The Biggest Animal Welfare Myth in the South

Ever since relocating to South Carolina many years ago, and particularly since becoming an advocate for shelter pets throughout the south, I have heard the same myth repeated ad nauseum by shelter staff, volunteers and advocates in general:  The reason our shelters kill so many pets is because we don’t have strong mandatory spay-neuter (MSN) laws like they do in the north where pet overpopulation is no longer a problem.  This is false.  It is not true.  It is false and untrue and wrong on so many levels, I want to scream every time I hear it.

Let me break it down:

1. Pet overpopulation is a myth.  Do the math.  There are enough homes for every shelter pet in this country.

2.  MSN laws are not the answer to ending the killing of healthy/treatable pets in shelters.  The No Kill Equation is the only set of programs proven to end the killing of healthy/treatable shelter pets, as evidenced by the dozens of no kill communities all over the U.S.  There are some cities and counties throughout the U.S. which have MSN but in every case, the law has failed to stem the tide of shelter pet impounds and killing.  MSN sacrifices pets’ lives to ideology.  MSN does not reduce/eliminate shelter pet killing and it’s failed everywhere it’s been enacted.  Some examples:

  • The city of Los Angeles enacted MSN in 2008 and after the first year, shelter intake and killings were up.  Killings increased after the second year as well.  The third year was yet another failure.
  • Intakes and killings increased in Las Vegas after the city enacted MSN in 2010.
  • When CA was considering statewide MSN legislation in 2007, the past president of the California Veterinary Medical Association wrote a lengthy letter to the Board detailing his opposition.
  • Killings and costs both went up in King Co, WA after MSN was passed in 1992.

As a result, most every major animal welfare group in the country opposes MSN.  That list includes:

3.  The reason shelter pets are being sent to the landfill in the south at such an astonishing rate is because shelter directors are killing them.  To imply that pet owners in the south are too irresponsible to neuter their pets is not only untrue, it’s insulting.  We have rampant poverty here in the south and a wide range of problems that accompany it.  Pet owners here are similar to those in other parts of the country – some irresponsible but most trying to do right by their pets.  We are lacking in access to low/no cost neuter services, transportation and community outreach.  Implementing a law requiring owners to neuter their dogs and cats does nothing to address those problems.

4.  Northern states do not have MSN laws requiring all owners to have their dogs and cats neutered – in fact, no state in the country has such a law.

Rhode Island legislated MSN for all cats over the age of 6 months in 2006.  The annual permit to keep an intact cat costs $100 and does not allow the animal to be bred.  The breeder’s permit costs $200 a year and there are additional requirements regarding vaccinations and care.  Violators face fines of $75 per month.  I have been unable to find any statistical information to show what, if any, effect the law has had on the number of cats being impounded and killed by RI shelters.  If anyone has any data for RI shelters to share, please leave a comment.  In the absence of any proclamations to the contrary, I think it’s reasonable to guess that RI has not become a no kill state for cats since MSN was passed.

In 1996, Camden, New Jersey enacted MSN requiring a $500 permit for anyone who kept an intact pet over the age of 6 months.  The annual permit fee is currently $100 and intact animals must meet other requirements, such as annual vaccinations, in order to be approved each year.  Anyone who hasn’t bought the permit and whose dog or cat has a litter is required to surrender the litter at the age of 8 weeks to the pound and have the mother spayed within 10 weeks.  The state of New Jersey has annual stats posted online for animal intake and disposition, broken down by county.  The reports start in 2004 and I looked at Camden Co’s numbers for each year available.  Intakes are generally trending up – 7464 dogs and cats impounded in 2004, 12,716 in 2009.  Camden Co’s kill rate in 2004 was 27% and in 2009 it was 26%.  By comparison, the statewide average kill rate in 2004 was 43% but down to 34% in 2009.  While Camden Co’s kill rate was consistently lower than the statewide average in the years 2004 through 2009, the question must be asked:  Why is Camden Co impounding so many more animals than in 2004 but failing to reduce its kill rate in keeping with the rest of the state?  Camden has MSN, the rest of the state does not.  Further, Camden Co has failed to match the lifesaving success rates of 90% or better achieved in dozens of communities around the country – none of which have MSN.

Contrary to the claim made by a SC rescue group on this page, the state of NH does not have a mandatory spay-neuter law (nor do I know of any city or county within the state that has MSN).  It does have an Animal Population Control (APC) program which offers assistance to pet owners who meet certain income guidelines and want to have their pets neutered.  Owners of intact dogs pay an extra $2.50 for their licenses (over the license fee for neutered dogs) and that money goes toward the APC program.  The voluntary program has resulted in a dramatic decrease in shelter animal killings and has saved taxpayers money.  A couple of noteworthy items:  NH has the lowest poverty rate in the country.  And while NH does have a very low kill rate, shelter pets are still killed throughout the state.

Dog at Vance Co Animal Control in Henderson, NC, as posted on Facebook.

We pet owners in the south are not bad people.  Please stop blaming us for shelter pet killing.  Stereotypes and insults do not save pets’ lives.  The programs of the No Kill Equation do.  If southern shelters would stop blaming the public long enough to check the facts, they would see that the public is part of the solution to the problem.  We can help network, foster and adopt pets.  We can get our pets neutered if given the means to do so.  We can volunteer at and donate to our local shelters.  But we’re not going to do any of those things if we are constantly demonized by our neighbors in the animal welfare community.  You’re driving us away with your myths and your blame and your pet killing.  Your way isn’t working.  Why not try something new?  Preferably, something real and proven.

66 thoughts on “The Biggest Animal Welfare Myth in the South

  1. No one even bothered to pull the ticks off of that poor dog? He’s clearly saying, “Help!”

    Amen to the MSN rant. MSN is a political thing, to make (uninformed) people think that someone is taking action to help animals. That’s all it is. It is not “the answer” or even “an answer” to reducing kill rates.

