Friday, June 29, 2007

To spay or not to spay?

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? With millions of perfectly fine, healthy and loveable animals literally dying for want of a good home, spaying and neutering only makes sense. But should spaying and neutering be mandatory? That's an argument that's raging in the animal world now -- with groups like the Humane Society of the US facing off against other respected animal advocates. While some say such laws would eliminate or reduce the number of cruel "puppy mills" and "kitten mills," and perhaps allow stronger actions to be taken against hoarders, others see these potential laws as being driven by a hard-core animal extremist agenda that seeks the eventual elimination of all domesticated animals.

Animal rights vs. animal welfare, it's a thorny topic (and the theme of Cries and Whiskers, too, when a feral-cat rescuer meets an untimely death).

Where do you stand on the issue?


karen said...

I don't think anyone is trying to exterminate pets. There will always be pets. Reducing the supply might make them safer, as well, because competition to adopt would theoretically mean only the best parents are chosen. But I don't think the supply will ever be reduced that much (if we run out of strays here, we can import them, as is being done now).

Spaying/neutering needs doing. I'm tired of hearing stories about people anthropomorphizing their own maternal instincts or castration fears onto their animals. Unless you are a certified breeder, or have *good* homes picked out for the litters (or are willing to keep the litter), pets should be neutered. I'm sorry that people are so stupid that it needs to be a law, but there you go.

Clea Simon said...

Thanks, Karen!
I agree that spaying/neutering needs to be done -- but should it be law? I had thought so, but after hearing from folks like Diana (below), now I'm not so sure.

Mary K. said...

Clea - There are many problems with the idea of a mandatory spay/neuter law. You don't have the space on your blog for all that I could write, so I'll try to stick to the high points.

To start, studies have proven that 87% to 95% of "owned" cats are already altered. Think about that for a minute - 87% to 95% of "owned" cats are already altered! This comes from surveys conducted in such places as San Diego, Santa Clara, and others. I could give a very long list of surveys if you had space. Now what this means for our discussion is that if the vast majority of owned cats are already altered, then where are the cats in shelters coming from? Until that question can be answered, what good will a mandatory spay/neuter law do?

Laws are obeyed (or sometimes ignored) by people. The only animals that a mandatory s/n law can possibly apply to are the ones that are owned by people, because there is nobody to obey the law for the unowned animals. If 87% to 95% of owned cats are already altered, then a mandatory s/n law for cats will have practically no affect on shelter numbers.

The cats in shelters come from a variety of sources. Check out
this site for the top ten reasons that people (owners) turn over cats to shelters. That's not the top ten sources of cats in shelters, but just the top ten reasons owners turn cats into shelters. There is a difference which I'll get to in a minute. Of those ten reasons, only one could possibly be affected by a mandatory s/n law. However, even that one reason won't cause a significant difference.

The predominant way that people acquire cats is as strays (33%). Many strays are simply fed by a family until the family starts really caring for the cat, and in that pre-owning time, the cat can easily become pregnant. This happened to me when I lived with my parents. I started feeding a stray kitten, we thought she was 6 or 7 months old and were going to catch her and spay her. But she became pregnant before we could. We did find homes for the kittens and kept her inside until we could spay her. But the source of #6 ( No homes for littermates ) is quite possibly strays who give birth before they can be spayed.

And now to the real problem - the major source of cats in shelters is feral and unowned cats. There is no one to force to alter these animals with a mandatory law because they have no owners!

So if the major source of cats in shelters is from unowned cats or from those ten reasons for relinquishment, a mandatory spay/neuter law will have ZERO affect on shelter statistics. This has been proven time and time again in jurisdictions that have tried such a law.

Someone might ask, well what's the harm in just trying the ban? Sometimes a bad law is worse than doing nothing. Let's think about Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is held up as an example by the supporters of Califorinia's AB 1634, a law to mandate spay/neuter statewide. But, Santa Cruz is far from a success. In 1995, Santa Cruz County in
California passed a mandatory spay/neuter law with enforcement. The year it passed, the shelters reported an
intake of dogs of about 2700. Two years later, shelter intake of dogs climbed to nearly 4500. Rather than
comply with the law, people were relinquishing their dogs. After the county stopped enforcing the law, the
intake rate went back to what it was before passing the law. If you would like to see more about Santa Cruz, visit this site.

