Discussion: Tell Me How MSN Could Work

I have voiced my opposition to mandatory spay-neuter (MSN) laws many times but to recap, they don’t work.  MSN has never significantly reduced or ended the killing of shelter pets anywhere it’s been tried.  In some places, killing increased after MSN was enacted.  It’s a proven failure.

Yet there are still many animal advocates who believe that MSN will end shelter pet killing and so keep working to get it passed in more areas.  Here is an open forum to discuss MSN.  In practice, it’s never worked.  But in theory, how do you believe MSN could work to end the killing in shelters?  I will respond to all reasonable claims of how MSN could theoretically lead to no kill (if anyone offers any, that is).  Also, if you live in an area that already has MSN, please share how it has affected killing at your local shelter.

23 thoughts on “Discussion: Tell Me How MSN Could Work

  1. I think a lot of people give up their pets under the MSN law because they can’t afford to have them S/N. If bills pass for MSN then the cities should offer FREE S/N to anyone to anyone who makes an appt. at their vet. A voucher, so to speak that the city would then reimburse to the vet. Just a thought.

  2. I’m against MSN and I don’t think it would ever work. With MSN you just punish people that don’t have a lot of money and in the end the animals. People will continue breeding animals in their backyard. After all, drugs are illegal too and millions of people use them ;-)

  3. I personally believe that MSN, at it’s best, would also include education, outreach, and a plethora of low cost spay/neuter services in order to help people comply. It would then have to be compassionately enforced so that people who were non-compliant were a) helped to comply and b) not allow owners to be punished through their pets.

    Even then I think it could be problematic.

    At its worst, there would be no affordable way to comply and/or pets would be seized (and killed) for non compliance leading to increased shelter kill rates.

    The reality is that having the education, outreach and plethora of low cost spay/neuter services works great on its own, without any law and without any kickback. It’s proven to do so. So there is no need for the law when the best case scenerio is the same with or without the law, and the worst case scenerio is very bad.

    I live in Kansas City, MO, which instituted breed-specific MSN in 2006, leading to the killing of more than 4,000 additional pit bull type dogs (an 89% increase) over the next 4 years than had numbers remained static. During the same time period, impound and kill rates of all other types of dogs declined as low cost spay/neuter without the the law worked to minimize numbers.

    1. I agree that at its best, it would still be problematic. What sort of manpower would be needed to knock on every door in KC, MO to check for compliance? Because obviously they couldn’t just call people up or rely on them to tick the COMPLIANCE box on their dog license application. They would have to go door to door. And when they finished (if ever), they’d need to go back to the beginning and start all over b/c homes that were previously without pets may have since gotten one and other homes may have added new pets since the last compliance check.

      1. And what would happen when they came to a farm, and all the kitties go scooting off in a corn field, and the farmer looks at them and says “They ain’t my cats.” It’s impossible to enforce. Give people an affordable option, and tell them why it is important, and the majority will do it. The others may have a good reason for not doing it. They may plan to show, or (thoughtfully and deliberately) breed their pet. They may have concerns about the health of their pet. Honestly, if you don’t want dogs to breed, it is very easy to prevent. They give you plenty of warning as to what is going on before they are fertile, and you just keep them confined for the crucial time period. Cats are another story. They are such prolific breeders, it’s really best to have them altered unless there is a good reason not to. Once again, though, if you tell people why they should, and make it convenient and affordable to do it, almost everyone will w/o there being a law telling them to. A law would just result in those cats being killed, if they ended up at AC, because where ever there is a law, there is a fine to go w/ it.,

    2. I’ve been thinking about this over night, and I agree with Brent – the same factors that might make mandatory spay/neuter viable will work just fine without such a law. And then I thought – IF the intent is to increase spay/neuter rates within the community.

      I don’t think this is the case. I think these laws are actually intended to be tools with which to coerce, control and punish pet owners, and the pets themselves, they’re just so much collateral damage. Why else have no provision for them, other than taking them up into shelter systems everyone knows will likely kill them?

