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« St. Louis looks at passing Mandatory Spay/Neuter Legislation | Main | Whose side is "The Public" on? »

July 06, 2011


H. Houlahan

I increasingly don't give people a pass on "well-intentioned" when they are also willfully pig-ignorant.

Their "intention" is to shoot their mouth off without taking any responsibility for knowing what they are talking about. I don't think that meets the standard for "well."

Seeking the truth


As I read Molly's article, I think she is saying that spay/neuter accessibility needs to be funded as well as enforcement of the current ordinance. Accessible spay/neuter is the ticket and it works. Cheaper in the long run, and certainly more humane. Kudos for your good letter, Molly. I agreed.

Coming from a movement that clings to the notion pet overpopulation is a myth perhaps you might want to get out more and visit many of the overpopulated shelters throughout the south and in your own backyard before passing judgment.

Lis C

"Seeking the truth", have you looked at Shirley Thistlethwaite's reporting on Memphis over the past year? Or clicked on Brent's links and gotten familiar with the actual effect of Mandatory Spay/Neuter where it's been passed--including in Memphis, where clever Molly doesn't realize it already exists?

Meanwhile, urban communities, rural communities, rich communities, poor communities, all over the country have successfully implemented No Kill principles and brought their live release rate over 90%, euthanizing only animals who truly are medically hopeless or behaviorally intractably dangerous.

Lis C

Sorry, my link didn't make it. Shirley Thistlethwaite's reporting on Memphis:



Molly was pretty clear that she wanted a law. And whoever wrote the headline (which may or may not have been her) took it exactly the same way. If her point had been better low cost spay/neuter accessibility then I most definitely would have agreed with her. I'm all in favor of using targeted low cost spay/neuter to decrease the number of animals coming into the shelter -- but doing so in a way that has proven to work to decrease impounds. Mandating spay/neuter through laws has proven over and over again to have the opposite effect...

Seeking the truth


Well, I take your "headline" as another "ill-informed, well meaning" person pushing for MSN deceptive as well.

Studies show the *primary* reasons people do not sterilize their pets are **cost and lack of access** to spay/neuter services." "The higher the cost, the lower rate of compliance.". So clearly cost is a factor but it IS one that can be assuaged and, therefore, MSN need not lead to more deaths if the mandates are written correctly. So the bottom line is that cost need not translate into higher deaths at all.

While it is true that punitive legislation can force people underground and to relinquish their pets, I would posit this is true the majority of the time only when NOT COUPLED with low cost (and free) options plus education.

I would suggest that 'mandating' spay and neuter puts a duty of care on municipalities to SUPPORT those who are unable to comply without low cost (of free) options. There need be no mandatory impound and death mandate for animals that are not spay and neutered, when such an animal is found the owners can either opt for high cost license to keep the animal for breeding (if they are morally opposed to neutering their animal), given a low cost (or free) option based on need, or given the option to rehome the animal to someone else who can do what is required.

Accepting that some animals may need to be intact for medical reasons, ie they are too ill to have surgery, in which case their veterinarian can write a statement for those cases.

The problem is not with concept of MSN, the problem is with how it is being implemented, the lack of support for citizens, and the lack of education. Just because it isn't being done correctly at the moment doesn't mean it cannot become successful with the right attitude, support, and education programs.


Dear Seeking to Justify a Failed Policy - your argument (its not MSN its the enforcement) is a strawman. You cannot uncouple MSN with its enforcement - that is why its called a LAW. Otherwise its just a suggestion. And if what you say is true - cost and access are the main factors - why do you need MSN? A LAW that requires AC time and resources be taken away from public safety issues - in other words, what their whole purpose is.

So even if you could enforce it like you suggest, its still a failed public safety policy and unneccessary. Spend the resources on low/no cost s/n options and you solve the problem.

The only reason to support MSN is that you want to hold the trump card in your pocket to seize animals from people that don't comply. And hey, better dead than bred right?