So what can be done for those animals in shelters? There are solutions! First, the rate of shelter intakes has been dropping dramatically over the past few decades as people learn more and more about spay/neuter. We can prod that along with more education and voluntary low cost or free spay/neuter programs. The people who do not already spay/neuter their pets are probably low income people who just can't afford to. If you have 4 kids and $200 a week for food, and it would cost $150 to spay the family cat (which is what my vet normally charges), guess what! The kids get fed and the cat gets pregnant. So we need to work on giving people the opportunity at an affordable price to alter their pets. Programs targetted for low income areas, or areas that seem to contribute most to shelters, will work.

Next, TNR! Trap-neuter-return. Feral colonies exist for a reason - there is a food source that draws them. Remove the feral colonies and rats and vermin will take over. So rather than round-up-and-kill crusades that fill shelters with unadoptable feral cats, counties and cities need to try TNR. Alley Cat Allies has more information on this.

In sum, a mandatory spay/neuter law will not affect shelter statistics because 87% to 95% of owned cats area already altered. Education and low cost spay/neuter directed at the source of a shelter's intake will reduce that shelter intake. And TNR for feral cat colonies will reduce the unowned cats in shelters. These methods will work much better than a mandatory law directed at the wrong source!

I could write so much more, but this is already longer than most people will read, so thanks for the opportunity to respond!

Mary Kolencik
Secretary of United Colorpoint Shorthair Fanciers and Vice President of Siamese Alliance of America, both CFA clubs

mema said...

Ladies & Gentleman,
You have all written great information~!
I applaud all of you that care about ALL animals~!

BUT your "caring" about ALL Animals is what is the AR's are against.

"REDUCING DEATHS & DOLLARS" is the label on AB1634.
when in fact it will actually have unexpected consequences:

Now I know that all of you who have animals at home don't want to see:

"The law of unintended consequences"
California Citizens will face a $500. fine or make a decision: (a) pay $100-$200 to alter [S/N] each of their intact-animals or (b) pay $100 to $200 for a "intact-animal permit for each of their animals [IF OFFERED] or (c) will be Dumping them in the neighborhood, beside the road, or at the Shelters. Especially if they are too many, too old, too large, too noisy, too energetic, too dirty, too aggressive, too shy. Because of less local breeders, the public will buy imported [out of country or out of state] animals which will not have the health guarantees that locally-bred animals came with; history proves that many of imports will likely be unhealthy -unsociable & end up dumped at the shelters. Imported/Smuggled animals bring unknown characteristics & illness with them and the owners will have little recourse but to dump them.
With more & more animals ending up dumped into the Shelters, there will be many more animals killed in those shelters. Feral cats will still be the majority of animals killed in the owner there. Irresponsible owners will still dump their animals because of the many excused they make up. There are studies that show the reasons that people give for DUMPING their animals at the shelters and now the fear of not beeing able to comply with AB1634 will increase the animals DUMPED at the Shelters.
Having more regulations to enforce there will be much larger staff & facilities to handle the amounts of dumped animals. There will be more office costs to develop & handle the mandated legislation & ordinance paperwork for each citizen who owns an intact-animal. The criminal background check alone will bring the system to a grinding halt. California has a two year back-log for "licensing" background checks. All Foster homes & Rescue groups cannot continue under this legislation.