    Education, low cost/free s/n (and ACCESS TO IT – ever try to take a dog on the bus?) these are what we need.

  2. Amen here, too. I would add that animal shelters are a field in which all stereotypes are confounded. Contrary to their image, the biggest, most respected names in animal protection support needless shelter killing. Contrary to their reputation, conservatives care every bit as much as liberals about their pets. Contrary to the belief of many liberals, unions are not always a positive force. And, of course, contrary to what all of us hoped, shelter workers do not always care about animals.

    This post goes alongside John Sibley’s recent “The Myth I Hate the Most” (nobody wants to kill) as one of the great debunking pieces I’ve seen.

  3. No MSN here in upstate NY either. The license for my intact dogs cost an extra $10 over the cost of the basic license for each dog. Not excessive at all. Though I’ll admit I do’t know our kill rates. If that info is publicly availible where would I find it? A basic google search didn’t turn up anything.

    1. Some shelters have their stats on their websites. Most don’t. If it’s a municipal facility, you can file a FOIA request for the stats.

      1. Thank you both. They’re not obviously on the website, so I’ll do some digging and go from there.

  4. Well done, Shirley. Once again, you’ve shed light on the flaws in the “arguments” put forward by those who (for reasons I can’t quite grasp) prefer to continue the killing.

    TNR opponents often play the MSN card, betraying either their ignorance (as you note, MSN is unlikely to make a difference for “unowned” cats) or lack of integrity (i.e., an eagerness to mislead the mainstream media and general public).

    Thank you for pointing out that this NOT the reasonable position it’s typically made out to be.

    Peter J. Wolf

  5. I totally agree with all you have written, Biscuit, especially the myths about Spay & Neuter. It helps but does not cure the problem since, I agree, there are more than enough homes in this country to house and be loving human parents to every stray dog & shelter dog in these killing facilities. BIGGEST PROBLEM IS THE KILLERS ARE NOT REALLY WORKING TO GET HOMES FOR THESE ANIMALS, PERIOD!

    Example is I just reposted the JUNE 11TH NO-KILL DAY for shelters and did so 2 days ago on the PETS PAGE of TUCSON Craigslist where most rescues and Tucson’s Pima Animal Control Center places ads for dogs. No one from the rescues or the PACC has acknowledged the ad nor the event that is so important & I even placed a large lettered note that I hope PACC takes part of this event. No, nothing indicating any applying themselves to this. THEY ARE A KILL SHELTER WHO FOLLOWS THEIR OWN SET OF RULES BEYOND THE ARIZONA STATUTES (& I am beginning to believe that all of these KILL SHELTERS across the country think they are the Law and above documented Laws. ) which both makes me sad and disgusted, especially when a dog catcher thinks they can entice to catch fenced dogs or stalk properties in the middle of the night causing animals to become defensive on their watch… One day I pray these facilites will be closed for good and a NO-KILL Sanctuary or more crops up in this vast western state with much open land to house something so worthwhile. A sanctuary who opens its gates to all animals, even finds from the roads that are dumped, or to every breed of dog even those on the “hunted” lists who are really placed there wrongly if anyone knows anything about those breeds…

    Mainly I am referring to “Pitbulls” and here is a great website to learn more about them & realize a bully is not really a bully..

    Most of what is being said about Pitbulls is from media hysteria and pure bull! And I can attest to that bullpuckie…


    I’d also like to copy something here from the PetPitbull Inspiration Page and truer words were never truthfully composed…
    Pit Bulls’ views on life

    Never pretend to be something you’re not. Everyone knows you are a 70 pound lap dog, so don’t pretend that you are not.

    If you have a stick in your mouth, you automatically switch to super overdrive, and will be compelled to run around like you are insane…

    If your people won’t let you on the bed, cry, whine and look pathetic until they do, and if they don’t, jump directly on vulnerable parts when they are sleeping.

    Be excessive, if they ask you to get a stick, bring back a tree, if they ask for a kiss, drench their face.

    If someone seems to not want to be friends, follow them around, stare at them, bark at them, cry, and if they are sitting, sit directly on them, and kiss them until they can’t breath.

    Always sit where everyone is, and if they are in the same place, like the couch or bed, make sure to plop yourself in between them, and DO NOT MOVE.

    If they try to move you, be stubborn, dig in your heels, and if they do move you, refer to number 3.

    If you want to add a little excitement to your life…chase something, the cat, squirrels, raccoons, see how your people come running and yelling. I have found that porcupines and skunks work exceptionally well, but don’t ever catch them, or you’ll end up in the bath tub or the vet’s.

    If you want to add a little excitement to your life…chase something, the cat, squirrels, raccoons, see how your people come running and yelling. I have found that porcupines and skunks work exceptionally well, but don’t ever catch them, or you’ll end up in the bath tub!

    Baths are always bad, unless someone is already in there, or it’s with the hose or the water gun they think is punishment.

    Act as silly as you can when you do something wrong, and you should get away with it. The trick is to make them laugh…

    Work that tongue of yours…let them come close enough and then surprise them with a lick “snake’s style” right on the mouth!

    Make sure to always go for the most comfortable couch in the house… even if it is already occupied. Same thing goes for your favorite lap.

    When it’s in your best interest, always practice obedience, keeping a keen eye on the hand that holds the treat, unless there is something more interesting within 100 yards, then ignore everyone and focus entirely on the more interesting person/dog/thing to the point of reaching a trance state.

    Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy and prompt you to produce copious amounts of drool to leave on all interior car windows.

    Never miss the opportunity to cuddle with a loved one …


    Or the Inspiration written by an UNKNOWN AUTHOR which shows the feelings a Pitbull very well may feel…. But, I, myself, have seen when a pitbull is scolded for a wrongdoing, the hurt in their eyes for this clown of the canine world lives to please their human parents, nothing more!!!!