  4. It could work to reduce killing, sure. If we get say, a genetically modified virus that is airborne and super aggressive and acts to sterilize any cat or dog that comes in contact with it. We spray that over an area night and day for a month and there, you’re good to go. Sorry responsible breeders, you got hit, too…

    Seriously, you want it to work? You need to make it valuable to people. Not just something they have to pay for, something they get something out of it (besides “not punishment” for compliance). Education is part of this, but I think it has to go further for many – maybe a bounty on body parts? Pay everyone $10 for every animal they bring in? Like a gun buyback program…

      1. None. I mean, what’s better – if your pet is neutered, you get a discount on your license or if your pet is intact, your pet gets confiscated and killed? If you have the latter, people simply won’t license. If you have the former, you have incentive.

        Make s/n attractive, of value, and give people the means to do it. Build it and they will come.

  5. I think the primary problem with MSN legislation isn’t that the mechanism isn’t worked out. It’s that the set of assumptions that support the idea is flawed. If there were significant numbers of people a) deliberately not altering their owned animals, regardless of the means to do so, b) allowing those animals to reproduce, and c) abandoning those animals, then a well-crafted, well-executed law might be one tool in the arsenal.

    As I understand it, those conditions do not exist. Most people are altering their owned animals unless they can’t afford to do so. Of those who don’t, many are responsible people who are not allowing their animals to reproduce (e.g., an elderly man I spoke with while working in a vet hospital who said people kept pressuring him to spay a 17-year-old dog who had never been pregnant and was geriatric.) Most of those who are allowing their animals to reproduce are producing the next generation of their own pet family or sharing “good stock” with neighbors.

    The majority of cats and dogs I saw in the shelter where I worked were out-of-control teenagers that their owners had not trained properly, elderly or sick dogs that the owners didn’t want to care for anymore, pets displaced by foreclosure, allergy, or military service. None of this would be cured by mandatory spay/neuter.

    MSN is also a round-the-bend, weak tool for dealing with criminals who are breeding for dog fighting. That seems a problem better addressed by police than by the ACO citing people for intact pit bulls.

    1. Yah, that. MSN doesn’t do a thing to the puppy mills (at best they move, at worst they jump the hoops to get the permits needed). Dog fighting isn’t about the dogs being bred, though they do so, so MSN doesn’t affect them at all, after all they’re already breaking the law, why should they care if they’re looking at another slap on the wrist.

  6. Mandatory means fines & fees & folks choosing their money over their “pets”. Mandatory means government intrusion.

    Sapay & neutering is great & I fully believe it’s the thing to do, but “mandatory” is not nice & will cause the death of many more pets as well as trouble to many people. And that will make ME sad.

  7. When the idea of MSN came up locally about four years ago I wondered if it might not be a good idea. However, after researching the subject and documenting all the statistics I could find, I became convinced that it had already been proven not to work. I fail to see how anyone who bothers to research what is known about it could come to any different conclusion.

    One of the most convincing articles against MSN that I read at that time was written by an animal law coalition attorney and shared in a news forum on the Best Friends website. It contained a number of statistics. While I saved almost the entire text of it, I have been unable to locate it on the web for about three years. It would be a very interesting project to revisit all the programs mentioned in the article to see how they stand now – I wish I had the time and the means to update it.

  8. Well, I challenged my FB friends who believe in MSN to come here and defend it. I don’t see them speaking up. Maybe they’ve finally seen the error of their ways. Or maybe they read that the two easiest ways to get unfriended by me is to support PETA or MSN and they’re just keeping quiet.

    And Brent-this comment is spot on: “The reality is that having the education, outreach and plethora of low cost spay/neuter services works great on its own, without any law and without any kickback. It’s proven to do so. So there is no need for the law when the best case scenerio is the same with or without the law, and the worst case scenerio is very bad.”