What makes us think that AC is going to be doing a better job of gathering animals that are allowed to roam. Or check for citizen's paperwork?
Citizens who are trying to fly under the radar of AB1634 will avoid going to the Vets to get their animals Rabies shots/ Vets will have their records connected to the County License-Reporting Service: PetData exchange. Citizens will avoid getting their animals licensed for the same reason. If CA citizens enter into the system at any point they will have to comply with the prohibitive-restrictive local-ordinances created to meet AB1634.
Animals raised in family homes are raised in a friendly atmosphere that socializes them. These family pets are bred for their robust physical & mental health. Animals that are bred and raise in a assembly line type atmosphere are not tested for genetic health or graded for their congenital problems, they are treated as a product. Certain dog & cat "Types" need to be raised with their parent to learn their "trade", like hunting, sledding, herding which they miss when mass produced. Mass produced animals never get that kind of development.

Reducing the gene pools of the purebred [or mix-breed] "Type" animals is very dangerous because any "Type" soon begins to experience health problems that cannot be overcome, causing that "Type" of animal become extinct. Now if that "type" happens to be the guide dog "Type" or K-9 dog "Type" or search & rescue dog "Type" think how that would affect the whole community, county & State? What if it was the herding dog "Type" that the rancher/farmer uses each day? What if it is the hunting dog "Type" that has become part of the family that hunts to fill the family freezer?

Remember those EFFECTS and repeat them over & in your letters~!

AB 1634 will not significantly lower shelter numbers, it will not lower
sheltering costs, it will cost the state millions in lost tourism
dollars and lost volunteer services which are now contributed by the
organized dog and cat enthusiasts who belong to California dog and cat
clubs. It will eliminate all rescue & foster groups immediately.

After carefully studying all the amendments to AB 1634, we still
finds this bill to be fundamentally flawed and we remain opposed to
it in the June 27th amended form.
It will not accomplish its stated goals, which are already being
achieved statewide without invasive mandates requiring pet owners to
have surgery performed on their pets. Although we have always been a
long-term advocate of neutering pets, we oppose this bill because it robs dog and
cat owners of the ability to make the critically important decision
about whether and when to have surgery performed on their pet and
abrogates this decision to the government.

Margaret [mema] Messer Quick
"Keep your PAWS off my cats" !!
Member of CFA Manx Breed Council
Secretary of American Manx Club
Editor of the AMC MANX TALES
mail to :
"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: MUSIC & CATS."
Albert Schweitzer

"If all the animals were gone, man would die from a loneliness of spirit" Chief Seattle

So my suggestion is to contact your CA Senate & Assembly Members with letters & faxes & phone calls & visits to their local office/staff with your OPPOSITION to AB1634~!
Please telephone and fax your opposition statements ASAP to the
following the Local Government Committee members:

Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-32, Chair)

Senator Dave Cox (R-1, Vice Chair)

Senator Tom Harman (R-35)

Senator Christine Kehoe (D-39)

Senator Michael Machado (D-5)

Last Name, First Party Office Fax
Area Counties / Cities in District

KEHOE, CHRISTINE D 916-651-403, 916-327-2188 (FAX)
SanDiego San Diego (p) San Diego, Del Mar, Lemon Grove

MACHADO, MIKE D 916-651-4005, 916-323-2304 (FAX)
Linden Sacramento (p), San Joaquin (p), Solano (p), Yolo
Davis, Fairfield, Manteca, Stockton, Tracy, Vacaville, West Sacramento

NEGRETE MCLEOD, GLORIA D 916-651-4032, 916-445-0128 (FAX)
Chino Los Angeles (p), San Bernardino (p) Colton, Fontana, Montclair,
Ontario, Pomona, Rialto, San Bernardino

HARMAN, TOM R 916-651-4035, 916-445-9263 (FAX)
Orange Orange(p) Costa Mesa, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove,
Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Westminister

COX DAVE R 916-651-4001, 916-324-2680 (FAX)
Fair Oaks Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Mono,
Placer(p), Plumas, Sacramento(p), Sierra, Auburn, Elk Grove, Fair
Oaks, Folsom, Galt, Mammoth Lakes, Orangevale, Placerville, Rancho
Cordova, Roseville, Sacramento, Shingle Springs, South Lake Tahoe,
Susanville, Truckee, Valley Springs

Also send your opposition letters to your Senator, whether they are
on this committee or not. If you do not know who your Senator is,
please go to: