Why champions of mandatory desexing are either ignorant or deceitful (redux)

August 23, 2018

This is an update on an article written in 2013...

But it's back...

The idea that refuses to die, but oh my gosh can it kill. So here we go...

Why champions of mandatory desexing (spay/neuter) are either ignorant or deceitful (redux)

There is universal opposition to mandatory desexing laws among national animal-welfare organisations who have spent time to empirically study such laws’ effects. Indeed, given the frequent hostility between national animal-welfare organisations, the universal opposition to mandatory desexing is telling. 

Practically all No Kill organisations (groups who are meeting No Kill goals and advocating for improvements across the board) are AGAINST mandatory desexing laws, for one reason and one reason only – because in execution, they fail in their aims and drive up shelter kill rates.

 The No Kill and animal welfare organisations against such laws include:

– Fix Austin - Why We Join the National Consensus Against Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws

Every single data-based study of mandatory spay/neuter laws has demonstrated that such laws do not increase spay-neuter compliance rates, nor do they reduce shelter intake, nor are they cost-effective, nor do they save lives. In fact, the opposite is true: in community after community that has passed a mandatory spay/neuter law, shelter killing and intake actually increase because in poor communities, families who cannot afford the money or time to have their pets surgically altered are forced to surrender their pets (or the pets are seized). These pets are quickly replaced in the communities with additional unaltered animals, creating an enhanced cycle of killing. These laws do not work, have never worked in any community, and will not work.

– No Kill Houston - Mandatory Spay/Neuter laws cause kill rates to rise

Punitive legislation such as mandatory spay/neuter laws, leash laws and pet limit laws do not stop shelter killing.  In fact, these laws empower animal control facilities to confiscate and kill more animals... which causes kill rates to rise.

– The ASPCA - Position Statement on Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws

However, the ASPCA is not aware of any credible evidence demonstrating a statistically significant enhancement in the reduction of shelter intake or euthanasia as a result of the implementation of a mandatory spay/neuter law of general application to all owned animals within a community. Indeed, mandating spay and neuter for owned pets can have the unintended consequences of increasing shelter intake and impeding the return of strays to their owners when the costs associated with spay and neuter are prohibitive.

– Alley Cat Allies - Missing the Target: Mandatory Spay/Neuter Legislation Fails to Reach Most Intact Cats

In addition to being ineffective, MSN imposes a financial burden on taxpayers and existing government budgets. MSN attempts to increase the spay/neuter rate by imposing penalties on pet owners. Generally, punishment is the most costly way to accomplish any legislative goal. In the case of MSN, government agencies – and the taxpayers who fund them – may incur the expenses of monitoring owner compliance, issuing citations, collecting fines, or participating in court proceedings for disputed  citations. Tax dollars, in other words, would be used largely for administrative activities and not on actual spay/neuter programs.

MSN is counterproductive; it spends limited public resources on administrative expenses instead of on spay/neuter programs.

– American Veterinary Medical Association - Mandatory spay/neuter a bad idea

The AVMA does not support regulations or legislation mandating spay/neuter of privately owned, non-shelter dogs and cats. Although spaying and neutering helps control dog and cat populations, mandatory approaches may contribute to pet owners avoiding licensing, rabies vaccination and veterinary care for their pets, and may have other unintended consequences.

Mandating spay/neuter can increase canine, feline, and zoonotic disease risks because some people will attempt to avoid detection of their unaltered pets by failing to seek veterinary care.

– the No Kill Advocacy Center - The dark side of mandatory neuter laws; why punitive legislation fails

Legislation is often thought of as a quick solution to high rates of shelter killing. “If only we had a law,” the argument goes, “all the bad, irresponsible people would have to take care of their pets properly, and shelters wouldn’t have to kill so many animals.” If this were true, given the proliferation of punitive mandates nationwide, there should be many No Kill communities. That there are not, is because experience has proven that legislation is far from a cure-all. In fact, it often has the opposite effect. Communities that have passed such laws are not only far from No Kill, many are moving in the opposite direction.

At a time when shelters are killing the majority of animals they are taking in, they are successfully seeking legislation which gives them authority to impound even more animals. Since they claim they have little choice but to kill most animals, the animals now in violation of a new law or ordinance have little hope of getting out alive. It is hardly surprising that many jurisdictions actually see impound and kill rates increase after passage of these laws.