Also, s/n is NOT the end goal. Precluding unwanted litters IS...and s/n is not the only answer to that issue.

Anyone supporting MSN for Memphis is, like H said, willfully and negligently ignorant (leaving off the pig as not to insult pigs). Thier AC/shelter is as incompetent as they come where every animal entering the shelter has a 75% chance of being killed and a damn good chance of being abused. They let a dog starve to death and people want to give them MORE power? You can even argue the "enforcement" aspect here as they already shown exactly how they will enforce any law from previous actions.

Seeking the truth

Michelle, it would appear that communities like Austin R+texas are doing just that.

"The Town Lake Animal Center in Austin (TLAC), Texas is taking a pro-active approach to pet overpopulation,
targeting a population that presents a serious breeding risk.

TLAC’s Spay or Pay program allows owners of intact cats and dogs that end up in the shelter to avoid hefty reclaim fees by paying to have the animals altered at
EmanciPet, a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. TLAC also waives citations for many types of animal-control violations for owners who agree to have their animals altered."

With studies showing a 90% spay/neuter rate for pet owners in higher income brackets excatly where are all these pets coming from that would be impounded?

Seems to me, a targeted law that provides alternatives would work towards reducing the amount of unaltered pets being cared for by irresponsible pet owners who allow their pets to violate other animal ordinances?

Isn't Austin's TLAC a model no kill facilty?


Seeking -- Here's the deal. If you have readily available low cost spay/neuter options and targeted outreach, they do a magnificent job of solving the problem on their own without the law. They have proven themselves to work with or without the law -- repeatedly and in every instance.

So if you have all of the stuff in place to make the law work, the law is unnecessary.

Meanwhile, you note that one of the provisions with the law is that the person has the "option to rehome the animal" -- and THAT is the biggest problem with MSN, and why it fails. The problem already is that you're having a problem finding homes for the animals at the shelter -- so why "rehome" an animal that already has a home? Can you not see why this creates a problem? And it has, in every single instance of MSN.

As Michelle points out, you can't uncouple the law from its enforcement. The enforcement leads to animals with homes being impounded (or rehomed) and diverts AC resources away from things like public safety or from providing the low cost spay/neuter programs needed to make the law "work" -- and the s/n programs work without the law.

For the life of me I have no idea why people keep trying to reinvent the MSN wheel because they think THEY are smart enough to make it work (even though it has never worked elsewhere) instead of focusing those efforts on creating programs that have proven themselves time and time again to work.


Seeking - the major difference between what you are proposing and Austin's program is that the very act of having the pet unaltered is not against the law. So if the animal ends up at the shelter, they are getting a fine for something else (likely running at large). So the "spay or pay" is in reference to a fine they've already racked up for something else. It's a nice incentive to get them to do the responsible thing. And it's working for them.

MSN is making the unaltered part illegal, and thus making them pay for something even though their pet has not entered the shelter and in many scenerios, removing the pet from the home because they are unable (or unwilling) to comply. This has proven to be a failure in all cases when it's been implemented.

Seeking the truth

"The only reason to support MSN is that you want to hold the trump card in your pocket to seize animals from people that don't comply. And hey, better dead than bred right?"

From Alley Cats Rescue "a recent study demonstrated that over 90% of Americans earning $35K or more have already spayed or neutered their pets (see​tCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=6​50), and at least half of t...hose families earning less than $35K/year have already done so. As a result, the population of Americans who haven't spayed or neutered their pets is relatively small, and it's near-entirely a matter of financial means" Clearly, the message being sent is "better or altered then dead - right? There's plenty of options available for pet owners in violation of local ordinances including having fines waived if only the pet owner agrees too be responsible by altering their pet.

No one's suggesting (except perhaps you) of going door to door impounding pets. We have planty of low cost spay/neuter programs available, we have plenty of education programs that target problem pet owners but like Austin Texas proves, sometimes you just need too implement programs that focus on the pet owners who habitually allow their animals to roam.

