Thomas Dock, CVJ, Vet. Technician  
Male, 53
Indianapolis, IN

Interests: animals, Reading (sci-fi and fantasy)
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Mandatory Spay Neuter Laws

Nov 19, 2009 - 14 comments

mandatory spay neuter

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....

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I forgot to add...even shelter veterinarians are not in favor of mandatory spay neuter laws.  Here is a link to our forum with a shelter doc waying in on the issue:  http://forums.petdocsoncall.com/showthread.php?t=99

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by Heather3418, Nov 19, 2009
Hi Thomas,

I have to admit, that someone telling me that I MUST spay or neuter my pet, is somewhat distrubing, I really believe there should be clincis, nationwide, that provide this service for all animals at a reduced cost.  

I just had my female Chihuahua spayed (last week) and the bill was over $400.00.  In today's economy, $400 can be hard to come by.  Of course, I would spend anything that I needed to, to keep my pet in good health.  But in some cases, it may be the difference of putting food on the table or having that animal neutered.

If Las Vegas demands mandatory neutering, then a clinic should be set up at all SPCA centers, to neuter every animal with a small cost, no matter what the person's income is.  People that are low income, love their animals just as much as rich people.  There should not be a distinction, when it comes to income, I believe.  All spaying and neutering should be done at a very reduced cost if the county demands it.

Forget all the red tape, such as form after form to fill out to show income and offer spaying and neutering at a cost that everyone can afford.  Over population would not be a problem in this country if more clinic's like this were set up.  Nobody wants a bunch of kittens and puppies filling their properties, from casual mating.  This excess of animals on anyone's property, soon becomes unmanageable.  Then you find kitties and puppies dumped off at trash dumpsters.

This is a touchy subject, but definitely one that needs to be talked about.  Alot of animals are suffering from litter after litter of unwanted pregnancy's.  Ultimately winding up in shelter's, only to be euthanized.

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by HVAC, Nov 19, 2009
I think educating school children is the answer. In my neighborhood the kids ask me if I breed my Dalmatians and I explain why I don't. We have a $75 a year licensing fee for unaltered animals. The Veterinarians have to send in the Rabies information so people just do not vet their animals. We live in an area of high rabies and most of the pets are running around with out being vaccinated. Most animals in my area never see a vet in their lives. Animal is to busy to even check on cruelty to enforce the law.

I worked at a kill shelter where we put 17,000 animals down in one year.  I love animals but I had to work my shifts in the room.I do not want any accidental or backyard breeding but I think there has to be cheaper neuter clinics and education of the youngest members of society. Jane Goodall understands incentives and educating the young are the way to go.

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by ginger899, Nov 19, 2009
MSN is obviously not working as it stands, if those statistics are anything to go by.
For one of the reasons you mentioned, I don't think it would work either, and that is some people do want to breed their pets....and then what? It's suddenly illegal to have pups/kittens in that city? Are they supposed to move home?

Although I do agree with responsible spaying and neutering whenever appropriate, it doesn't seem right to be mandatory. I think the other option you outlined seems a good one: having very low cost spay/neuter programs for people on low income/Benefits/Pensions, and there being a method where people have to produce the necessary paperwork to prove that, so it couldn't be abused by more well-off pet owners.

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by Tammy2009, Nov 19, 2009
In calgary here there has been a low cost spay/neuter program for a couple years and now with the vet school opened (first class is half way done second year) they are looking at a no-cost program using the students (good way to perfect skills!).  

And for the animals rights .... I don't particular like most of them.  If the extreme groups got their way (cough PETA cough), there would be no meat-eating and no pets to begin with since animals are not for animals to use for their own benefit.  In one of my classes this year (issues with environmental ethics, a philosophy class), we have read 3 papers contrasting the two views and in my opinion, environmental ethics is the way to go.  Rights are useless to use for moral discussions, because if it conflicts with humans we will find a way so our rights are more important.  Otherwise you end up having to give rights to insects and then we could go to jail for killing a wasp (the consequences of accepting one argument we read on).  