    Pit Bulls Don’t Cry

    I see the children in the lane

    They look like friends, we’ll have a game

    They’ve got a stick, oh boy, what fun

    They’ll throw it for me and I’ll run

    But someone stops me,

    I wonder why their mother screams?

    Don’t go near those horrid dogs, come here, come close

    They’re dangerous – I’ll tell you why

    They bite children and they die!

    All I can do is watch and sigh

    Cause now I know that Pit Bulls don’t cry

    Mom cuddles me up and says “My pet,

    We love you dearly so don’t you fret”

    But I love everyone out there

    Why can’t they love me? I do care

    I wish they weren’t made to pass me by

    I’m a Pit Bull, I don’t cry

    I sit behind my padlocked gate

    From early morn til quite late

    When I go out it’s quite late

    When I go out it’s on a lead

    Is mine the only heart to bleed?

    I’m held in check as the world goes by

    I wish the Pit Bull heart could cry

    There are some dogs, and also men

    Who cannot tell a foe from a friend

    So all of us must bear the blame

    Expected to live a life of shame

    Condemned, alas and we know not why

    All we know is we will not cry!

    -Author Unknown

  6. There actually should be a NO KILL Rate if you want to clear up the Bad Pet Owners stigma… I lived down south many years ago & many folks think the woods belong to them to allow their dogs to roam free, thus indicating pet neglect. Also indicating that these poor dogs are likely to be hurt by wildlife, run overby a vehicle when it emerges from the woods far from its home or picked up by the local Killer Pound in their areas…

    And ticks are a common problem in such wooded areas, so, of course the dogs become infested. Yes, ticks are all over the country. But one can cheaply protect animals from infestation with monthly applications even of over the counter products for ticks and fleas… But is is sad when a Killer Shelter cares not to take the vermin off the dogs at the facility. Is it they do not care cause they are not going to attempt to find their owners or they are not going to do their best to adopt these dogs out to loving folks because their main intent is to KILL and nothing more?????

  7. Even Pima Animal Control in Tucson, AZ. treats ticks of captured dogs. Now how they do it I do not condone for it is dangerous to the animal, but again, they do not care, they are just making an appearance that they care…

    The facility has this huge square vat like pool that is really filty as if they never change the water and vermin killing chemicals… A dog catcher takes the newly arrived dog to that vat on a oop pole, dragged is more like it, the dog is guided down the ramp by the loop, no human touch to sooth the frightened animal. It does not matter to the dog catcher or other authorities if the dog is tick/flea free, in they go, and probably get ticks from the unclean vat… As the dog is lowered into the vat, the dog catcher uses the loop pole to dunk the dog’s head a few times under the water, no indication of some salve or whatever to protect the animal’s eyes or its nostrils or any care if the dog may be allergic to the vat content…

    All KILLING FACILITIES, even the one here, are ill run with yahoos working at it that have no care, no love of, or knowledge of breeds, so too often dogs are cast as the wrong breed on the Pound Paperwork that could very well put all the dogs in line for the lethal injection… As far as any vet at a KILLER SHELTER, lowest of the low and most are really unqualified to diagnose a cold never mind anything major. They do not treat a dog for simple ills that can be treated or controlled by medication cause the Kill Facility will not put out a dime to save a dog’s life or keep it well… Instead, if it has Tick Fever, Valley Fever (prevalent in SW Areas and everyone, even humans, who lives here has some strain of it, but normally not terminal), or Heartworm, the dog is marked for exercution instead of allowing all rescues the real say in who lives and dies, PACC decides who gets rescued, not the rescues & sometimes they are out to rescue on a limited visa to be adopted, if the time is up, the rescues allow the Killer Facility to get the dog back cuse it is also being housed at the facility instead of being outright pulled from the facility to be in the complete control of the rescue. Most of the rescues here have nothing but foster pet parents and no sanctuary shelter to house such “saved” anmals. Now whether this is a rule to not have such sanctuaries made by the Kill Shelter I do not know, but it does seem odd that most rescues keep their “rescues” at the Killer Facility where mistakes can be made and the animal on the save list is killed…

  8. Some “shelters” may have a webpage on Facebook, but PACC here in Tucson, Pima County, AZ. has nowhere for folks to comment… Like most Kill Facilities, they simply do not care that their killing is not condoned… The word “Shelter” means protection, so how wrongly to call Killer Facilities as Shelters… And Sanctuaries are a forever home if no adoptable home available, not kill cause a animal is there too long & hasn’t been adopted by a certain time…

  9. I am in Ohio and I do not know of any mandatory spay/neuter laws. I believe some counties have it for dogs adopted from shelters. Some cities/counties do charge more for intact dogs for a license but that is about it. In my county it costs $4.00 more for intact dogs. One can get an exception for the following: dogs under 9 months, advanced in years or medical condition-vet cert required, used for breeding or show-proof required, and hunting-license required.

    I get ticked off over the hours that many of these shelters are open. Many are not open on Saturdays nor open after 4 or 5 in the afternoon during the week. How can someone rescue an animal without having to take off work!

    It would also be helpful in the South to have low cost vet clinics for heartworm testing/medication and flea/tick prevention. Some vets do not carry the generic brand of hw medication which would save pet owners money!

  10. Very well said. I’ve encountered people spouting this myth, myself. Ask them to back up what they are saying, and they either grow very quiet, or realize they were speaking of laws requiring that all shelter pets be altered before adoption. I loved this- “MSN sacrifices pets’ lives to ideology.” For those who have already researched MSN, that really says it all.
    Here is a link for a spay/neuter group people may want to check out, and support. When I was thinking of starting our group here in MD, I wrote to them asking for advice to get started, and they were sooo helpful. They suggested the “transportation help” idea to me, and I couldn’t believe I had not thought of that myself. If you like this group on FB, they have these little monthly fundraiser auctions on there, where you just bid under the picture. It’s a fun way to support their good work.

