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« Loving homeless pets to death | Main | Wallace - the Rise of the Under Dog »

August 09, 2011


Karen F.

Brent, it is a great service that you delve into the numbers and provide this kind of analysis. Thank you for building such a clear picture about MSN.

Leeann S.

Hmm, maybe I am missing something, but it doesn't look like those statistics argue either in favor of or against mandatory s/n. I wouldn't think one year would be enough time to see much of an impact anyway. The law was passed in May 2011. Impounds for dogs actually went down between 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, after the law was passed. And as you say, the increase in the intake/euthanasia rate in 2010-2011 appears to be because of dogs still in the shelter system from 2009-2010. They could have been there for any number of reasons--lower adoptions due to the economy for one. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you about mandatory s/n, but I don't see this example as proof that it doesn't work.


Leeann -- when Kansas City passed their law in 2006, we saw a dramatic increase in shelter intake immediately upon passing the law because people heard about the law, knew they didn't have the money to alter so they dropped them off at the shelter. When Memphis passed theirs, their intake went up immediately as well. Same in LA. It doesn't take long and it is an immediate uptick in nearly all cases...



In theory I agree that it should take more than a year to see if the law is a success or not.

However, there aren't really any good five-year case studies either.

And even if there were, there is something wrong with the idea that a successful mandatory s/n program is described as "we'll have to kill a lot more at first so that we won't have to kill as many later".


Current impound is still significantly higher than before the law was passed... More dogs killed = FAILURE. How big of an increase in death would it take for you to deem this a failure?

And if you want to blame the economy then its all the MORE reason MSN is really about control and punishment - not saving lives. In hard times people need HELP not facing fines or the seizure and death of their pet if they can't afford s/n. Spend the money on voluntary programs and intake would have gone down immediately.

Leeann S.

Brent, are you suggesting that in the two-month window after the law was passed people frantically dumped about a thousand dogs at the shelter, and that's what accounts for the 09-10 figure? I doubt it. What's more likely is there was a steady increase in impounds during the ten months prior to the law being passed. Impounds went down after the law was passed. I am not supporting mandatory s/n, but as I stated before I don't think this is a convincing example of why it doesn't work.



I certainly understand your skepticism to that. However, Memphis passed their Mandatory Spay/Neuter in October of 2010. For almost the entire year of 2010 prior to that, they were trending at about 200-300 fewer animals impounded per month. In November/December combined they impounded 500-600 more than the previous year (with the worst month being November). The chart is on page 3.

Las Vegas' total intake is about 14% higher than that of Memphis, so the total # of animals would translate into a higher number in Las Vegas -- and would certainly be worse if the number was trending at even or slightly above where it was the year prior (since Memphis was trending lower).

When we passed MSN for pit bulls only in Kansas City, we killed more than 400 'pit bull' type dogs than in the same time period in the previous year in just the first 4 months after passing the law.

Certainly we don't know for sure that it was just in last two months of the year that drove the increase without monthly totals -- but such a sharp increase very quickly is not unprecedented, and sadly, to be expected in these situations. So while I understand your ekepticism, I don't think this is a stretch based on previous case studies.

Responsible Dog Owner

Brent, for the record, Memphis passed a differential licensing law that called for $200 fee for unaltered pets - the only requirement that mandates a pet being altered is for pet owners who either violate the failure to restrain law or who's pet is found guilty of biting a person. Neither would hint at a practice I would oppose in my own shelter.


The end result is essentially the same. Given that most people who don't alter their pets don't because of finances, charging them $200 or alter your pet will have the same end result -- a pet getting surrendered to the shelter because the home cannot comply. I think in my head I remember it being a pure MSN law because it might as well be with such a high annual licensing amount.


Er, leaving out a set of results (the figures for cats) because they don't support your hypothesis isn't exactly good statistical practice. You don't have enough data here to draw any kind of conclusions about the effect of MSN in Las Vegas.


gwg -- I hid nothing. Mentioned the stats and even provided the link. Cats and dogs are affected differently by these laws. The overwhelming majority of cats are either a) indoor only cats, that never go outside, and thus, their intact status would never be known without door-to-door sweeps which most cities don't do or b) feral cats, with no owners. Neither of these pertains to dogs, who do generally have owners and do, even for indoor dogs, spend a fair amount of time outside. So dogs are usually more impacted by MSN laws more than dogs -- unless the city uses it as a reason to round up and kill feral cats (which does happen on occassion).


Leean--the law was passed in 2010, NOT 2011. So there has been a full year to include new intake numbers. Read the blog post again. MSN has been a failure everywhere it has been passed--even years out it hasn't substantially reduced intake.

Leeann S.

Janipurr, I suggest you read the blog post again. The county's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30, not January to January. That means the law was not passed until 10 months into the fiscal year. I'd like to know how many impounds there were during that ten month period prior to the law being passed before I made any conclusions about the effect of it on impounds. From July 2010 to July 2011, afer the law was passed, impounds actually went down. As I have stated ad nauseum, I am not suggesting mandatory s/n works, just that I think Brent needs a better example to back up his argument. I appreciate the fact that he cares enough about this issue to write about it in the first place.


Leeann - Brent has almost every example of this law being a failure (which is every time its passed). I suggest you read them all.


