Friday, February 29, 2008

Mandatory Pet Sterilization in Los Angles

This morning I read a story that I couldn’t quite believe. In The Barr Code, the blog of former US Congressman Bob Barr, I read that the City Council of Los Angeles had passed a law requiring all residents to have their cats and dogs spayed or face stiff fines and other penalties.
My first thought was, “That can’t be the whole story.” This sounded pretty extreme even for California, a state known for the public’s willingness to cede personal freedom to the government.

Further investigation revealed that the gist of the story is true. According to the Blog of Ed Boks, General Manager LA Dept of Animal Services, the Spay/Neuter Ordinance requires all pet owners to have their cats and dogs spayed or neutered at the age of four months. The only exemptions are for show dogs, rescue and other service dogs, or dogs owned by registered breeders.

The press release issued by the office of Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa states that the objective of the ordinance is to “decrease the number of pets abandoned and euthanized each year.” Over population of unwanted dogs and cats is a serious problem in some parts of the country. And sadly, the solution for many municipalities is to euthanize large numbers of animals each year. However, this ordinance seems to be killing the gnat with a sledge hammer, and punishes the innocent into the bargain.

How about a law that targets irresponsible pet owners? Those who allow their unaltered animal to breed and then dump the litters on public and non-profit shelters are the real villains. Stiff fines for these people, combined with availability of low or no cost spay and neuter programs, might be a more effective approach.

If unwanted pets are truly a crisis in this country, why are we allowing street dogs to be sent here for adoption through our shelters? Check out programs like Save a Sato that rescues dogs off the streets of Puerto Rico and ships them to Massachusetts and New Jersey shelters. Soi Dog Rescue is another program rescuing dogs from Thailand. The stories and pictures on these websites tear at your heart, but tell me again why we need to import stray dogs?

Perhaps the most interesting question involves how Los Angeles will enforce this ordinance. The Humane Society of the United States publishes Pet Ownership Statistics claiming that 39% of U.S. households own at least one dog. Are the police really going to knock on doors and stop dog walkers on the street demanding proof of sterility?

The libertarian in me wants to scream in righteous rage every time a bone headed approach to a problem results in loss of freedom for the majority of responsible citizens. But that’s just me. What do you think?

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