It seems like seldom a day goes by that I don't come across a conversation somewhere via social media of someone promoting the idea that we should make spaying & neutering your pets mandatory.
I get the logic, and the desire for it. I know many shelters are struggling with the number of animals that come into their shelters. I realize that it logically makes sense that if you mandate spay/neuter, you can stop the number of unwanted litters and thus lower shelter populations.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. By far the most common reason people don't alter their pets currently is because of cost or lack of access to low cost spay/neuter services. Making spay/neuter mandatory doesn't change this. In fact, it often makes the situation worse, because by the time the law gets involved, the pet owners is often looking at a $500 fine (or more) that they can't afford, on top of the surgery cost they couldn't afford.
The end result is almost always that animals with homes are forced into the shelter system because the law made their owners now longer able to afford them. Instead of HELPING owners to overcome obstacles -- like has been successfully done with low cost spay/neuter and target outreach programs across the nation -- mandatory spay/neuter laws are a punitive approach that actually punish people for being poor.
It's an ideal that has failed repeatedly in actual practice -- so much so that respected national organizations now almost unanimously oppose mandatory spay/neuter (MSN) laws. So why, in spite of so much respected opposition, do some people still hold onto the idea that it just might work for them?
I think part of it is because I don't think people realize just how diverse, and consistent the opposition to mandatory spay/neuter laws is. So, today, I wanted to provide the position statements for many of the national organizations on MSN, and why they oppose the idea. Keep in mind that what many of these organizations are best at is disagreeing with each other -- yet, on this topic, they universally agree.
So with that, I'm providing some quotes from these organization's MSN policies -- with links to the full policies online when available. Many of these statements contain a lot more info at the links and are worth checking out. Some things are bolded for emphasis by me.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
“The ASPCA does not support mandatory spay/neuter laws, however, based on currently available scientific information, the ASPCA strongly supports spay/neuter as an effective means to reduce companion animal overpopulation. In particular, the ASPCA supports voluntary, affordable spay/neuter programs for owned pets, Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs for feral cats.”
Editor's note: The ASPCA write-up is particularly well documented, with more than a dozen citations, and well worth the read.
Best Friends Animal Society
“One of the goals of the city council should be to providing for public safety, in the most effective and comprehensive way possible. Everyone benefits from a safe society – both people and pets. Communities should be protecting against any dangerous dog, no matter the breed. Because breed discrimination fails to enhance public safety, Best Friends Animal Society opposes any breed “specific” of discriminatory measures, including mandatory sterilization for certain breeds.”
Letter submitted from Best Friends Animal Society, 2013
No Kill Advocacy Center
“Studies show that the primary reasons people do not sterilize their pets are cost and lack of access to spay/neuter services. The same is true for licensing. The higher the cost, the lower the rate of compliance. As a result, lower-income households with animals, those who are unaware of these laws and truly irresponsible people will not comply in significant numbers….furthermore, legislation may be worded so that the result of non-compliance is the impoundment… of the animal.”
Editor's Note: This writeup, "The Dark Side to Mandatory Laws" covers a lot of ground in terms of the impact of many different types of mandatory pet ownership laws and the impact they have on the ability for owners to keep their pets.
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
“The AVMA does not support regulations or legislation mandating the spay/neuter of privately owned, non-shelter dogs and cats. Although spaying and neutering helps control dog and cat populations, mandatory approaches may contribute to pet owners avoiding licensing, rabies vaccination and veterinary care for pets and may have unintended consequences.
“Although spay/neuter is an important part of effective population control programs, and may benefit individual dogs and cats if performed at the appropriate time, whether and when to spay/neuter specific animals requires the application of science and professional judgment to ensure the best outcome for veterinary patients and owners.”
Editor's Note: For more details on the potential health impacts, begin reading here.
American College of Theriogenologists (ACT) & Society for Theriogenology (SFT)
“The ACT and SFT believe that companion animals not intended for breeding should be spayed or neutered, however, both organizations believe that the decision to spay or neuter a pet must be made on a case by case basis, taking into consideration the pet’s age, breed, sex, intended use, household environment and temperament. The use of generalized rules concerning gonadectomy (removal of overies and testes) is not in the best interest of the health or well-being of pets or their owners”
California Sheltering White Paper
“While finding people to adopt dogs and cats is crucial, reducing the supply of incoming animals is the only way to end the pet overpopulation problem. The stakeholder group discusses the pros and cons of changing state laws to increase fines and penalties for not altering pets. However, compelling evidence exists to show demand for affordable spay/neuter services is high, particularly in underserved areas. Failure to spay or neuter is more correlated with limited access to affordable and proximate services than it is with resistance to sterilizing pets. Efforts to increase resources and outreach in communities where spay/neuter rates are low should be the focus."
The American Kennel Club
Mandatory spay/neuter laws greatly increase the work load of animal control offices, many of which are already strained financially. Animal control offices also find they are euthanizing more animals at taxpayer's expense becasue some owners choose to leave their animals at the shelter rather than complying with the law. A mandatory spay/neuter law also communicates the message that the municipality is not "dog friendly."