With or without the figures for cats, you don't have enough post-MSN data to draw any statistically supported conclusions for Las Vegas.


gwg, in isolation, maybe not. In comparison to the reality that the exact same scenerio has played out almost exactly in virtually every other city that has passed MSN, then yeah, I probably do. I could have actually spelled out exactly what appears to have happened before it even passed. Ignoring this is negligent.


Oh, praise God and pass the incinerator fuel. To quote my dad, "We keep beating that dead horse and beating that dead horse, and he still won't GET UP".

The facts on MSN are pretty clear.

Shelter euthanasia has been on the decline since the 1970s, despite the increase in both human and pet populations, thanks to education about spay/neuter and WITHOUT coercive legislation. Some shelters have resorted to importing animals from overseas so they don't have to close their door and the employees don't have to go out and find other employment.

The first MSN was in San Mateo county, CA. It was around 1989 or 1990. Sharon Coleman with The Animal Council did an extensive study on the results and, voila! shelter euthanasia went up after they passed MSN after years of steady declines in the euth rates. The research is here if anyone is interested:

And yet, despite the failure in San Mateo and every other city in this country, cities continue the insanity.

When I worked in corporate America I ended up on a task force with an assignment to solve a certain manufacturing problem. (I was on one task force, went to the restroom, and found myself on a different task force upon my return - I was more circumspect about going to the restroom after that!). The engineer in charge of the task force announced that we were going to investigate "X" as the cause of the problem. I politely pointed out that we had investigated "X" on two other occasions and after extensive experiments and studies determined that "X" was not the source of the problem. Then I asked, "Are we just going to keep doing this drill until we get the answer you want?", to which the engineer replied, "Yes". Well, give him points for honesty.

We're going to keep passing MSN until we get the answer the animal rights wacksos and public servants want, and if they have to cook the books to get those numbers they will by golly cook the books. Perhaps Jeffrey Skilling can assist with this project from his jail cell!

Of course no one in Europe alters anything, yet they don't have shelters full of animals. Hmmm.....

Thanks, Brent, for yet one more example of the bureaucratic ridiculousness that is MSN. I can't think of an area where the government should have LESS interest in our lives than the reproductive status of our pets. Hey, if they worry about potholes I'll worry about my dog's balls.


@Brent, I am not trying to argue for MSN; I just think that it does you no favours when you use data that does not support the argument you are making.

@kmk, I get pretty bored of Americans going on about how Europeans don't alter their animals and yet they don't have shelters full of animals, especially when they have no data to back it up, and probably haven't even been outside the USA. And no, a sightseeing trip to London or Paris doesn't count. Not all countries have a shelter system like the US, but that does not mean that there are not homeless animals. Anyone who has been on holiday to the Mediterranean will tell you that!

Responsible Dog Owner

In order to prove MSN is failing the intake numbers woujld have had to jumped in the first year after the law went into effect - the opposite happened. If your drawing your conclusions based on an increase in shelter killing that wouldn't take into account other causes including reduced adoptions, reduced transfers to rescue or a reduction in owner reclaims - none of which supports this law being a failure. I'd say the jury's still out.

Memphis would be a case where differential licensing failed but it still is not by definition MSN.



Techincally Memphis is differential licensing - -but when you're talking $200 a year to license a dog, it might as well be MSN.

Owner reclaims would go down with MSN in most cases because low-income people would be less likely to come forward to get their unaltered dog because they'd be unwilling/able to pay the high fines.

And be sure to use 2008-09 as the base year -- because 09-10 is absolutely impacted by the MSN, as would, obviously 10-11. I'm working on getting the monthly numbers and I'd be stunned if the last two months of 09-10 were not significantly higher than the year prior.

Responsible Dog Owner


Let's just say we agree that the law itself is the problem. Memphis needs to revoke the differential licensing altogether. It hasn't worked nor will it work as a solution. I don't support differential licensing in principle as a means to fund animal control budgets. That funding should come from local government in the same manner we fund our schools. Otherwise an unfair amount of costs for running AC falls on pet owners even though responsible pet owners may never use any of the services. On the other hand, citizens who don't own pets still benefit from AC services in being able to call in complaints about pets in their neighborhood, including strays.

Memphis would benefit from a law that addresses unaltered pets and the issue of owner reclaims by proposing a reasonable fine amount for allowing their pet(s) to run at large while offering an incentive to waive the fines for a first time offence if they agree to alter that pet. Citziens who own altered pets could likewise be offered a "first offender" break by either having a pet who has clear ID tags or by agreeing to microchip their pet. As in most of these political discussions the answer to the problems faced in Memphis won't come by doing nothing to offset intake especially in lieu of the financial deficits they face.


gwg - you lose. My mother was English, father was American, and I'm most certainly an American. I was born in the UK. I've most certainly been outside the U.S., and I've most certainly been in England and NOT just on sightseeing tours. I've actually stayed with relatives that have refrigerators the size of our dishwashers and cars that you wear instead of drive. No one in the UK alters anything, and yet, no shelters full of animals. There are big fines for not picking up dog poop, though. I get pretty bored with people that think MSN can work. I also get pretty bored with people that make statements about people they don't know.

Reproductive organs do NOT fill shelters and cause "pet overpopulation".

And what do you have to say about shelters importing animals into the US to meet demand? is that a figment of my sightseeing imagination as well?

Sorry, I'm on Brent's side on this one.


kmk - I'm sorry to hear of your English ancestry, but can report that S/N has increased greatly in popularity since your last visit to the UK.

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