Be cautious about mandatory pet spay-neuter legislation

“The following column, written by Janice Sparhawk Gardner, was originally published in Foster’s Sunday Citizen. It is covered by the author’s Copyright, and cannot be copied, in whole or in part, without her express written consent, in advance. Violations of this copyright will be prosecuted. The author can be contacted through this website.”

by Janice Sparhawk Gardner – 2010

Periodically, a number of facts seem to fall into place, revealing a truth that might not have been apparent previously. Something like this happened to me this week. I had been wondering how it is possible for Americans to be so enchanted with dogs as pets, and at the same time, to hold beliefs that, if put into action, would actually eliminate the species in a relatively short time. Let me review the situation, and let’s see if you agree with my conclusions.

Roughly 37 percent of American homes include at least one pet dog. Most people, mimimally, pay lip service to an appreciation of how much dogs add to our lives, and to our culture. While dogs no longer have the job of warning cave dwellers of approaching danger, the jobs they do perform for us could be even more valuable. Some very special dogs and their handlers search destroyed buildings seeking for survivors, and for the bodies of those who did not survive. Perhaps you noticed the news clips of search and rescue dogs working in the jumble of what used to be homes and businesses in Haiti? If you ever fly, them perhaps you have seen bomb or drug detection dogs making us safer at airports? Military dogs are described by their handlers as their most valuable and reliable protection against roadside bombs. Dogs can also predict epileptic seizures, and locate cancers in humans. Certainly the tasks performed by dogs no longer fit their job description when they lived with prehistoric people, but an argument could easily be made that their modern jobs are even more important.

Studies show that dogs help us maintain good health. They encourage exercise and social contacts. I’ve been told that walking with a dog is the best way to meet new friends. I think it is safe to say that dogs have earned their place in our hearts and in our society. And yet – – – –

And yet laws requiring mandatory spay and neuter of all dogs are spreading throughout the country. I wonder if people have given much thought to the only possible result if the MSN laws become universal? Logically, if all dogs are surgically neutered, then in about ten years there will be no dogs. If all breeding is stopped – where will you find the replacement for the dogs you love now? If you should want to add a purpose-bred dog to your family – will you still be able to in another ten or so years?

James Serpell, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has said: “The thing about mandatory spay-neuter is that those who are most willing to have their dogs spayed or neutered tend to be responsible people. And often, their dogs also happen to be nice animals in temperament. So what you’re doing essentially is taking those dogs out of the breeding population. What will become of dog ownership if only the ill-tempered puppies from disreputable breeding programs are available?”

Dog and cat owners have certainly grasped the idea that responsible pet ownership entails being responsible for the reproductive capacity of their pets. Somehow, the idea is pushed that vast numbers of dogs are roaming around the country, reproducing at any and every opportunity. In actual fact, the reverse is true. Nationally, over 87 percent of dogs have already been surgically neutered.

Our figures here in the northeast are even more impressive. Last August, I asked three friends to help me perform a survey of veterinary hospitals throughout New Hampshire. I was surprised to learn that 98 percent of owned cats and 95 percent of dogs had been surgically neutered. Yes, we have a population of feral cats. But our pet owners have taken their responsibility to heart, as do owners throughout the north-east..

Here is one example of the adage “no good deed goes unpunished.” Since this area of the country has a dearth of available dogs, and especially shelter dogs – we have become the repository of dogs, many with physical or behavioral problems that make them difficult for novice dog owners to deal with, from third-world countries and from parts of our south – where laws and programs such as we have are not established. So – should we welcome these imported dogs, even if in so doing we put some of our own dogs at risk? Or should we help other parts of our country to grasp the lessons we have learned? Being a responsible dog owner does not mean that all of our dogs should be neutered. What it does mean is that instead of importing potentially problematic dogs here, those groups who are profiting from these imports should focus their attention on changing attitudes in the areas these dogs come from.

So – do you really want ALL dogs to be neutered?

Copyright 2010: Janice Sparhawk Gardner
First North American Rights Only


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