  11. The key is not mandatory laws – I despise mandatory laws – because it criminalizes people who may simply not have the money for a procedure. I don’t buy into the rhetoric that “if you can’t afford to spay them you should not have them” either. What I do believe works is low cost spay/neuter! That is the missing key in many places in the “south”. When I worked at a shelter, I have saw that if vouchers are available to help people, they will come for them and get their pets altered.

    The key is low cost spay/neuter, helping people get to the clinics when they can’t, making the clinics convienient in their times and locations, and education. (Have I seen those thing listed somewhere – was it the No Kill Equation perhaps?)

    1. When a neighbor moved and left a mama dog behind, I inquired about getting a spay-neuter voucher from my local shelter. They told me that they didn’t have any currently because anytime they are lucky enough to get the vouchers, they fly out the door in the blink of an eye. And yet this is the same shelter that lobbies for MSN. It makes no sense. They can see with their own eyes how desperate people are to be able to get their pets neutered at an affordable rate, that there isn’t enough access to this service and yet they want to say that owners here are too irresponsible to get their pets fixed so we should make it a law. I. WANT. TO. SCREAM.

      Incidentally, for anyone who finds themselves in a similar predicament, I ended up taking the dog to be spayed at my regular vet and she gave me a significant discount (without my asking) simply because this dog was a stray. It was certainly appreciated! Maybe your regular vet might offer a similar discount? Can’t hurt to inquire.

  12. As someone who watches cragslist in New Enlgand for pets up for adoption all the time (ie at least daily) I can tell you that the one state in New England with the mandatory alter/breeder law is RI and once again this year the one state that has the absolute most ‘free’ kittens or kittens for sale is RI – given that it is the smallest state and has the most stringent laws this is pretty interesting to me. I see in other states here such a shortage of kittens the shelters are talking about how to make even more money by importing kittens (they already make a lot on dogs one local shelter for just one year showing $190,000 in profits on dogs from just one state on their 990 form) and ‘free’ kittens now cost (with no shots or anything other than the mother’s care) $25 on up as demand is so high.

  13. How applicapable- I just received a call from our AC- a couple had just brought in 4 “feral?” kittens about 8 weeks old. AC said they would be killed they didn’t want them killed. I told AC I have no place for them but we can get them S/N and Vaccinated for $15 and then return them. It’s not their cats they say so why should they spend any money.
    While I support the No-Kill equation principals, there is not a one size fits all solution. There are many issues in communities that have to be resolved-
    And while theoretically it is “Not the Publics fault” it basically is when they are the ones electing County Commissioners who put animal life so low on the funding as to be Non Existent. Where they are not even funding AC enough to even supply Food and AC must beg for donated food.
    So please -Best Friends, Nathan, ACA – I love you guys but our reality on the ground doesn’t always fit.
    An example I use, Years ago i used to work in a State Peogram for runaways- State law mandated that every child must be reunited with their family unless they committed a crime which then they would be sent to “juvie”. I had an eleven year old girl that was being sexually molested by her father. I had to return that child to her family while an investigation ensued against her father who was allowed to remain in the home. Now how do you think that played out!! One size does not fit all!!!!!

    1. Your local AC facility has to beg for food? Let me guess, they always have money for Fatal Plus, right? No begging for that? If the priorities of the pound revolve around catch and kill, the reality will always be exactly that, especially with animal advocates apologizing for them.

  14. Our AC got a grant for free S/N for dogs- they have issued 40 vouchers where the people have not Followed thru- and they can’t get the grant used up- they are advertising in both English and Spanish- in the free Penny Saver- flyers at churches- and businesses.
    The natl kill rare is 11.6 ours is 194.4

    1. 40 people cared enough about wanting to get their pets neutered that they got vouchers. When they didn’t follow though, did AC find out why? Was transportation assistance offered? Is it one of those “free” vouchers where the people have to come up with the cash for vax and heartworm tests?

  15. I am not apologizing for them or advocating for them- I was just presenting facts. We have a elected officials that will not fund AC but will put out millions to buy land to put into “conservation”- we already have 38% of the county in conservation. Every “contract” with the Trust for Public Lands has a clause that states all cat must be trapped and killed- we have lost several Vetted Colonies that we used our limited resources on -killed. So yes they are going to make sure they have fatal plus- its their agenda to kill animals – and this is the goverent that was elected by the people -who basically don’t give a you know what-for if they did it would be different outcome. Not much different than Memphis except where I live it is the third poorest county in the State and the powers that be like it that way- poor people don’t raise a stink.

  16. Shirley – just want to make one minor correction to the section of your blog re Camden County, NJ. Only the city of Camden has MSN – the rest of Camden County does not. Not sure if this will affect your analysis of the stats but thought I’d let you know.

      1. Here’s a link to the actual legislation: I volunteered with the county animal shelter for four years. There are several groups concentrating on high-volume, low-cost spay neuter in Camden County, notably the Camden County Animal Shelter – I helped get their clinic up and running :-)

    1. Thank you! They stayed up for so long, I guess I got fooled into thinking they’d be there forever. Sorry to see them go since I have linked to many great pieces there but very glad they are available elsewhere. I’ll update the link in the post.

  17. For the record Shirley, I respectfully disagree with Nathan and with you when you talk about the myth of pet overpopulation.. What aren’t these households adopting now ? Shelters stink and they are loud scary prisons. They are for animal control and killing, not adoptions. Making pretty cells and big lobbies is not the answer either. We also disagree on a key issue. You say top stick to something real and proven in an attempt to discount the “Shelter Revolution” , although the planned Rehab and group living is already common all over the world in rescues. EVERY known plan allows for the killing of animals The “unadoptable” 10% . This is planned failure. NO Killing should mean NO killing and not a terrible isolated life in a cage WE CAN save them all if we really try. Private adoption centers featuring communal living, allow for continued socialization and getting them ready for adoption as soon as they come in the door and get through medical and behavior evals. YOu need to look for something that is NOT being done now Shirley, if you really want to accomplish this goal. The Adoption “LIVING” centers as described in words & videos at http://www.Shelter We will get these animals MARKETED and ADOPTED. This is HOW we really get NO KILL – and then we can end the Pet Overpopulation you say does not exist. Tell the 6-8 million dogs and cats we are killing they have a good home waiting .