  9. MSN could work. If you lived in a society based on the belief that the government, in it’s paternal wisdom, knows best and that you should always do what the state tells you to do. AND everyone in the society was wealthy enough to get their pets fixed immediately.

  10. Sterilization is a major surgery that has very serious consequences for the animal. Most spay/neuter advocates only list the positives, BUT there are very serious negatives as well. This is a medical decision I make for my animals based on their individual circumstances. A neuter for my dog may cost 1-2 hundred dollars, but is it worth the increased risk of a cruciate ligament tear that costs at least $3,000 a knee in a large breed dog? What about the increased risk of incontinence in spayed female dogs? How many owners would be willing to keep a dog that is physically incapable of not peeing everywhere? The state has no business making heath decisions for my dog.



    MSN “solves” the overpopulation problem like BSL “solves” the dog bite problem. The answer to both is education and access to resources.

  11. China has had something sorta equivalent to MSN for humans for decades.

    So we should be more like China. Then it would “work.” Just as “well” as it does in China.

  12. If the shelter does not have room for all the pets or if they get ill-have the cough or are hw+, it will kill them whether they are spayed and neutered or not!

  13. Where did all the MSN supporters go? LOL

    And no one posted “If you can’t afford to have your pet s/n, then you shouldn’t have one”?

    Someone has this saying for sale on items in an online store:

    “If you can’t afford the vet, you can’t afford the pet”

    – – – – –

    Hope you can do some posts on the history, reasoning and research about other parts of L.E.S. that Ryan Clinton talks about. http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=6472

    Where is there any proof that pet limits achieve whatever it is they’re designed to do?

    Does a city have the right to tell registered and approved rescue groups how many pets their volunteers can foster?

    Calgary and some other cities say that property standards laws and animal care standards, not pet limits, are what needs to be enforced. A short video where Bill Bruce explains ineffective laws.

  14. I believe mandatory spay-neuter would work if people complied. As to “punishment”, there should be low-cost/free spay/neuter programs available in areas where mandatory spay-neuter laws are enacted. There are always going to be people who don’t comply, no matter what, so I think there will still always be a ready supply of dogs/cats/rabbits, etc. available to those who want pets. I think the horrific overpopulation of pets in this country, and pets who are cast aside without a thought would be lessened if there was mandatory spay-neuter in most areas.

    I believe education is key (why is mandatory spay-neutering of pets a good idea) and will help people to understand their responsibility regarding their pets (by having to take the pet to the vet in order to have the procedure, the pet can also be assessed and the owner can be apprised of their pet’s health and perhaps be urged to give them better quality food, flea medication, etc.) in a much more conscious way, instead of just taking a dog or cat on a whim, which would be beneficial to pets. I think it would make it a lot harder to throw a cat out the door when you’re tired of it, or to leave a dog behind when you move, if you’ve had to take responsibility for having the animal fixed, have had to help them during their convalescent time, etc.

    I don’t think mandatory spay-neuter should be used as an excuse to seize dogs/cats, etc., and/or put them to sleep. If an owner cannot or will not comply, they should have redress through the courts. If they can come up with a compelling argument why they don’t want to have the animal fixed, then that can be hashed out legally. I don’t think it’s fair to let an owner “buy off” an official to leave their pet intact. I think the mandatory spay-neuter laws should be equally applied to all, taking into consideration the person’s income, and by supplying low-cost or free spay-neutering for those who need it.

    I think if an animal is taken from an owner simply because they refuse to have the animal fixed (and the court shoots them down), then the animal should be held until a new owner can be found, and while in a shelter should be fixed so the new owner doesn’t have to deal with this dilemma. I also think low-cost/no-cost spay-neuter should be provided in areas where mandory spay-neuter is in force.

    This is my 2 cents.

  15. MSN wont stop shelters from killing animals for whatever slight reason they believe to be a problem (look at what happened in Austin where 15 or more animals were killed). MSN wont stop puppy mills at all, they already dont care about the law to begin with. The only thing that S/Ning every animal everywhere would do is eliminate companion animals.

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