– both the American College of Theriogenologists and the Society for Theriogenology (which are the two groups of veterinarian specialists in spaying and neutering) Basis for Position on Mandatory Spay-Neuter in the Canine and Feline

The ACT and SFT do not believe that mandatory spay/neuter programs will significantly reduce the pet overpopulation problems, since most animals that are abandoned are relinquished because of behavior, health, economic and life changing conditions and not due to their reproductive status. In fact, in some European Union countries where gonadectomy is illegal unless deemed medically necessary (such as Norway) there are no significant problems with pet overpopulation, indicating that the pet overpopulation problem that exists in the United States is due to cultural differences on the importance of pets, the responsibility of pet owners, and the ability of the government and national agencies to properly educate the public. Although both organizations believe that most companion animals should be spayed or neutered, the ACT and SFT also strongly believe that it is not in the best interest of the animals to produce legislation regarding medical treatments, Therefore, both organizations oppose mandatory spay/neuter programs.

– National Animal Interest Alliance - Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws a Misguided Approach to Stabilizing Pet Populations

NAIA opposes mandatory sterilization and other coercive "spay or pay" licensing schemes because these approaches have little effect on reducing shelter intake and euthanasia rates while producing serious unintended consequences.

– Locally, Australian Veterinary Association

The AVA is strongly supportive of desexing dogs and cats as an important way of reducing the number of unwanted pets, improving the health of individual animals, and reducing problems caused by animals in communities. At the same time, our policy on desexing points out that mandatory desexing of animals has not proven an effective strategy for reducing the number of unwanted companion animals. Mandatory desexing of owned animals also doesn’t account for the impact of semi-owned, stray and feral animals in pet overpopulation. Money and effort spent on promoting and enforcing mandatory desexing would be more usefully expended elsewhere.

Our local RSPCA gave a presentation back in 2013...

... entitled 'Dispelling the myth that mandatory desexing doesn’t help with cat overpopulation'. It gave the following evidence for the benefits of these laws.

Despite giving a presentation on mandatory desexing, and with literally hundreds of examples of cities who had passed it, the RSPCA wasn't able to find a single example where the legislation had succeed in its aim to reduce shelter killing.

But that doesn't stop them beating this drum. This week the RSPCA Victoria has launched a new campaign and I'm not even kidding.

They provide absolutely no information on why they think they will be the exception to the failed legislation rule. Nor why they think its a good idea for the state government to invest in new laws and law enforcement rather than proven program which support owners make responsible choices.

If saving pets in shelters were as simple as ‘passing a law’, then we would have literally thousands of empty shelters by now. But we don’t. And it’s because to achieve the aim of a humane community, we must inspire and engage the community to behave how we need them to and support them with the tools to act.

Some people promoting mandatory desexing are doing so because they really, really, really want to help pets and simply haven’t looked at any data. Others are deliberately continuing to push the notion that these kinds of laws can be successful – but no one else in the world has implemented them in just the right fashion – simply because they want it to be true and/or are committed to the lie.

Is the RSPCA ignorant, or deceitful? After so many years to have had the opportunity to research proven programs, we can only assume deceitful.

More reading

– Ten years of mandatory desexing fails to decrease cat numbers (ACT) – Saving Pets

What are mandatory desexing advocates lobbying for really? – Saving Pets (Article #1 | Article #2)

– Dogged blog; Mandatory spay/neuter: Sacrificing animal lives to ideology

If you investigate those communities that have succeeded or failed in ending the killing of homeless pets, or are very close to succeeding, you'll see a clear pattern. None of the successful communities have mandatory spay/neuter laws in place. They have a similar set of programs -- low cost or free spay/neuter, trap-neuter-return for feral cats, foster programs, thriving volunteer programs, and a great relationship with rescue groups, local businesses, and the regular members of their community.

– KC Dog Blog – Expert opposition to Mandatory Spay/Neuter

It's an ideal that has failed repeatedly in actual practice -- so much so that respected national organizations now almost unanimously oppose mandatory spay/neuter (MSN) laws.

– Fix Austin – With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies (or, on Mandatory Spay-Neuter Laws)

Why animal advocates should never, ever, advocate for mandatory spay-neuter laws: They do not work, they have never worked, they increase shelter killing, and they divert limited funding away from programs that actually do work to decrease shelter intake and increase lives saved.

– There is nothing “progressive” about mandatory spay/neuter – Christie Keith

– Is compulsory desexing ethical? – Saving Pets

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