Avatar universal
by Jennford, Nov 20, 2009
Rabies shots are laws to protect people.  Why can't we have a law to protect millions of pets every year being killed from irresponible pet owners.
What other solutions do you people have that disagree with this law???  Unless you are a certified dog/cat breeder, there is no reason why your pet shouldn't be altered.  Male horses are always altered, or you can't ride them.
There are millions of unwanted pets.  This law is to save lives!!!!  Stop being so selfish about your feelings, and think about all the animals put to death!

Avatar universal
by Jennford, Nov 20, 2009
Peta has done so many good things for animals that you don't know of.  Not eating meat is just one very small part of what they preach.  
Peta is againist animal cruelty first and for most!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Get your facts straight, lady, and go onto their website, if you ever have.
Peta are the people who got the police to crack dog on dog fighting, just to name just ONE of the many things they have done to protect animals and pets.

Ignorance is Bliss!

Avatar universal
by Jennford, Nov 20, 2009
$400 to fix your dog?  You must be a sucker.
Also, there are many low cost spay/nueter clinics all over the country if you ever bother to go online to google and do a little research.  The Humane Society-Du.
Low and disabled persons can get it done for free.
In Miami, the human society fixes cats for free for anyone every Thursday.

Jennford...I don't normally jump back into these discussions unless I am asked a question directly, but your posts have prompted me to respond.

First, $400 to spay a dog is a little higher than normal, but it is not out of the ordinary when you consider that pre-operative bloodwork may have been done, blood pressure may have been monitored during surgery, pre and post operative pain medications may have been given, etc etc.   I think it is wrong to demean someone because they paid a price that is still about 1/20 of what it would be in a human hospital.   And, using words like "du" in this sort of setting is not appropriate as some people don't know about other options that are available.

As far as PETA, they have done some good things, but you have to look at their overall agenda.   They want nothing less than for ALL animals, including our pets, to be free of human interference and ownership.   They have publically stated numerous times that they are looking forward to a day when no animal is "owned" by a human and they can live their lives in a wild natural state.   They don't even propose to aid a population of animals that could be ravaged by disease.  Make no mistake, PETA wants to take away your right to have an animal as a pet.

As far as other solutions, I believe that I did outline some possibilities in my initial posting.   Find funding for low cost spays/neuters to help improve compliance, work towards a no kill situation in every shelter and educate, educate, educate.   PETA, by the way, kills a large percentage of the few animals that make it to their shelter, so they are obviously not the role model here.  You mention the animals that are being put to death because of over-population, yet you fail to realize that many more animals will suffer and end up dying deaths that are not as gentle because mandatory spay neuter laws cause people to go underground with their pets...it's been shown again and again in each and every city that has tried it.  Licensing goes down, rabies vaccines go down, and more pets end up being surrendered to shelters, which, in turn, increases euthanasia rates.

Jennford...I appreciate your passion, but in this case, passion needs to have a healthy dose of reality and common sense if we are ever going to make headway on this issue.

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by Tammy2009, Nov 20, 2009
The price for spay/neutering is very different over the countr(ies).  Here in Calgary, $400 is an average price to spay a pet, especially a larger dog.  The vets charge what people will pay.  I was charged $300 to neuter my cat, no pre-blood work and implant a microchip ($75 of the cost).  Do I think that is a little much, yes but I trust the vet and didn't look into prices until a year after and realize what the city prices are.  An hour away in a small town (where I volunteered over the summer), a cat neuter is $100-150 (I don't remember exactly).  

I also have volunteered at the local shelter and although I don't want animals to be put down, some won't make good pets and may even put others at risk with their aggression etc.  These animals should be put down in as much of a humane way as possible and not left to suffer with fear and anixety alone somewhere.  

The problem I see (this IS meant to be as a joke) is the guy owners.  For some reason they can't seem to understand their dog/cat will be fine and happy without their "balls".  I lost count of the guys that came in and were determined that the animal knew what they were missing and were unhappy.  I think we should cut the "balls" off the animal, place them in formelahyde and give them to the male owners.  Since obviously they need them more than the animal.  