    1. I say the same to you as I do to everyone who comments as you did regard “pet overpopulation”: Show me how the math is wrong.

      Your statement explaining my motivation – “You say top stick to something real and proven in an attempt to discount the “Shelter Revolution” , although the planned Rehab and group living is already common all over the world in rescues.” is false and baseless. The truth is I recommend shelters follow a “real and proven” model in order to have their best chance at success. I have always been open to hearing about any other models proven to create sustainable no kill communities. If there could be more than one successful model to point shelters to, all the better. As it stands, I am aware only of one successful set of programs: the No Kill Equation.

      Also this sentence: “EVERY known plan allows for the killing of animals The “unadoptable” 10% .” is false. I have made my position on killing clear many times on this blog and no regular readers could possibly believe I support arbitrarily killing 10% of animals in a shelter. You are probably not a regular reader since you only post under a fictitious name, inconsistently, and always in order to plug a website. So I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you have missed every post and comment I’ve ever made clarifying my position on shelter pet killing. You can find my view clarified here:

  18. I live in “the South” and know for a fact that the MSN is not the answer. If we are prepared to enact punitive legislation, that means we are prepared to expend funds enforcing it. If we are prepared to spend money punishing people, why not use those same funds to either subsidize spay/neuter or just make it free? I mean really – what’s the point of threatening people and making them “go underground” with unaltered animals? It makes no sense at all.

    I’m in a very progressive city and am trying very hard to bring no kill to my area. That doesn’t mean I don’t see my share of the bad. Dogs chained 24/7/365. Dogs allowed to run at large as if this is 1850 and there is no 18-wheeler traffic. But I also see my share of people who genuinely love animals and see themselves as stewards of the creatures we have domesticate. There are many ways to help people learn about issues and help them do the right thing and MSN is not the answer.

    1. Thank you bamabrie, i was thinking much of this myself. We who live in the “south” are not all bad. Many of us are fighting for animals lives to be made better – But mandatory laws are NOT NOT NOT (how many times can I repeat it?) the answer. All mandatory laws due is place undue financial burden on cash strapped individuals and make criminals out of those people by creating an arbitrary law. Its ilke when they inacted cat licensing here – so one day, a person is a “responsible pet owner” – the next day, when the law goes in place, if they don’t license their cat, they are a law breaker and called “irresponsible”!!! Same concept – these laws just make criminals out of people.

      What helps is the proven formula of the no kill movement – low cost or free spay/neuter, accessible services, support for people, and education! AND if places enact msn, they darn well should have a plan in place to help people get their pets altered. But I am sure what happens instead, is more effort is put into separating people from their pets through the legal system. Why does the thought of having an arrest record due to your dogs “balls” being intact, seem a little ridiculous.

      And while i am on my soap box, why aren’t shelter and animal control required to have all the animals fixed prior to adoption? It again, seems like the public is being painted as bad guys, and the animal control is not being held to the same standard. (I know different areas have different laws, and this may just be the norm for here in WV)

  19. “Is it one of those “free” vouchers where the people have to come up with the cash for vax and heartworm tests”

    Actually, it is common practice for dogs to be tested for heartworms before being put under for anesthesia, as having the heart compromised by a parasite infestation raises the risk of complications and death during surgery. Additional information can be found here:

    1. That was not my question Cristy. My question was about whether people were required to pay for these services in order to take advantage of the “free” service. I asked b/c this is a possible obstacle for poor people being able to get their pets neutered with a “free” voucher.

  20. After Numerous Phone Calls to Every State about their Shelter Systems – There is One State that has Mandatory Spay and Neuter Laws – The State of Maine – They also Said even with these Laws in Place – They Still have an Animal Over Population Problem

    1. Annie, I’m not disputing that you were told Maine has MSN, but I have just read Maine’s animal welfare statutes and there is no mandatory spay/neuter provision among them. There is a STATE dog licensing program, administered by municipalities, that requires a $5 differential for dogs that have been s/n and those that are “capable of producing young” (over 6 months and with no veterinary documentation of sterilization). If Maine was the only state claiming to have a mandatory spay/neuter law, then the total of such states would be zero.

      Maine has a low-cost s/n program with vouchers to pay most of the cost for those who meet income guidelines. The fund is out of money now, but expects a refill. More power to them.

  21. I completely agree with this post. All MSN does is paint the public out to be the “bad guys who dont do what they are supposed to”, even if its for financial reasons. Also, if everyone S/Ned their dog, there would be no animals left. This is not the answer when it comes to shelter leaders who just dont care. It doesnt change/solve anything.

