Nov 19, 2009
Well, I just got word that Las Vegas has passed an ordinance mandating spaying and neutering in that city. This follows the North Las Vegas law that was passed last year and, of course, the big dog on the block, Los Angeles, who started mandating sterilization in 2008.
I do agree that there are issues that need to be addressed with the number of animals euthanized in the US every year, I don't agree that mandatory spay neuter (MSN) legislation is the answer, especially when that is the only avenue cities offer. And, major animal welfare groups, such as the ASPCA, major veterinary groups (AVMA and AAHA) and many Americans do not agree with this type of legislation.
Let's look at what happened in LA this past year (Facts from KCDogBlog):
Los Angeles had been on a downward spiral of euthanasias and intakes at their local shelter from 2001 until 2007. In 2001, more than 40,000 dogs were received at the shelter and a whopping 22,675 were euthanized. That's sad! The numbers continued to decrease on both sides until 2007 when only 25,000 dogs were received and 6,000 euthanized. That's impressive work by anyone's definition!
But, in 2008, when the mandatory spay neuter law went into effect, more than 30,000 dogs were received and 7500 were euthanized. LA shelters took in more dogs in 2008 than they had since 2002.
The reason: the mandating of spaying and neutering your pet. This type of statistic can be seen in most locales where uninformed government officials THINK that they are doing the right thing only to forget about the unintended consequences. People don't like to be told that they MUST sterilize their pet. Some object because they want to breed the pet, others object because they want the pet to remain "whole" and still others simply don't like the government interference.
So, people relinquish their pets because they don't want to or can't afford to spay/neuter the pet. Others simply avoid getting care for their pet because they believe that the veterinarians will turn them into city officials and they will get a fine. Those are some serious unintended consequences.
Purists will argue that the down economy and housing crisis likely played into the higher numbers and I believe that is probably true, but the fact still holds that this type of rebound is seen in every locality that attempts to mandate spay and neuter laws, even those enacted during "good" times.
It's time that we realize that MSN does not work and move onto things that DO work...like finding new ways to avoid euthanizing animals in shelters, finding funding for low cost spay and neuter programs that help people truly in need (and aren't abused by people who are well off enough to afford the surgery), and education that starts in schools and continues through to adult pet owners.
Believe it or not, there will come a day when most cities have MSN laws in place, pet owners will be called guardians and some crazy animal rights person will insist on suing a veterinarian because their pet was neutered and deprived of the opportunity to reproduce and/or the joy of mating. That may sound far-fetched but I can assure you that people studying animal law are already looking at that very possibility.
I realize that not everyone will agree with this posting and I fully expect some severe pushback...so, as we say in radio, the lines are open....