What if We All Neutered Our Pets Today?

I no longer believe in the concept of “pet overpopulation” in this country. That myth has been debunked to my satisfaction by Nathan Winograd. But setting that aside, let’s say for the sake of discussion that there are – if not a surplus of pets, at least way too many being killed in animal shelters. It’s good to have a general agreement on what the problem is when considering possible solutions. So let’s consider this guy’s idea, which is not his alone, but rather one shared by many people concerned about pets being killed in shelters:

The Executive Director of what is now the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia in Gainesville says he would support a law requiring cat and dog owners to spay and neuter their pets.

As regular readers know, I do not support mandatory spay-neuter laws in any way, shape or form. But again, for discussion purposes, let’s give the proposal a whirl.

So we all spay and neuter our pets. Well hold on a sec actually because I could not afford to spay and neuter all of mine at once. And there are most likely many others like me. So will there suddenly be funding for low cost spay-neuter services everywhere they are needed, especially in rural areas of the South for owners like me? That seems hard to believe since, if funding were available, wouldn’t we have low cost spay-neuter services available everywhere already? But let’s just say that all the needed neuter clinics appear magically throughout the U.S. Further, let’s set aside the concerns about vaccinations (mandatory or owner discretion?), individuals with medical concerns (senior pets, anesthesia sensitivity, etc.), transportation (how do I get my pets to and from the clinic?) and any other potential conflicts. We’ll just make this happen.

So now we’ve all got our pets neutered. But wait – is it reasonable to assume that every single pet owner complied? Probably not. People who rely on selling puppies and kittens as a means of income may not be willing to give up their livelihoods and in fact, unscrupulous individuals may see a black market developing for their product. Other owners may be involved with criminal activities involving their dogs and cats (dogfighting, crush videos) and may intend to continue but even if they were willing to abandon their practices, they likely wouldn’t want to come forward to have any official records created on their animals.

In my estimation, we’d still have black market entrepreneurs and other criminals with intact dogs and cats. Then there are the strays, reproducing at will all over the country. Stray dogs and cats, lacking in socialization and definitely going without health screening or even basic health care. Litters born under abandoned trailers in the cold and the wet. Those lucky enough to survive spend their lives evading animal control, scrounging for scraps, and reproducing at will.

Back at home, 10 years into the future, all my pets will have died. And so will everyone else’s who complied with the MSN law. But we really want to have pets. Veterans and other individuals need service dogs to assist them in day to day life. Farmers need stock dogs. Families need companion animals. Etc. What are we to do?

We can try to trap and domesticate a stray dog or cat. That may or may not work out so well, especially if our needs are for a particular type of pet. And if we successfully catch and tame a stray pet, the animal will need to undergo training for the work we require him to perform. He may or may not be physically and mentally suited for this training. If we get lucky and all goes well, we can hope that he is able to provide several years of service/companionship but of course he’d have to be neutered, leaving us stranded in the same boat eventually.

Alternately, to find a pet of a specific type, with predictable behavior and aptitude, we could seek out a criminal. Because those are the only people with intact pets who would be breeding anymore in this country. Again, that may or may not work out so well and probably isn’t worth the risk.

Finally we might have the option of importing a pet from a foreign country. But surely foreign breeders will seize the opportunity to make financial and other demands on U.S. buyers, since the market will bear it. And some breeders will not sell stock to a country where sterilization is mandatory. The average pet owner will most likely be unable to import a pet. Perhaps U.S. shelters will import pets from foreign sources – strays rounded up off the streets or taken from shelters. Will these pets be well cared for in transit and what will the cost be to adopt these precious few available pets? If we look at how American consumers have historically fared when we’ve relied upon foreign products, we could get a glimpse into how the foreign pet trade might look.

So where are we in 10 years if we pass mandatory neuter laws all over the U.S.? We can have a pet, provided we’re skilled in trapping and taming strays, willing to buy from a criminal and hope we don’t get caught, or wealthy enough to import a pet. These unlikely and undesirable options will not apply to the average pet owner though. The average pet owner will be a thing of the past – not in 1000 years or 100 years but in 10 years.

There is another approach to tackling the problem of killing shelter pets. It makes sense and allows all of us to keep owning pets for as long as we can do it responsibly. No Kill now.

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