  22. As an Animal Control Director at my second facility in middle Tennessee – I can tell you that many of the comments above and the comments written in the article are simplistic. Let me start with #3 – the reason is “because shelter directors are killing them.” Give me a break. How dare you or Nathan or anyone put this stuff up like it’s fact everywhere. I’m in Animal Control because I love animals and I want to change things. NOT to kill animals. My first facility had an over 80% kill rate for 6 years. In 10 months I was doing nearly everything in Nathan’s books BEFORE even reading them. We became an 80% placement facility in 10 months. At my second facility – and the problems and the numbers are literally 5 times the size. And – in 6 months we’ve dropped the euthanasia rate from the decade long 92% to 80% and trying damned hard to keep it there and make progress. It’s all fine, well, and good for you to say that it’s insulting to say that the south won’t spay and neuter…but I live this everyday. 7,000 unwanted animas per year impounded – 50% of them dumped by people who refuse to spay and neuter – and refuse to even vaccinate for Rabies. Our bite cases are 92% NO RABIES VAX animals. We offer help and low cost options and STILL the citizens refuse. Nearly everyday we have atleast one citizen state “You wouldn’t do that to your husband would you?” In regard to neutering. You can’t legistlate morality – but you certainly can make the fine fit the crime. If you get a speeding ticket the penalties are far worse than for starving or beating an animal. YES change can come and animal’s lives can be saved – but do you have a CLUE on what kind of infrastructure it takes to make this happen? People surrounding me complain all day long about what we should be doing – but where are these people when there’s work to be done? Where’s the funding when the Commission votes NO to it? OF COURSE more animals could be placed!!!! But where are the transports, and the rescues and adoption facilities in other states to take our animals? I can tell you that there is NO WAY to adopt ourselves out of these 7,000 unwanted animals a year in this very SAME community. As far as spay and neuter – we have a mobile unit come to our county every month. It’s FREE!!!! Yes that’s right – and people don’t even show up for their appointments. It rains and they don’t come. It’s cold and they don’t come. So the simplistic attitudes may work in some areas who have a large group of people who care – but we’re certainly not here – YET.

    1. wow, my heart goes out to you in having to deal with the public that doesn’t care, major frustration and hopelessness. For people in my close circle, spaying and neutering is a given. If we could get it free, that would be so awesome. I honestly don’t know what you can do to change people so they would make the effort and go to the mobile unit. We have to stigmatize owning an intact pet like we did smoking.
      As I write that I am thinking that there are still a lot of smokers out there, but thankfully less. Somehow not taking responsibility for your pet’s reproductive life has to be frowned on in the general public. We need to make it be cool to spay and neuter! It has nothing to do with MSN or the price of a dog license. Its peer pressure possibly, but it won’t be easy in some social groups!!!

    2. Karen, I just checked your petfinder listings and see that you only have 43 animals listed there. But at 7000 per year you are taking in about 134 per week. Why only 43 listed animals? Thanks for your reply.

  23. In my area of the South, we are doomed to failure.

    No mandatory spay/neuter? We’re required by state law to spay/neuter what we adopt out. And it’s a big sticking point with potential adopters, because most of them want their male dogs whole and their female dogs to have puppies. Should we be working toward changing state law?

    The lowest we can get spay/neuter of dogs over 30 lbs, which is most of them, is around $70. Between that and shots, even if we don’t HW test or microchip, we can’t break even without charging $90 or more for a dog adoption. Don’t get me started on the cats, with the additional testing and vaccinations.

    I guess that means we need donations just to subsidize ALL the dog adoptions? Because we can’t compete with the vast numbers of Free To Good Home dogs and puppies that are always available here, charging $90-100 or whatever.

    We can’t get the local shelter to allow expanded hours run by volunteers.

    It’s hopeless.

  24. I live in South Carolina and volunteer with several rescue organizations.


    Just because there are X number of households within a region doesn’t mean that all, or most, or even half are homes that would welcome a pet. Friends from up North tell me that they are shocked by the sheer numbers of people in SC that dislike cats in particular. People poison and shoot ferals all the time. When local animal welfare groups try to do trap-neuter-return, we are met with extreme hostility (even threats of being arrested) by property owners and municipalities that prefer lethal solutions.

    Rescues all over the state implemented many of the No Kill Equation ideas like fostering programs, community education, etc. 20 years ago, and sadly they haven’t had nearly the impact on the overpopulation problem that we imagined.

    My county euthanizes 10,000 cats and dogs on average every year, and the shelter director certainly doesn’t enjoy killing them. Around 14,000 cats and dogs in all get turned in per year…what county facility could physically house that many animals as a no-kill shelter? There is no choice for Animal Control officers as long as a shocking number of local residents remain indifferent about spay/neuter in spite of 4 low-cost s/n clinics in the region.

    I am weary from begging people to foster or adopt just to remove the tame strays from our feral colonies. I offer completely vetted cats for free and will to transport them up to 100 miles away, but there are way more cats than people willing to give them homes.

    That is overpopulation, plain and simple. It’s a sad reality, but denying it and then making simplistic statements like “pet overpopulation is a myth” is irresponsible. It undermines the efforts of local animal welfare organizations who so desperately try to emphasize the importance of spay/neuter in the battle against overpopulation. And let’s face it–the educational level is still very low in the South. I know. I’m a SC college instructor, and many of our students enter community colleges with less than 8th grade reading skills and very little comprehension of social problems.

    1. You mention poor reading skills but your entire comment is reflective of a failure to comprehend the subject matter of the post. Please re-read to find the answers you seek.

    2. I live in Ohio and receive a daily e-mail for animals needing rescue from SC shelters from a rescue group. I saw an older purebred hound breed dog along with an elderly mix of the same breed that were turned in together to a shelter. I searched the internet and sent an e-mail to a breed rescue member who lived in SC. The rescue took both of them and the purebred was returned to the breeder. The rescue was appreciative in knowing these dogs were there as no one had contacted it before I did. I doubt these dogs would have been adopted or rescued by an all-breed group because of their age. Some of these shelter animals can be rescued by networking. I do not rescue the breed in question but do rescue a hound breed.

  25. The “answers” are all fine and dandy, but implementing them on a large scale in the South has not been–and maybe never will be–realistic. There is such widespread resistance to s/n. I hear constantly that it’s cruel, unnatural, etc.

    As far as MSN laws in the South—some shelter directors are convinced they should be part of equation. I don’t think these laws would do the harm some claim because animal control officers are too overwhelmed to actually enforce them. I’m guessing most people would just ignore them.

    Someone here posted that shelters should allow adoption of intact animals. That’s insane. Has she really taken a good look at the kind of people seeking intact pets? They are usually lowlifes who want to breed fighting dogs or pet hoarders who enjoy having a house full of neverending litters of kittens and puppies.

