Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oppose Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws: Act Now in AZ

A fierce war has raged for several years, out of sight to many of us. It’s happening in one of those numerous parallel universes that we only discover if we happen to discover it. The war is between PETA, on one side, and ordinary Americans and the so-called dog and cat and horse and cattle and sheep and chicken and duck fanciers, on the other. You get the picture. I lack the time to tell the history of this war, but there’s plenty of information online.

My focus now is on dogs, not on hunting or livestock or carrier pigeons or ladybugs.

Those who have dedicated years to this war and who know far more than I do about it have convinced me that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) isn’t all it says it is. They say, and they have avalanches of information to support this, that PETA wants to eventually eliminate animal ownership. That’s actually quite clear in the rhetoric of PETA chief Ingrid Newkirk, and in the legislation PETA pushes worldwide.

One of these measures is the so-called “mandatory spay/neuter” law, and one has just been introduced in the Arizona House of Representatives. It was just a matter of time.

PETA’s rationale for requiring the spay or neutering of all dogs and cats six months or over, unless you buy a permit (fee unannounced) is to cut down on the number of dogs and cats that end up in animal shelters. There’s been a whole campaign to convince Americans that our shelters are overflowing, when, in fact, shelter populations have been steadily declining for a decade, thanks to public education and positive incentives like spay/neuter vouchers.

But setting that aside for the moment, the mandatory spay/neuter approach is a disaster for at least ten good reasons I can think of.

1. It will reduce the gene pool for pure bred animals to a dangerously small number, and, for the rest, will mean virtual extinction in just one generation. Think about it: If today’s dog generation can’t reproduce, there won’t be a generation tomorrow. (That’s what PETA wants, but it’s not what American families and dog lovers want.)

2. The bill is unenforceable. What army of animal control officers is going to comb the state looking for scofflaw households and intact dogs and cats? And if there were such an army, where’s the money going to come from if not you and me? And don’t we have better things to do with our state tax dollars?

3. Veterinarian studies show reason for concern for premature spay and neuter. These can affect bone structure and other health aspects—a serious concern for any animal, but a disaster for working dogs.

4. The bill hits the wrong target. Only responsible owners who already spay and neuter, or already breed responsibly, will comply. Meanwhile, irresponsible, or uninformed, or poor owners—all of whom are the main source of feral animals—will not comply.

5. Wherever MSN bills have been tried, they have resulted in declines in dog licensure and vaccination compliance. People resent the intrusion and the additional fee, and so they don’t risk being forced to spay/neuter by going to get the booster shot or vaccination or license. They prefer to drop out of the system entirely. This isn’t good for shelter revenues or for animal health in this or neighboring states.

6. It isn’t needed. Current measures are already working—mostly, public education and vouchers for spay/neuter. Shelter populations have been dropping for a decade.

7. If the goal is to cut the number of dogs that end up in shelters, it will fail, because half of dogs in shelters were taken by their owners in order to be euthanized. That won’t change. Owners use public shelters to dispose of old, ill, or problem dogs rather than paying a vet for that service. And the other half of owner-surrendered dogs in shelters are already spayed or neutered.

8. The bill could actually increase the shelter population if people on limited budgets decide to abandon their dogs instead of complying with the neuter/spay or paying for an “intact” fee.

9. If enforced, animal control costs will skyrocket, hitting the poorest jurisdictions hardest. Those are the jurisdictions where most strays are found.

10. If enforced, the bill will gradually eliminate the revenues generated by dog- and cat- related events, and by service and product providers who cater to dogs and cats. And folks, in California, just dog show revenue alone amounted to $93 Million annually, according to the AKC.

Unenforceable laws that aren’t needed and that miss their target anyway, and that would impose new regulation without proof that it will work, are bad laws.

We who belong to breed clubs know from experience in other states fighting similar measures that these laws only create a huge public uproar from both sides, and either get pulled or, if passed, eventually get repealed. These are a huge waste of time and money, and a cruel—in fact, an incomprehensible—approach to a badly exaggerated problem.

I can’t imagine a life without dogs. I don’t want to imagine it if I could. The joy, love, security, fun, challenge, and peace of mind ours give to us don’t have a price tag.

Public education coupled with positive incentives such as vouchers for spay/neuter or free spay/neuter clinics around town are a far better way to proceed. We know that. It’s been proved time and again.

So if you live in AZ, do one thing now: Contact your state representative and ask them to oppose HB 2516 when it is introduced. Do it for you dogs and cats, and for yourself. Mandatory spay/neuter is genocide in a generation.


Symsess said...

I understand where you're coming from here, but these laws are more in line with keeping irresponsible people from creating more animals that will just end up being put to sleep. I don't have numbers regarding the amount of animals in shelters, but I can tell you from the front lines that it's far too many. Just yesterday I was involved with a dog transport that brought a 14 year old Pekingese from North Carolina up to New York. The poor guy was in terrible shape and is just one of thousands in the same condition. Dogs are moved all around the country every day as people try to find them homes while irresponsible people allow their dogs to have puppies. If the numbers are going down that's a good thing, but one dog who loses their life to neglect or being unwanted is too many.

It shouldn't take a law to make people understand what it means to refuse to neuter their animals. There are too many people that buy a dog thinking they can breed them and sell the puppies even though they don't have a license to do so. However, I am against the idea of laws as a means to create change. As you said these laws won't make irresponsible people any more responsible than they were before they were passed and the best method is free vouchers and education. Of course, not all people are irresponsible with their pets, but there are so many dogs that just spend their lives in shelters until they're eventually put to sleep. That's simply cruel and unacceptable.

I'm also involved with cat rescue where we trap outdoor cats and try to adopt them out. There are so many that it just hurts to think about them out their in the cold. Cats were not meant to live that way, but people can be so cruel. Generally you don't find roving packs of dogs in cities, but there are thousands of homeless cats all because people refuse to spay and neuter them.

Just as a note I don't agree with Peta who believes in trap and euthanize for outdoor cats. What I'm involved with is the trap neuter return program where we adopt out any friendly cats and release and care for those we can't.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I don't believe this problem is being exaggerated. I don't think we need a law, nor do I think it will be effective, but we certainly have a problem here and dogs and cats are the ones suffering the consequences.

Pico said...

Thanks for your comment.
We agree that it is horrible for dogs and cats to die in shelters.

We do not agree that all dogs and cats in shelters are adoptable, and we do not agree that mandating spay/neuter will remedy the problem of using shelters to deal with sick, aging, and untrainable animals, or that it will accomplish anything desirable. It targets the wrong human population with a drastic measure that will result in even more dire consequences for the dogs and cats you profess to love. What's good about virtual genocide in a generation? What's good about a gene pool so shrunken that it will create lives of hell for the resulting individuals?

What's so wrong with educating the public and offering subsidized spay/neuter clinics?

It's not possible to legislate issues like this. This is about education, and it's about focusing on the right targets: IRRESPONSIBLE owners, not ALL owners.


Cany said...

Rats. I was so liking your site until I read this.

What a shame.

PICO said...

Well Cany, first, thanks for commenting. Second, what? You're dismissing this post because it doesn't tow your line, and because one post doesn't mirror your views identically, you're tossing the site? How do you expect to grow, ever, if you walk away from ideas that challenge you?

I'm not suggesting that you believe every word *I* write. Far from it. However, I'm suggesting that it's possible that you will encounter others who know things you don't know, haven't yet experienced. If you denounce them all as quickly and easily as you've denounced me, I think you'll miss a lot.