Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mandatory Cat Sterilization Laws and Why They Do NOT Work

In the past week, I have seen at least two laws set to be voted on that will force individuals to spay/neuter their cats and if the law is not followed, individuals could face fines. The first law comes from Australia, where the government wants to make it mandatory for ALL cats to be sterilized, registered, and micro-chipped, with the exception of breeders. A similar law comes from Rhode Island, where the senate wants to make it mandatory for ALL cats being sold or adopted to be first sterilized, again unless the cat is for breeding purposes. No figures were given for Australia’s penalties if the law is violated, but Rhode Island’s law said violators could be subjected to a $300 fine per cat.
Yes, it would be great to get everyone to fix their cats, so we could end cat homelessness, but creating laws like these will not solve the problem, and it might even make it worse. I am not sure how RI’s bill will work (probably like Australia’s) which says the government will NOT be providing any financial assistance to those who must enforce the law (aka animal shelters/animal control agencies). Although it was suggested that the government consider giving subsidies to low-income individuals to help get their cats fixed (this is what needs to happen!).

In the Australia bill, it was said “the success of the legislation will be dependent on its enforcement.” Which makes sense. However, the law is already setup for failure. The governments who create these laws tell animal control they HAVE to enforce the law (which will not be an easy task), while not providing any financial support. This means animal control agencies that are already “short” in terms of resources (that already cannot respond to every animal-related call) will be stretched even further, making it almost impossible to respond to every incident of a cat not being fixed. Which then means, it comes back to us tax-payers who will be shilling out money to pay people to go around and fine people. (I don’t know about you, but I would rather pay to help someone get their cat fixed.)

In a report regarding Australia’s law, it says it’s not about penalties; it’s about encouraging better pet ownership. Again nice thinking, but this will not “encourage” anyone. People who support sterilization will fix their cats, regardless of the law and in most cases, regardless of the cost. But people who don’t get their pets fixed are those who don’t have the money, just don’t care, or don’t understand the benefits of sterilization (are not educated). Forcing these people will not make them want to get their pets fixed anymore than they want to now. Those who cannot afford to pay $200-$300 to fix their cats will not be helped by being fined. (And forcing people to also micro-chip their cats, adding another $60 in Australia, will turn even more people away.) If anything, and I hate to speak it, but laws like this will only encourage people to abandon their cats or take them to the shelter because they can’t afford sterilization or the fines they will face. (And we all know that “will” help the situation.)

What SHOULD happen is that more spay/neuter programs should be subsidized, making sterilization more affordable, more readily available, and more easily accessible. More mobile clinics should be made available and education programs should be strengthened. Trap-Neuter-Return programs should be supported so sterilization is available to ALL cats, not just owned cats and so these programs can educate more people on cat homelessness and finally, so the cats are being managed. I wish that we would learn that fining people and killing cats is NOT a solution.
 

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