Mandatory Spay/Neuter Push: Once More Into The Breach

by Mary Haight on November 21, 2008

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 28:  The Humane Society ...

One of the national animal sheltering legislative controversies is now being argued in Chicago and, if passed and implemented, it is nearly certain, according to results elsewhere, to unravel all the good work of the Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance (CASA).

CASA’s coalition between government and non-profits has increased the City adoption rate, and is responsible for significantly reducing the kill rate, which hit an historic low of 6.9% per 1000 humans between 2003-05.  Since more than 43,000 animals were destroyed according to a 1999 report and approximately 20,000 are numbers recently quoted, this Alliance appears to have created a solid record of success.  Of course, speeding this reduction is what everyone wants, but at what cost?

The Chicago City Council is now being pressured by lobbyists hired by the Humane Society of the United States, with support from Paws Chicago, to legislate the mandatory spay-neutering of all dogs and cats over 6 months, with some exceptions.

The idea—in theory—is that this ordinance will stop the proliferation of homeless pets, save the City millions in animal care and control costs, reduce the incidence of dog-related gang activities, and even impact dog bite statistics.  So you might be led to think this is great solution to a set of very stubborn problems.  Yet, like all theory when put to practice, unintended consequences can turn a well-intentioned program on its head.

Results in LA/San Mateo/Santa Cruz, CA, Fort Worth, TX, Montgomery City, MD, Camden City NJ, Colorado, Florida, and elsewhere range from unprecedented increases in Animal Care and Control budgets, the most noteworthy being L.A.’s increase from $6.7 Million to 18 Million, marked decreases in veterinarian care (from fear of being reported and fined), outbreaks of rabies, putting public health at risk, reductions in licensing fees, and significantly higher kill rates wherever implemented.  Anecdotal, yes, but what City calling itself a responsible steward of public tax dollars would roll the dice on such an ordinance in the face of these facts? And why would any animal shelter support moving in a direction that has proven to increase the kill rate?  The purpose of shelters working together with City facilities is to save more adoptable animals from being killed due to space limitations. What is missing in this equation?

Vets are concerned about the health risks of such an arbitrary ordinance that does not take into account the varying growth rates of different breeds.  One size does not fit all and spay/neutering too early produces a laundry list of negative health impacts, various cancers, diabetes, and death among them.  While the allowed exceptions have to do with licensed breeders and medical exceptions with a letter from a vet, all of this will be expensive to administer with compliance being problematic.  Who is to police this?

The Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association opposes the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance being proposed for the City of Chicago as does the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association, not to mention the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which took a negative position on this in 2007.  You can read the AVMA statement at saveourdogs California managed to defeat this overreaching legislation with the help of the public who gave a voice to the best interests of the voiceless.

Steve Dale, host of WGN’s Pet Central Radio 720, author, and syndicated pet columnist says there is no evidence that this program has been successful anywhere. What do you think?

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  1. […] a disturbing bit of news.  The Mandatory Spay Neuter laws that have been tried across the nation, cost cities from $8-18 million in tax dollars, markedly […]

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