A Letter To Tennessee Legislators

A Letter To Tennessee Legislators

By: Donna Malone  Date: 06/30/1998 Category: | Canine Issues |

Donna Malone, president, Responsible Animal Owners of Tennessee, wrote this letter in answer to a proposed spay and neuter law in her state. She invites people to plagiarize when such legislation comes up in other states and communities.

To all Tennessee Senators and Representatives:

The above-referenced bills SB2540 sponsored by Senator Lincoln Davis ad HB 3102 sponsored by Representative Tim Burchett, will come before you for your consideration in the near future. Although admittedly not a deliberate misrepresentation, much of what you have been told or will be told about the necessity for these bills is inaccurate. We provide the following information to you for your consideration.

The proposed bills claim there is an "overpopulation" of animals. Framing the problem this way forces one to focus incorrectly on breeding issues, including spaying and neutering.

Animals are in shelters for reasons related to a severance of the human-animal bond. Owners, for whatever reason, decide they no longer want an animal and either turn their animals into shelters or turn them loose in our communities. The problem is irresponsible owners, not an "overpopulation" of animals. Understanding this is critical to the development of an effective solution. (Numerous studies substantiate our position and we will be happy to share this information with you upon request.)

The top 10 reasons for relinquishment of dogs and cats were:

  1. euthanasia due to illness;
  2. moving;
  3. found animal (of unknown origin);
  4. landlord will not allow pets;
  5. owner has too many animals;
  6. euthanasia due to age;
  7. cost of maintenance of pet;
  8. animal is ill;
  9. allergies within the family;
  10. house soiling

per the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy. The NCPPSP is a coalition comprised of the American Animal Hospital Association, American Humane Association, American Kennel Club, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Veterinary Medical Association, Association of Teachers of Veterinary Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Cat Fanciers Association, The Humane Society of the US, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, National Animal Control Association, and Society of Animal Welfare Administrators. A contributing factor to the number of animals in our shelters is that humane societies and animal protection associations give John Q. Public the idea resources are available to take and place unwanted animals in new homes. This causes some owners to believe that not only do they not have to be responsible, when they are irresponsible, humane societies and animal protection agencies will take up their slack and save their pets. Hence they no longer have to take responsibility for finding the animal another home when they no longer want it or deal with the guilt associated with the surrender and probable euthanasia of their pet; the pets become disposable and they are guilt-free. The premise that "overpopulation" is why animals are in shelters bends the laws of logic. Consider:

  • All cats have fur (True);
  • Some cats have mange (True);
  • Therefore all cats with fur have mange (False).

The proponents of these bills expect that you will accept an equally erroneous statement:

  • All animals in animal shelters were bred (or exist because they were bred) (True);

  • Animals are in animal shelters (True):

  • All the animals that exist (because they were bred) are in animal shelters (FALSE); or

  • All animals are in animal shelters because they were bred. (Also false).


In their words:

  • Animals are in shelters because there is an animal "overpopulation" problem (False);

  • Some animals are in shelters. (True)

  • Animals are in shelters because there is an "overpopulation" problem. (False, not supported by evidence)

One can logically say:

  • All animals in animal shelters were bred. (True)

  • The animals in animal shelters are there for a number of reasons. (True)

  • All animals in animal shelters were bred and are there for a number of reasons. (True)


This legislation if enacted will serve to partially codify and promote plank 10 of the animal rights agenda, which is: "We strongly discourage any further breeding of companion animals, including pedigreed or purebred dogs and cats. Spay and neuter clinics should be subsidized by state and municipal governments. Commerce in domestic and exotic animals for the pet trade should be abolished."

The animal rights agenda is an extremist agenda per the Report to Congress on Animal Rights Terrorism, August 1993" prepared by the Department of Justice with the assistance of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for the USDA. You should exercise extreme caution when considering any legislation that would codify part of the agenda.

Proponents of this bill are not, to our knowledge, animal rights oriented. They are, however, unknowingly embracing a portion of the animal rights platform in promoting this legislation.

The proposed bills require animals impounded by shelters be spayed or neutered prior to adoption. This is a state-mandated program without funding. In Tennessee, many cities, towns, and counties have little or no animal control and the shelters they do have are frequently no more than a small enclosure with a dog house. The spay/neuter and burdensome reporting/paperwork requirements are costly, impractical, and unreasonable. Further, many private small shelters and rescue organizations operate on a shoestring budget. The proposed legislation if enacted, will chill if not eliminate the critical role they play in providing homes for needy animals, potentially exacerbating current problems.

Not all rescue organizations subscribe to the erroneous belief that "overpopulation" is the cause of the unwanted animal problem. Organizations that do subscribe to this belief are already spaying and neutering voluntarily.

When a shelter gets an animal, the animal becomes the property of that shelter. Animals are defined as property under Tennessee law. To require that those shelters spay/neuter their animals is an infringement of their right to choose how to handle the animals for which they have assumed responsibility. This is a violation of these shelters' Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

There are additional reasons not to support the proposed bills; however, unless you feel the need of such, we believe we have already proven our case adequately. Therefore, to reiterate:

  1. The alleged "overpopulation" of animals is unsubstantiated by the facts and peer-reviewed research.

  2. The shelters proposing this legislation are part of the problem. They should address their complicity in the problem before forcing their position on others.

  3. The logic used to justify the proposed legislation is flawed and erroneous.

  4. The proposed legislation is based on an extremist animal rights agenda.

  5. The proposed legislation creates an unfunded mandate on shelters and burdensome spay/neuter and reporting/paperwork requirements.

  6. The proposed legislation would force every group involved in rescue to comply with the extremist, unsubstantiated position of still other groups.

  7. The proposed legislation violates the Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights of the shelter that choose not to spay and neuter. Shelters that choose to do so are already doing so and do not need legislation to compel them to do so.

We respectfully request that you vote against SB2540 or HB3102 when it comes before you.

Yours truly,
Donna Malone, president
Responsible Animal Owners of Tennessee Inc.
3327 Lockmeade
Memphis, TN 38127-6735

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