Mandatory Spay and Neuter Legislation

“Why not REQUIRE pet owners who are not licensed breeders to be responsible to the community by altering their pets?”

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Animal Advocates have been arguing about shelter reform and other animal issues for a very long time. With the advent of social media, most of those arguments went “viral” and more and more animal lovers were drawn into the issues and soon many began to pick sides.

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The No Kill Movement owes its rapid climb to prominence to social media and as fans of the movement grew, so did its foes. Those who are against the No Kill Movement are not animal haters and killers. Most are not companion pet haters and would rejoice if needless shelter killings ended (not to be confused with true euthanasia; from Greek: εὐθανασία; “good death”), it’s just that they have different opinions on how to get there, what works and what doesn’t, when it comes to shelter reform.

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One of the main points of contention surrounds Mandatory Spay and Neuter Legislation. A majority of those people who support the No Kill Movement do not support Mandatory Spay and Neuter Laws because they do not believe they work. Those who support Mandatory Spay and Neuter Laws believe without this legislation, the goal of “No Kill” is unobtainable and a foolish delusion.

There are several other points of contention between these two sides, but I am only going to address Mandatory Spay and Neuter here. I have never been a fan of any “Mandatory” legislation of any kind for several reasons. Let me try to explain…

I live in California where many laws are passed by initiatives placed on the ballot. We have Mandatory Automobile Insurance (an initiative put on the ballot by those backing the insurance industry with deep pockets) to combat the cry for “No fault” legislation. The intent was to get everyone with a car responsible for making sure their cars had insurance and to get uninsured drivers off the road and it was implemented through The Department of Motor Vehicles. You had to show proof of insurance in order to get your car registered.

It did not really work as intended. Today we have more uninsured drivers on the road than ever before driving unregistered cars. We did however succeed in creating a new class of criminals of those who are low income, homeless (some living in their cars), or those who are just plain down and out and cannot afford car insurance. Others have figured out that you can buy the minimum basic insurance for a one to three month period when the registration is due and then drop it as soon as the stickers come in the mail because they cannot afford to do otherwise. So now we have uninsured drivers in registered vehicles on the road along with the unregistered and uninsured drivers already there.

How would Mandatory Spay and Neuter Laws work? Who would enforce them? Is the legislation “funded” (meaning are free spay and neuter options available), or is this just another way to make criminals out of those who are low income? Many will argue that if a person is too poor to pay for spaying and neutering, then they are too poor to own pets. Good luck with that… Let’s start a class war. Let’s vilify those kids who had a stray puppy or kitten follow them home and whose parents don’t have the heart to tell the kid, no, let the stray die because they say we are not allowed to give it a loving home because we can’t afford to spay or neuter it.

Let’s create laws that no one can afford to enforce that forces animal lovers to become criminals because they will not turn away from an animal in need. Who could do that? I certainly could not, and neither will they.

The call for Mandatory Spay and Neuter Legislation comes from people that mean well. Their intent is to stop needless shelter killing due to over-population because of these unaltered pets. It pains them to see puppies and kittens killed because the litter was unwanted. There are other motivating factors also, but I will not get into those here.

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In a perfect world, where everyone who is able to has a decent paying job, good healthcare, a roof over their heads and a love for animals, Mandatory Spay and Neuter is a wonderful idea, but we do not live in a perfect world.

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The latest US Census data from 2010 and released in 2011 indicates that 108,592,000 Americans, 35.4%, received benefits from one or more means-tested government program, or “welfare.” We have a national unemployment rate of 6.1%, and that rate only counts unemployment claims filed and does not include the chronically unemployed, or those who are no longer eligible to collect benefits but are still unemployed, or those who are underemployed (meaning they have part time employment but are still unable to support themselves). These are the people most at risk for bringing in unwanted pets and this is where the battle must begin in the form of helping all to become responsible citizens, not vilifying some.

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Mandatory Spay and Neuter Laws will only work if they are “funded,” meaning that spaying and neutering are free for the low income pet owners and low cost for those who might be able to afford some co-payment. Yes, it costs money to achieve the goals touted by its proponents, but most seem to be unwilling to “pay for it” because of a narrow minded view that “If they can’t afford it they shouldn’t have pets, Nanner, Nanner, Ninner, Ninner!” How is that working for you?

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These pet owners are all part of the equation, and you cannot ignore their existence and their role in the problem. If our goals are pure, we will help them in order to help all…

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