    Just yesterday I encountered a rather dim young woman who was calling rescues and answering Craigslist ads looking for an unspayed calico. She said she wanted to keep breeding the calico in hopes that a rare male calico would “come out.” She actually believed she could sell a male calico for $10,000.

    I don’t pretend to know the answers when it comes to the South. Laws, s/n clinics, and PSA’s don’t seem to be changing culture. It’s depressing. I do think the very best idea in No-Kill is getting compassionate shelter directors. Too many seem so hardened and it rubs off on their employees. I dream of the day I could talk to an animal control officer around here who didn’t view cats and dogs as disposable.

    But in the end, the problem with statements like “pet overpopulation is a myth” and “there are plenty of homes for them” is that they are misleading and can harm our cause. Very few people around here (surprisingly even those in rescue groups) have ever heard of Nathan Winograd. Those who have won’t read his book because of what they feel is a ludicrous premise. What bothers me most is that the general public can casually come across statements like these in google searches and take them at face value, thus feeling it’s okay to let their mutt have dozens of puppies or that poor calico have a 100 kittens.

  26. With all the RICH southern folk living in those Southern states…why is it that none of them do anything to help(donate etc.) their local so called Animal Shelters??? I live in the Pacific Northwest…and I haven’t heard of any mandatory Spay/Neuter bill here! Who the hell started that rumor?? The animals in our shelters come altered already..and that is what we pay for with the adoption fees.

  27. I am a volunteer in the animal sheltering system here in the mythical north.. the shelter I volunteer for has a fabulous adoption rate and does everything ‘right’ including promoting spay neuter extensively for years.

    That being said, finding adopters is not easy. Every day there are pleas from every corner of the state from pet owners who need to rehome their pets, and they are unable to find homes. Other shelters do not have such success and are only unburdened when winter comes and we no longer have the influx of pets that happens in the spring and summer.

    if there REALLY is the demand that these people who say over population is a myth says there is, why are there not people banging on doors to adopt pets. Why are there not posts on board BEGGING for pets? No shelter kills a pet because they want to, they do it because they don’t have the money to care for the pets let alone the ones coming in tomorrow that they have to legally keep for x amount of days. No-Kill shelters are for the most part closed admission shelters and can pick and choose which highly adoptable animals they want to take. Yes, some are more open than others, but getting a spot in them can be quite hard… if it were not than they are at risk of becoming hoarding situations VERY quickly.

    I will believe we can become a no kill nation when we become a no child left behind nation.. when we end childhood poverty and homelessness.

    To state so bluntly saying they are killing when there are homes is just cruel. to tell or even imply that we shouldn’t be supporting the living daylights out of our open admission (aka kill) shelters simply perpetuates the problem. If open admission shelters had the money they could do so much more, but they don’t, and they won’t with this kind of talk.

  28. We can re-home and spay/neuter etc ’til we are blue in the face. But we will never find homes for all the lonely furry babies until puppy mills are regulated. We euthanize millions of pets every year, and the mills a”produce” millions more. This must stop!

  29. I am often educated, and always encouraged, by your blog, But, you guessed it, I disagree with one small point today.

    I have lived in King County, Washington since 1989, and in 1994, I wrote an article about the spay neuter ordinance for my local community paper.

    The number of dogs killed by King County Animal Control fell by 50% in the first year after Mandatory Spay Neuter. The numbers available to me at the time verified this claim. Also, everyone I knew started noticing that there were many fewer stray dogs.

    King County, before massive budget cuts in the last decade was very progressive for a massive shelter in one of the largest counties in the US. They were friendly to rescue. If your stray dog had tags, King County Animal Control would try to reunite you and your dog before they took it to the shelter–yes, BEFORE!

    Between 1989 when I first bought a house and could thus have a dog, and 1995 when I became disabled, I brought a total of 38 dogs home.

    I found many more than that, but if they had tags, and I could reunite them with their owners, I did not keep track of them. I could call King County Animal control 24 hours per day and they would give the me owner’s first name and telephone number. I returned countless dogs to their owners. As Ken Foster noted in his book, The Dogs Who Found Me (a 2006 award winning book), most people just do not see stray dogs. I was one of the people that did. I do not know why, I just know that I would see some poor dog, and whomever I was with did not see the dog. I would think I was hallucinating, but after I pointed the dog out to my companion, then they could see the dog too and we would either take the dog home or rescue him/her.

    I found dogs all the time! There were strays everywhere.I went.

    After Mandatory spay neuter went into effect, I found many fewer dogs. Everyone I knew in rescue noticed the change. Financially, the country was stable at that time, so there was not the problem of people no longer being able to afford pets.

    In the early 1980’s, when I first became aware of the problem (but had no home or money or time to help), more animals were being killed in the shelter system despite there being fewer people and fewer pets in the US. It’s hard to say exactly how many, but as this document shows, be even conservative estimates it was many more animals than are being euthanized today despite there being about 34% more people. There are 315 million people in the US now and in 1984, there were 235 million. and US census data.

    However, I totally agree that Mandatory spay neuter far from the only thing required to reduce kill rates.

    This country has been in a severe recession, which seems to me to be the primary cause of animal homelessness—people can no longer afford their pets. 2008 is the year the recession started, so I do not think 2008 is a good year to assess the effectiveness of a particular spay neuter law–especially if there were budget cuts at the local shelter.

    Also, I am leary of anything the NAIA says. The National Animal Interest Alliance is a front group for industry groups and both show and research dog breeders that support the use of animals in laboratory and other research, and who actively oppose all animal welfare laws.

    1. Ruby, your experience with MSN is unusual. Unique, even.

      I must assume that there were other factors at play in your county – either an excellent s/n program or enough income that people could afford s/n or something else entirely. I say this because everywhere else it’s been tried MSN leads to an INCREASE in shelter killing, not a decrease.

