“Overpopulation” or, why mandatory s/n won’t work.

March 25, 2008

(As promised from yesterday, but I didn’t have time to finish this until this afternoon (Tuesday))

The law that is currently proposed here in Dallas (which doesn’t have a draft version online), requires all people who are not approved breeders (and there are no criteria for approval, just that they will be approved or disproved by an employee at local animal control, who may or may not have any actual qualifications as to understanding what constitutes a responsible breeder) to spay and neuter their cats and dogs. Responsible owners spay and neuter, right, so where’s the problem? I really don’t think it’s going to help.

Walk throughs of the Dallas City shelter are depressing- especially in the old building on Forney Road. It’s dank, humid, lit with bare flouresent bulbs. The runs are 4×4, with a few 4×6 at the back of the building. They’re cramped, with concrete flooring, a built in feeder, and metal panels between each run so dogs can’t see each other to fence fight. The staff does their best to keep the runs clean (and I have to say, I’ve never seen poop in a run go unscooped for more than 15-20 minutes, which is unbelieveable given the size of the facility), but the dogs IN the runs are depressing. Most of them are large mixed-breed dogs- lab, pit, chow, husky and shepherd mixes predominate. Small-breed dogs generally get snapped up by rescues or make it to the few adoption kennels here, unless they’re visibly old or have obvious health problems. These dogs are not the products of intentional breeding. They’re the oops puppies from friends and neighbors- whose new owners didn’t care for them once the new and shiny wore off. It’s a GREAT (if dismal) place to adopt a dog- I’ve known many wonderful dogs that came from there, the staff work VERY hard to do their best by the animals, and are generally polite, courteous, and helpful (one woman stayed late for me to bring in a hound mix that had been found running loose- at the time, I lived in no pets housing and couldn’t have gotten away with hiding him overnight, not with that voice- he DID have a microchip, we got hold of his owner, and I dropped him off on my way home.) But the breeders aren’t the problem- it’s pet owners who won’t alter their dogs, and won’t take responsibility for making sure the puppies end up in an forever home, not just a home for a few months. Mostly, these people never bother to vaccinate or register their pets with the city- they won’t be affected unless the conditions are so bad that they get reported for cruelty and the city presses charges.

Dallas also has a puppy mill problem- but they aren’t in city limits. They’re in the many surrounding rural towns without any animal control at all- Wilmer, Red Oak, Mansfield, Lake Dallas, Bowie. This law won’t affect them at all.

Who this law WILL affect is people who are already obeying the laws. These include responsible pet owners and responsible breeders. (I have to admit, I am not responsible at the moment, I haven’t renewed Mal’s license for the year or licensed Lizzie, since I was planning to be moved out of Dallas by the end of this month. I will renew it when he gets his rabies shot next month, though, and license her- since I have to go down to the office to do it, I don’t want to make two trips.)Pet owners who give regular vet care have something like a 95% compliance rate as it is when it comes to spaying and neutering their dogs (only 70-some percent for cats, which may explain the GIANT feral cat population problem.)

This law won’t stop the dopes who breed Sadie, the dog who lives in their backyard, so the kids can experience puppies just once, or because she has PAPERS and they think they can make a couple hundred dollars off the litter. In general, these people aren’t even aware that they need to license Sadie. Their vet may tell them, if they take her to a vet.

This won’t stop people who get a cute kitten off Craigslist to be an outdoor (or even indoor outdoor) cat and don’t bother to have her altered. Kittens are cute, and they’ll find homes for them, right? If they can catch them, that is. And those people may or may not alter them. The feral cat problem is overwhelmingly huge here in Dallas, even though dogs (and puppy mills and BYBs) get more attention.

We need to stop irresponsible ownership- not responsible breeding. And the laws for that are already on the books. Dallas has a leash law that isn’t enforced for lack of officers to do it, and it’s usually at least a day before they can send an ACO out to catch a stray, if you can’t catch it and take it to the shelter yourself. We need to increase enforcement and the AC department’s budget. Offer more free spay/neuter opportunities, with better hours and accessability for people who work long hours and lack transportation. We need to offer more humane education in the schools, so kids learn that pets aren’t disposable. But banning breeding isn’t going to do it.

This law probably won’t affect me, immediately. I will probably live outside of Dallas city limits before it passes, if it does.But it’s a wrong law, and it’s a nasty trend. If you love a purebred animal-wherever that animal came from- or appreciate dogs who are bred for health and temperament and not just cuteness or profit? You need to learn more about this type of legislation, and how it hurts the health of dogs as a whole.