Rescue dog Damon at the Ventura Shelter

Making Mandatory S/N Work

Robert Cabral Blog 1 Comment

Many people ask my position on mandatory spay and neuter and I find it to be a double edged sword. I do feel in this instance the animals are punished for human negligence. As is usually the case, because of a few who are either ignorant or lazy, the the laws are enacted to protect the innocent. The innocent in this case are the unborn animals that will more than likely be killed in our nations shelters because irresponsible people refuse to train their dogs, can’t keep them contained, especially when a female is in heat as well as other issues that cause needless millions of animals to perish in our shelters. I could go on an on about this, however I want to address the logic of making SN work.

First and foremost, I think that there should be exceptions to the “mandatory” aspect of the law. The law should be mandatory for pet dog owners who have no need to have a pet intact. Since most people should not and will not breed their dogs, we can assume that at a certain age (an age that is often greatly disputed) they should be neutered. I will address the age issue shortly, as I do feel it is an important aspect for a dog’s well being.

Before I go on, I would like to mention that in countries where people are (held) responsible for their pets, there often is no spay/neuter laws and their isn’t a shelter crisis like here in the US. We live in a permissive society where we excuse ignorance and sweep it under the rug. The animals suffer because we don’t want to insult the people that should be held responsible.

For example, if a person has an intact dog and that dog is picked up by animal control, the DOG is impounded. The owners is asked to pay a fine to get the dog back. That fine is often more than the price the owner paid for the dog originally. Often times these people never pick up the dog and instead just get another one. The one impounded is likely to be killed… and why? because we excuse the behavior of the human. My view is be much different. I’ll explain it below.

It’s important to note that most medical experts will tell you that spaying or neutering a young dog (which almost every shelter does some at 8 weeks old) is terribly unhealthy on the dog’s growth and development, both physically and mentally. However there are those who deny this. Imagine castrating a 1 year old boy and seeing how he would develop without the hormones to become a man – as well with a small girl. Those in power will tell us the dangers of in-tact dogs, and I agree that dogs left in tact will often times have more drive than neutered ones, however we are again punishing the dog and letting the humans skate away.

Using a system that would be both fair and humane, I propose an idea that would make more sense.

First off, if you are a working dog, sport dog or show dog owner, your dog need not be neutered. I don’t think that the people I know who work their dogs have the same issue as the casual pet dog owners. I’ve been on the field with working dogs (all intact) and never had a problem. If you’re showing, working or a legitimate breeder, your dogs should be under your control – AT ALL TIMES. I do propose a caveat: If your dog is picked up, you will be fined. And that fine, if it happens a second time should be extreme.

Second, pet dogs should not be fixed until an age where the majority of development has taken place. Most veterinarians agree that is around 6-12 months of age. The problem again is that we will not hold people responsible and many unnecessary pregnancies could likely occur. However, if owners were taught responsibility or fined for irresponsibility, we could take a step that would be positive for the animals.

Third, spay and neutering should be made affordable and available through nonprofit groups, shelters, rescues and humane societies.

Fourth, when an animal is picked up or impounded for not being fixed, the owner should be fined and made to pay. And this is where the program works best:

All animals should be micro-chipped and registered to the owner. The registration process should take place and be handled at the time of the transfer, not later. The paper work should be filed by the person or organization placing the dog, not the owner. These chips can later be checked as it’s done at any dog show. However in this case animal control can do this.

Any animal that is impounded from an owner remains the property of the owner. The animal can be taken to the shelter, fixed and returned to the owner with a fine in place.

The cost to impound a dog, house it, and dispose of it if it is killed is about the same as the cost of a low cost SN. So, in fairness to the animals we would return the dog to the owner with a fine. And I don’t think a fine should be forfeited if the owner doesn’t pick up the dog. The dog can be relinquished, but the fine stays in place. If you park your car and get a parking ticket, even if you sell the car, you still owe the price of the parking ticket. Whether you are black or white, rich or poor, a fine is a fine.

There are costs associated with dog ownership, food, medical care and more…. responsibility should be included as well.

Shelters spend countless thousands of dollars impounding animals, feeding them, caring for them and often times disposing of them later when no one adopts them. To make mandatory SN work we should work together to decrease these costs. This concept is not an easy fix, but it is fair and humane. It works for anyone who cares about their pets and it works for anyone who may not have easy access to services. The shelter can provide these services at low cost and pass the cost / savings on to the owners. For people who can’t afford the whole fee, low rate monthly payments can be offered. Even if the shelter doesn’t recover a majority of the costs, the overall expenses remain about the same as housing and feeding and disposing of the dog. Yet, this puts the same dog back into the home, reduces shelter housing and reduces killing.

This can work if rescues, shelters and pet owners work together. It’s a radical concept because it puts the human in the position of responsibility, and gives a fair shot to the animals. I will repeat what I’ve said so often, “Not everyone should have a pet. Pets require responsibility. If we don’t hold people responsible for their actions, we will come no closer to solving the problem than doing nothing.” Mandatory SN is not THE answer, it is part of the solution. There are communities that don’t have SN and have lower kill numbers than communities that have mandatory SN. I believe that shelters, rescues, trainers, breeders and the community needs to work together and put aside differences – and MOST importantly, do what is in the best interest of the animals.

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