      Looking at the timing of your living there, I also wonder if you were on the cusp of what we now know to be true – the vast majority of people who can afford to get their pets s/n, do. And that the biggest impediment to s/n is affordability/access to services.

      1. I would appreciate some research that is not supported by gorups like NAIA or other front groups of the animal use industries. Frankly, I haven’t been able to find any information except for the anti MSN put out by groups with a financial interest in stray dogs and cats being abundant and cheap.

        I also do not understand the either/or nature of this argument. MSN works; it’s just not the entire solution. No one solution is.

        I do not think that the people being able to afford to get their pets spayed suddenly started doing this. As an ardent animal rescuer, I continue to have trouble getting people to spay and neuter. Now, I just do it. If the rescue with whom I work can pay for it, they do. If they cannot, I do it.

        King County, and before it, Snohomish county almost 20 years ago, made spay neuter mandatory, but it was available cheaply before that. People just didn’t get around to it.

        I see these memes go around the internet for which I cannot find any facts. MSN laws having no effect is one of those memes–so far.

        A big problem is that for the last 30 years more and more of our academic research has been paid for by huge corporations. Vioxx was ruled safe by a panel of doctors, almost all of whom had ties to the company making the drug. Since there was virtually no federal funding available for research, the only way to do research on VIOXX was to get the money from the company. Thousands of people died due to the bias of the research. It is truly important to know who is funding the research before you can believe the conclusions.

        Cell phone radiation is another good example. There was some concern a few years ago about cell phone radiation. Within a few months, there were dozens of news stories saying that some studies showed negative effects of cell phones, but a slightly greater number showed no problem. Then an investigative reporter investigated the results: All the studies indicating cell phone radiaton to be harmful were not industry-funded. All the studies indicating no harm in cell phone radiation were funded by the industry.

        Given that there are industries that have such a strong financial interest in an abundant supply of dogs and cats that are available for little money, I need strong evidence that something as logical as spay/neuter does not work at all. Before MSN went into effect, the supply of homelss pets was so large that the vast majority of people could not imagine reducing that supply. When confronted with such a huge problem most people give up–it’s hopless.

        So they give up trying to protect the millions and millions of animals that are used in horrible ways by animal use industry, a free hand in abusing animals for profit, I need strong evidence that MSN doesn’t work because cutting off the supply is such an obvious and easy step to take. It wasn’t until the supply of puppies was reduced about 20 years ago the rescue of older dogs and adult dogs became more popular. Now, that is just a correlation. I haven’t seen any evidence to show cause and effect.

        I do not work for a shelter, nor a humane society and I never have. I’m a medical doctor who has always worked in disadvantaged communities. I’m just a person who hates to see animals suffer. But I’m also a person who has studied statistics and seen the horrible effects of not using scientifically sound information to make decisions.

      2. I lived in Snohomish Co and never heard anything about MSN. I had to buy licenses each year for my pets and there was never anything on the license renewals about MSN. I did rescue work and visited shelters regularly. I never heard anything about MSN there either.

        I will turn your question around: Do you have any evidence that MSN works that is not put out by killing apologists?

  30. some shelters charge so much to get a pet that if you are not way above poverty level you cannot afford the pet. In Delhi, NY a cat costs $75 to adopt, it is spayed and has its shots but most people can’t afford that for a cat. Some shelters charge as much as $250 for a dog, spayed, shots but that is also way out there. If they calculate how much they spend on each pet per month, they should give them away for free so they do not invest a lot of money into each animal prior to adopting them out. I calculated that for feeding and care of even one worker, a cat would be worth about $700 to the shelter after 30 days.

    1. If they can’t afford the $75 or $250 to adopt they don’t have the financial resources to own a pet. What will happen to the free pet when it gets sick or needs annual shots? Sent packing? No care? Also if the shelter doesn’t do spay/neuter it’s a pretty good guess the adopter who can’t afford the $75 kitty isn’t going to do it and then we are just back at square one. Pets breeding out of control and animals running loose getting hurt and starving. 75 or 250$ is cheap to get all vet care and neuter done!!

      1. I totally agree with you Sharyn. If you can’t afford the apron fees, how can you afford to care for a pet!!!! No spaying and neutering your pets is nothing but irresponsible!!!!

  31. the “south” you mean this south called Atlanta where dogs are “overpopulated”? This “south” where imported “Turkey puppies” are 800 dollars? and I mean FROM Turkey not pups sold at Thanksgiving!)
    That south.. yea they need MSN because if they had it then they could charge even more. There is NO pet overpopulation when this happens or this:
    Adoption Fees:
    VIP (very important pets) – varying adoption fees
    Puppies & Dogs:
    2 months to 5 months: $350
    5 months to 8 months: $300
    8 months to 3 years: $230
    ( I always wonder how shelters that “import” dogs every day like this one in Maine know when a dog turns three or 5 months when they have to put them”on sale”) Where does this shelter get its dogs ( and cats they IMPORT CATS)?

    “PORTSMOUTH – More than 50 puppies, KITTENS and adult dogs and CATS had to be rescued Thursday afternoon after a van carrying the animals to a shelter in Maine overturned on Interstate 95 near the Portsmouth Traffic Circle.
    The animals were being transferred from a shelter in Tennessee to the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston, Maine.
    Zachary Black, manager of operations at the Maine shelter, said there were approximately 55 animals on board at the time and all were in crates.”

    and yet you have people in Maine saying this:
    “There is One State that has Mandatory Spay and Neuter Laws – The State of Maine – They also Said even with these Laws in Place – They Still have an Animal Over Population Problem” two lies in one sentence.. wow.

  32. If a pet owner or (gasp!!) a breeder facility had a photo like that (ticks on the dog, poop in the run) the pitchforks and torches crowd would be calling for their heads on a stake. But I guess this is just one more thing the $helter Pet $tore can get away with…

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