Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws a Misguided Approach to Stabilizing Pet Populations

Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws a Misguided Approach to Stabilizing Pet Populations

By: Administrator  Date: 02/22/2010 Category: | Uncategorized |

Many states and localities have considered laws mandating that pets be spayed or neutered. They typically stop short of effectively eliminating all dog and cat breeding by instituting a process whereby breeders must obtain licenses to avoid the forced sterilization of their pets. 

Our Position
NAIA opposes mandatory sterilization and other coercive "spay or pay" licensing schemes because these approaches have little effect on reducing shelter intake and euthanasia rates while producing serious unintended consequences. The people whose pets are producing unwanted offspring are seldom people who license their pets in the first place, so increasing license fees will not affect them. Typically, the pet owners whose dogs and cats produce unwanted litters benefit from low cost spay/neuter services and educational resources. At the same time, raising license fees and increasing restrictions on the most responsible pet owners and breeders in society reduces the number of well-bred, quality dogs and cats available to the public and assures that poorer sources will emerge to fill the demand. At this time, numerous countries around the world are beginning to breed dogs for the American marketplace to meet the growing demand. One of the reasons for this trend is over-regulation of American breeders.

Reasons to Oppose Mandatory Pet Sterilization:

Health risks
The choice to perform surgery on one’s pet should remain an educated decision between the pet owner and their veterinarian, not dictated by an arbitrary standard assigned by the state. The proper age for this procedure is becoming a matter of serious debate in the animal care community, as medical and behavioral problems (particularly when performed at an early age) are being discovered and reported.

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This proposal will not lower costs to animal control agencies. Statistics show that costs do not go down when the number of sheltered animals decreases. In fact, enforcing this law would actually put more administrative burden on local agencies, the costs of which would exceed the amount collected in fees and fines. Spay/neuter advocates commonly cite success stories where great savings were achieved by passing spay/neuter legislation. Santa Cruz County is one such place, but the growth of the county animal services budget over the time in question tells a different story.

Discourages responsible breeding
There is an important role for breeders in pet supply and demand. This approach will create a deterrent for breeders to obtain licenses, possibly leading to widespread non-compliance and a shortage of dogs bred to assist the public such as guide, therapy and rescue dogs. Furthermore, it would diminish the best source of healthy, well-adjusted, behaviorally sound cats and dogs available to consumers.

Economic ramifications
Animal sports and competitions bring in valuable tourism dollars.

Shelter dynamics are misunderstood
The reality is that today, a large number of sheltered animals are either surrendered by their owners for euthanasia because they are old and sick, seriously injured, or dangerously aggressive. Many of the dogs euthanized are unidentified, unclaimed strays or ones that are too old, sick, injured or aggressive to be placed in new homes; many of the cats euthanized are feral animals that were never owned but were trapped and impounded because they have become nuisances. Furthermore, some lump dogs and cats together, and many lump feral and recently owned cats together. The lack of consistent data encourages some to call for quick fix solutions, but the reality is that the existing problems will not be resolved by mandatory sterilization.

Note: because of the difficulty in obtaining shelter records and data, we created the NAIA Shelter Project the most accurate and comprehensive listing of shelter data in the United States. Visit the NAIA Shelter Project today!

Constitutional considerations
Since pet owners would be denied control over their property without any semblance of an overriding state interest in the outcome, this interference of a pet owner’s right to make decisions regarding their pet violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution.

Shown to be Ineffective
This law has been tried in Santa Cruz, CA and King County, WA with disappointing results.

A Viable Solution

Extensive shelter data shows that public education, low-cost resources for the poor and reasonable licensing programs are working.  The data also demonstrates that spay and neuter campaigns have been so successful that some animal shelters presently do not have enough adoptable animals to meet the high demand for pets. Some shelters have started locating dogs in other states to satisfy this demand. We should examine solutions from the standpoint of increasing pet retention and improving pet distribution, rather than the assumption of pet overpopulation in the US.

For more information on this issue, visit out Legal and Legislative Resources page.

About The Author

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All Authors Of This Article: | Patti Strand |
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