracts or warranties. It also would forbid the use of building materials involved in class-action lawsuits, such as Weyerhaeuser hardboard, in new construction projects.

Pinnock has earned notoriety among trial-lawyer opponents for what they deem his excessive defense of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Last November, Pinnock threatened 67 businesses in Julian, a historic gold-mining town east of San Diego, with legal action if they didn’t comply with the ADA. Pinnock alleged the noncompliance after visiting Julian with his family, and he ought to know: He suffers from cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around.

The Homeowners Measure of Rights Act of 2006 must garner 373,816 signatures by September 15 to qualify for the November ballot.

—R.V. Scheide

Goodbye Kitty?

Last week, when the city of Sacramento’s Animal Care Services returned a cat that had been missing for 10 years to its rightful owner in Seattle, it made front-page news. It seems “Sneakers” had been implanted with a microchip containing his owner’s contact information. Modern technology saved the forlorn feline from almost certain euthanasia.

But all is not copasetic in Catland. As the American Pet Association (APA) reports, microchipping doesn’t necessarily guarantee your lost animal will be returned. “The number one way statistically that you will permanently lose your pet is by another person finding and keeping your pet,” the association noted. “This is a situation that a microchip does not help at all.” Talk about catnapping!

And if your pet is chipped, but you can’t be located, it’s goodbye Kitty, said Dr. Dan Knox of Avid Identification Systems, one of the leading microchip manufacturers. “If you move or change your address or phone number, let us know,” he urged.

According to Animal Care Services spokeswoman Rhea Serran, all of the nearly 3,000 animals that are adopted out by the shelter annually are implanted with microchips. Thanks to microchips, she said, “about two to three animals per week are reunited with their owners.”

—R.V. Scheide

“An animal Abu Ghraib”

This week, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released their list of the 10 worst animal laboratories in the nation. The California Regional Primate Research Center at UC Davis was there at No. 4, right under the University of California, San Francisco.

Davis made the list after the U.S. Department of Agriculture fined it almost $5,000 for the deaths of seven monkeys that were left in overheated cages. The university also won dubious distinction for testing performed on its many thousands of primates, cats and dogs that PETA perceived as painful and unnecessary.

“UC-Davis officials have turned an institution of higher learning into an animal Abu Ghraib,” said a PETA press release, quoting President Ingrid Newkirk.

“It’s the kind of thing we expect to get from PETA,” said Andy Fell, a UC Davis spokesman. “PETA wants to shut down medical research. … We do medical research to benefit human health and animal health.”

Fell said that animal research is highly regulated and that the university holds annual seminars on how new modeling technologies can reduce the number of animals tested. However, he admitted, new technologies have not led to a reduction in the number of animals at the primate center; that number is still on the rise.

To see PETA’s full list, visit www.stopanimaltests.com.

—Chrisanne Beckner