Seeking the truth


"you note that one of the provisions with the law is that the person has the "option to rehome the animal" -- and THAT is the biggest problem with MSN, and why it fails"

Since the law referenced is coming out of Austin and Austin saves has a live output of over 90% why are you suggesting the law is failing? If Austin's "mandatory" requirement for impounded pets is working why not support those type of spay/neuter laws? This is where I agree with you - passing laws aimed at responsible pet owners - even those with unaltered pets kept under their own control - is counterproductive. What I don't agree is the the practice of not looking for compromise in developing laws that focus on irresponsible pet owners.

As the World Turns in KCKS

Bottom line - MSN misses the opportunity to educate and offer free or low cost assistance to pet owners that are most in need. Using the Catholic nun approach and beating the pet owner with the "ruler" is not effective.

Not only does MSN waste AC resources, it clogs up the municipal court system. Often cities don't even calculate that piece into the cost of enforcement. Yes tickets are issued over MSN and people have to go to court to prove they complied to get the charges waived and usually pay court fees.

When pet ownership becomes such a nuisance that it puts people on the Law's radar, the pets always lose.


"Mandatory" for impounded pets is different than "Mandatory" for all pets (which is what "Molly" proposed and what Memphis has and is failing).

And I'm always open to compromise -- but I'm not open to trying to pass laws that have proven to be failures. There is no reason to recreate the wheel and not look at successes and failures in other communities. If it has failed elsewhere, there is no reason to think it will work for your city.

Seeking the truth


I do look at the successes of other progressive communities, that's why I included Austin's approach at focusing on irresponsible pet owners. Since that approach on impounded animals has been in effect for a few years now one could suggest that the change has had a POSITIVE effect at reducing shelter intake and killing.

You also wrote "The problem already is that you're having a problem finding homes for the animals at the shelter -- so why rehome" an animal that already has a home?

My question would be why would you want to return an unaltered animal to a pet owner already irresponsible enough to allow their pet to end up at animal control in the first place and who is unwilling to use the community's low cost spay/neuter options (even saving themselves money by voiding out fines and fees) by returning that pet unaltered? Wouldn't you be concerned that the pet owner might simply allow the pet to breed accidently?


Here's the deal. If the person wants an unaltered pet, and you take theirs, they will just get another one. So you've taken one dog into the shelter, and just replaced it with an identical problem. I am never in favor of removing a pet from a home except for cases of cruelty and neglect.

Seeking the truth


You wrote: "I am never in favor of removing a pet from a home except for cases of cruelty and neglect."

I agree, that is why you don't see any of my comments supporting an enforcement process that even allows animal control to question the reproduction status of my pets. That would violate my rights.

Of course, that would be different for pet owners who's animals end up at animal control for whatever reason. For pet owners reclaiming an altered pet the shelter would not be able to impound that pet. For owners pets who are unaltered they would still have an option of paying a reclaim fee higher then the cost of spay/neutering if they chose to keep their pets reproduction status intact. Pet owners who wanted an unaltered pet would not have animal control knocking on the door unless the pet ended up violating other animal ordinances. Surely, your not suggesting returning a pet with "no foul - no penalty" for pet owners who are in violation of other animal ordinances including the leash laws?

Here's my deal - any animal that enters the shelter leaves altered period.

dog daycare irvine

Good to know. I had never known that MSN was so bad. The propaganda made me think that it was something that worked. Now I know the truth. Thank you.

As the World Turns in KCKS

I don't think some of the proponents of MSN understand not all cities that pass this law offer their citizens ANY financial assistance.

Example - Kansas City, KS (yeah the city that has everyone drooling because they have lowered their kill stats at the city pound by allowing the local Humane Society to pull animals out alive); does not contribute ONE PENNY to their MSN.

The law was passed in 2005 with absolutely no provisions for the low income population. There were no low cost spay/neuter options available at all, despite the city having many neighborhoods with a median income of $18,000 - $22,000.

