posted by Doranna Durgin

Okay. I'm gonna get political. And I'm gonna get opinionated. I hope you're ready!

There's an orchestrated series of aggressive spay/neuter laws sweeping the country--or trying to. And they suck. They should be fought, tooth and claw and yes, fiercely worded blogs.

I said this to an agility friend at practice the other day and startled her deeply. I don't blame her for being surprised--of anyone in this world, I am vocal in my opinion that pets of a certain age should be sterilized; I've seen far too many behavior problems and far too many unwanted breedings. And how can spay/neuter laws not be good? she said. How can anything that reduces the volume of unwanted animals not be good?

Good point, right? So let's look at all the things that the law proponents don't want you to look at when it comes to these laws, using the flashpoint of the California AB 1634, under which all dogs and cats will be spayed at the age of 4 months.

Q: How can spay/neuter laws not be good?

A: When they don't work.


AB 1634 is actually modeled after a similar 1995 law in Santa Cruz. Since the law passed, that County’s animal control expenses have more than doubled--while its shelter intake reductions have been less than the statewide average. Dunno about you, but that's not my model of success. And losing the right to choose what's best for my animal's particular situation is high price to pay for, er, failure.

And check it out. Monterey County, MD, adopted a mandatory spay/neuter law, and discovered that rather than letting the county make that decision for them, the pet owners simply stopped licensing their pets--tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, just for starters. The law has since been repealed. And in the year since the Los Angeles enacted their version of mandatory spay/neuter law, the shelter population has actually gone up, reversing a 5-year downward trend while increasing expenses.

It adds up to this: There isn't a single local jurisdiction in the nation with a mandatory spay/neuter law that has seen a drop in shelter expenses, a reduction in intakes, and euthanasia rates greater than their state average. (PetPAC) People who don't want to neuter simply go underground. People who are already doing their best to be responsible are...already doing their best to be responsible, without the addition of onerous laws. So how about we ditch the law and take the money behind it and put it into free neuter/spay clinics and public education?
Q: How can spay/neuter laws not be good?

A: When they don't work--

--And when they damage our dogs and our breeds and lay the groundwork to damage our ability to own pets at all.

Point 1: There is building and convincing evidence that performance animals should not be neutered until they're mature. Doing so alters the length of certain bones, changing crucial joint angles and leaving the animals far more prone to injury. Canine athletes should be left intact until their growth plates close. (This is, needless to say, far older than 4 months, and in fact depends on the individual dog and breed.) This isn't just about agility, flyball, etc--it's about working dogs (this country does still contain sheep, for instance...), service dogs, and law enforcement dogs.

Point 2: An extremist law of this sort will decimate the very people who support the development of healthy, happy dogs--the dedicated breeders. You know, the ones who charge less than your average pet shop (think puppy mill) for the puppies they breed after researching lines, doing genetic testing to ensure healthy pups, and who offer owner support and education for the life of the dog--as well as a place for the dog to come home to at any point in its life, should the purchasing family be unable to keep it? Yeah, those people. Even if you own an adorable muttski, it is the dog fancy that drives much of the pet care industry of which you, too, take advantage.

Want to read more? Head to PetPAC. They also have a petition, as well as some educational materials that really hit home--I love their "How to Make a Phony Graph"! They also do a great job of encapsulating information--but don't think of it as simply their propaganda. I heard all of it independently, over the past several months, in news stories across the country. My friend didn't believe me at first, by the way (I wish I'd known of the handy-dandy PetPAC resource at that time!). You may not, either. So, seriously. Check it out for yourself.

And don't think that this is just a California problem. A similar law was recently enacted in Albuquerque, NM; Louisville, KY, is currently a battleground. New Jersey and Ohio have just opened the door to their own legislation, and I think I heard something about New York. You may not care about purebred dogs as I do (in fact, I care about them all, and can't imagine ever having a dog fill my heart as mixed-breed Strider the Wonderhound did). Complacency is easy if you pick your dogs from the shelter and bring them home neutered...but complacency is not a great long-term plan. What affects the big picture is going to, in the end, affect you, too. Enough so that even Lassie and her people are headed out to the California committee meeting on AB 1634 today, there to speak against the law.

Remember Chaos? The little fellow I picked up in the road a few weeks back? He wasn't neutered; he wasn't licensed. And as I returned him to his family (tracked down via the all-seeing eyes of the UPS driver), I very much wish he'd been both. But a mandatory spay/neuter law wouldn't have a moment's effect on the family who owned this little fellow, or on anyone like them. Only on those of us who have, all along, been trying to do the best for our animals--and who want to be able to continue to do so.

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