I believe education is the root of the problem.  People need to understand what it takes to have a pet BEFORE they can buy one.  And yes education can happen in pet stores too, the one I worked at was an example of that.  I would normally spend 30minutes and up to 2 hours with a single customer to make sure that the breed of animal would fit into the lifestyle they have and that they knew what they were getting into.  Knowledge could show people the right answers and get them to understand why proper care, which includes spay/neuter is so important.  The problem is pet owners won't understand if they aren't taught!!  And too many people buy pets on impulse and without research or with the wrong type of information.

Okay I'm done ranting, I miss being able to educate pet owners at the pet store I used to work at.  I need to find another job like it but with more money, it was very rewarding :)

Avatar universal
by AlphaJenn, Nov 20, 2009
As a pet owner in Las Vegas, I agree with the new law to an extent. The new laws mandate that an animal needs to be fixed when they are 4 months of age. I think that is a bit young. I believe that they should be over 6 months of age.
I am a firm believer in being a RESPONSIBLE pet owner and spaying/neutering your animals. If a family cannot afford to spay/neuter an animal, they should not have one, period. I am sorry, but there are way too many animals that are euthanized every year. Just take a walk through any of our local shelters. Look how many people are selling their pets on Craigslist. Or how many are selling their pets puppies or kittens on Craigslist. I agree with Tammy2009, that it is an education issue.
The city of Las Vegas has my support on the new MSN laws.  

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by adgal, Nov 21, 2009
I also live in Calgary and I like the direction the laws are moving in here.  As Tammy mentioned, you pay a lower fee to license your pets (which is mandatory here)  if they are altered.  As this fee is an annual one, that is a great incentive.  Also, I adopted one of my cats from the humane society, and although she was already fixed, had she not been, that is part of the agreement you sign...to have them altered.  I don't think registered breeders should have to do it, but as an individual who owns cats out of love for them, and not a business, there is no reason not to.  There are so many neglected and unwanted animals who wind up being euthenized every year that I do feel this is the responsible route to go. That being said, I also agree wholeheartedly that education will be the best long term solution to this problem.  BTW, I also paid about $400 to have my male fixed (and like Tammy, that included the microchip).  I had taken all these costs associated with owning a pet into consideration before decided to get them, so it was no shock.  I think that really needs to be part of the education process....people need to think through the costs and time commitment involved in owning any pet prior to getting that cute little puppy or kitten on impulse.  I have always been an animal lover, but for many years didn't own any because I knew I did not have the time or resources to properly care for them.  

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by adgal, Nov 21, 2009
So I posted and went away, but this blog really got me thinking as to whether or not I agree with mandatory spaying/neutering.  I think I have to lean on the side of agree.  I am not crazy about the idea of it being regulated or mandated, but the problem is, if we don't, we are counting on people to use common sense and be responsible pet owners.  The sad reality is that is just not always the case.  So many allow their pets to roam (in particular cat owners) and they continue to produce unwanted kittens and the cycle continues.  If people would just take proper care of their animals laws like this would not be necessary, but sadly that doesn't seem to be the case.  So I guess I have to say "pro", even though I wish that wasn't necessary.  Good blog...very thought provoking!

Avatar universal
by xelle, May 25, 2010
i am a feral cat care taker and have been since long before there was a term for it.  over the past couple of years i 've also been involved with Trap, Neuter & Return programs, too.  the idea is to Trap the feral cat, take it to a Vet who gives the animal a check up, shots & spay/ Neuters and then Returns it to their habitat.
up until the housing market went south and the foreclosure rate spiked i fed maybe 4 or 5 feral cats on a daily basis.   currently,  i 'm feeding 38 cats regularly and had to TNR every single one of them. the majority of these animals were victims of owners who 1). didn't have their pet fixed  2). left them behind when their homes went into foreclosure.  LEFT THEM BEHIND!  
i am the first to say we ( Americans ) are inundated with regulations & laws; but, in this case i absolutely agree with the new spay/ neutering laws. there are just too many pet owners who are careless in their actions
( actually lack of action )  when it comes to the responsibility end of taking care of a pet. sometimes some people do need to be told what to do. because, left to them to do the right thing...it ain't gonna happen. for those pet owners who do take good care of their pets...what the heck you would spay/ neuter anyway.
i would even add to the law to include a mandatory class to better educate those not in compliance.  

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