Come 2010 low cost vouchers are now available since the local Humane Society has obtained some grant dollars, but the vouchers are not offered based on financial need. The vouchers are issued based on pet owners' zip codes. If you are poor and don't live in that specific zip code you still don't qualify for the lowest cost voucher!

To increase spay/neuter the local Humane Society has teamed up with AC and goes out on door to door searches ticketing people for non compliance. Despite the Humane Society boasting a large volunteer base of 400 people, no volunteers are going into targeted areas and educating and signing up people for their pets' s/n.

So being poor is now a crime. When as a society did we revert back to the old days of punishing poor people?


" There's plenty of options available for pet owners in violation of local ordinances including having fines waived if only the pet owner agrees too be responsible by altering their pet."

Will you listen instead of trying to come up with a retort? THAT IS NOT WHAT IS HAPPENING. AC IS going door to door and MSN gives them more power. I'm not suggesting it - its a FACT. And just QUIT using Austin - that is NOT MSN so it doesn't even apply. Good lord...tiered fees for alters/unaltered have been around for years.

"better altered than dead" - wow, really grasping at straws on that one. AlleyCat Allies DO NOT support MSN btw...


To Seeking the Truth:

Please do not use Austin as an example of a mandatory spay/neuter law. We do not have a mandatory spay/neuter law. That absence of a law, and the fact that we've instead implemented the programs and policies of the No Kill Equation, is why our kill rate has plummeted since mid-2008.

The shelter practice you're referring to is that you can get impound fees waived if you agree to alter your pet. This is a way to get more pets out of the shelter alive. It is not a way to give animal control authorities the chance to impound more pets. In other words, it is the exact opposite of evidence of your point.

Austin decided to work with the community rather than against it. We offer low-cost and free spay-neuter services, and we've implemented programs to counsel owners, solve behavioral problems, increase adoptions, and save lives through fostering. MSN, on the other hand, works against the community and has failed every time it has ever been implemented, even in communities who claim to offer low-cost assistance at the same time (like L.A.).

In my mind, people who support MSN are ultimately a lot like people who support abstinence-only education. Neither works. We know neither works. But people have FAITH that the programs will work, and so they don't care about the consequences, the empirical data, or what our experience conclusively demonstrates. Just keep walking the plank and pray for the best.

Barbara Saunders

"To increase spay/neuter the local Humane Society has teamed up with AC and goes out on door to door searches ticketing people for non compliance."

In this scenario, the residents do pay. They subsidize the exemption from taxes that the nonprofit enjoys.

Seeking the truth


You might want to re-read all my responses, I never used the term MSN in my discussions of Austin's spay/neuter policy on impounded pets. Fact is, I've never suggested that impounding pets from responsible pet owners homes was part of Austin's or any community's animal welfare policies.

It seems that once the word MSN is tossed into the discussion everyone assumes the worst. What is needed is a targeted approach at seeking compliance with a pet owner role in being not only responsible for their pets but equally important in being responsible to the community's needs as well.

It is simply the act of an irresponsible citizen to insist on not altering your pet when you also appear to have a difficult time understanding the animal ordinances in general.

It is equally irresponsible for some pet owners to breed irresponsibly while a huge number of other citizens in the community are volunteering to foster and help rehome the community's pets.

Whether the policy at TLAC acts as a means of "getting more pets out alive" or the policy helps prevent future irresponsible breeding, the end results are both positive for the community's pet overpopulation issues.

Unless, of course, your going to try and explain how Austin doesn't have a pet overpopulation issue with the dumping of over 20,000 homeless pets each year.


Whether you used them together or not, you certainly went from supporting Memphis' MSN law and stating that it would work if enforced correctly to using Austin as a case study to try to defend your position. And by defending Memphis's law, you are, by default, supporting a law that causes animals to be removed from people's homes unnecessarily and adding to the shelter population.

Now, the rest of your comment makes sense, but that is not where you started your conversation in this thread.

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