Monday, December 8, 2014
Trending—Despite Poor Record, Mandatory Spay/Neuter Proposals on the Rise
What do Pasadena, California; Augusta, Georgia; Madison, Wisconsin; New York City and the state of Rhode Island have in common?
Each of these places has recently advanced legislation to require that all dogs or certain classes of dogs within their jurisdictions be sterilized.
After what appeared to be several years of declining interest in mandatory spay neuter (MSN) policy by animal activists, AKC has observed resurgence in MSN proposals in the last several months, mostly at the local level.
MSN laws can take a variety of forms. They're regularly offered by activists as a quick fix for a myriad of canine issues ranging from dangerous dogs, to shelter intakes, to roaming pets, and even concerns about substandard kennels in other communities. Still, cities that have established MSN have not only found it to be ineffective; it has also created a host of new problems. For example, after Dallas, Texas, implemented MSN in 2008, the city experienced a 22% increase in animal control costs and an overall decrease in pet licensing compliance. AKC Government Relation's Issue Analysis on Mandatory Spay Neuter presents more information on why MSN is ineffective.
Tragically, some activists push for mandatory sterilization laws even as mounting scientific evidence demonstrates that spay/neuter surgery (ovariohysterectomy and castration)— especially when performed on a young puppy—can have serious long-term negative health consequences. Recent scientific studies reveal that juvenile sterilization may lead to increased incidences of cancer (including osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, lymphosarcoma and mast cell tumors), hip dysplasia, ligament disorders, chronic incontinence and even shortened lifespans. 1,2,3,4 These and other emerging studies contradict commonly-held beliefs about the effects of spay/neuter.
Ironically, many animal rights activists who push for government-mandated sterilization for all dogs also adamantly seek to outlaw minor procedures such as tail docking or dew claw removal. It's not clear why some find it logical to ban these minor procedures, but don't question passing laws to require major spay/neuter—in some cases only a few weeks after a pup has opened its eyes and learned to walk.
According to the American Pet Products Association, 83 percent of U.S. pet dogs are already spayed/neutered. In many communities, local rescues and shelters have so few adoptable dogs available that they are importing puppies and dogs from other communities and states to offer in their facilities. Ironically, many of these communities are the same ones that are considering MSN.
Examples of recent legislation include:
The Pasadena, California City Council passed a law in November 2014 that would require the sterilization of all dogs and cats within city limits, with intact dog licenses for some exceptions. However, any dog impounded for any reason would be sterilized before release, even if the dog's owners had a valid intact dog license.
The New York City Council is currently considering removing exemptions for the health of young dogs from current MSN requirements for dogs purchased at pet stores or from breeders who sell more than 25 dogs a year. This essentially establishes mandatory juvenile spay/neuter for dogs sold at pet shops and takes away the rights of owners and future owners to make the best possible healthcare decisions for their dogs.
A proposed law in Augusta, Georgia, would require surgical sterilization of dogs six months and older unless the owner holds an unaltered animal permit. Certain dogs would be exempt, including "actively competitive" show or hunting dogs, and dogs with serious health conditions. However, the proposal states that advanced age would not be considered an exempted health condition. Intact dogs no longer actively competing would not be exempt from permitting. The permit could be revoked without due process of law upon receipt of information of any violation of the animal control ordinance—no conviction needed, just a complaint.
A proposal in Madison, Wisconsin, would allow the city's board of health to order a dog spayed or neutered for a variety of reasons if the dog is found running at large three times in its lifetime, or if a dog causes any injury to a person on while its owners property, with no exceptions for an animal that has been provoked.
And cities aren't the only ones considering such laws. A 2014 Rhode lsland House measure (HB 8205) would have limited all Rhode Island residents, with a few exceptions, from harboring any dog over the age of 6 months that have not been spayed or neutered.
The AKC recognizes the value of spaying and neutering mature dogs when the dog will not be participating in a breeding program or competing in events like AKC dog shows that require that the dog be intact. However, the decision to sterilize a pet—and when to do so—rightly belongs to the pet's owner after consultation with their veterinarian.
For communities seeking to address dog issues, the best approach is to address the cause of the vast majority of these issues—irresponsible ownership—by enforcing leash laws, supporting and promoting educational programs on dog care, and providing low-cost spay neuter clinics in the communities where such services are needed. The AKC offers a variety of ways to help.
1 American College of Theriogenologists. "Basis for Position on Mandatory Spay-Neuter in the Canine and Feline." http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.therio.org/resource/resmgr/docs/spay-neuter_basis.pdf
2 Sanborn, Laura J., M.S. "Long-Term Health Risks and Benefits Associated with Spay/Neuter in Dogs." May 2007.
3 "Rottweiler study links ovaries with exceptional longevity." JAVMA News. February 18, 2010.https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/100301g.aspx?PF=1
4 "Study finds neutering-disease link in Golden Retrievers." JAVMA news. March 20, 2013.https://www.avma.org/news/JAVMANews/Pages/130401s.aspx?PF=1
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