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Does Mandatory Spay/Neuter Work?
Some shelters and veterinarians don’t think so.
Public education about spay/neuter is key.

Last week, a proposed mandatory spay/neuter bill for Chicago was put on hold in the face of overwhelming opposition. Personally, I'm in favor of public education and encouraging people to choose spay/neuter for their pets, not forcing them to do so. What surprised me most about this hearing was who opposed it, including popular "Pet World" radio host Steve Dale, the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association, the Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago and others.

The Chicago Tribune published a letter to the editor submitted by a group of shelters and veterinarians; it read in part: "Perhaps most disturbing about the mandatory approach is that a proven, cost-effective, alternative model already exists. Unlike the failed mandatory measures that punish non-compliance, subsidized spay/neuter programs rewarding positive behavior are successful. Privately funded, large-scale, subsidized spay/neuter programs already exist in Chicago. Together these programs were responsible for nearly 20,000 low-cost or no-cost spay/neuters last year alone (along with the tens of thousands of sterilizations performed each year by private veterinarians). The success of the current voluntary approach calls into question the need for any new law."

As a positive dog trainer, that makes so much sense to me. Often, I see people in my beginner obedience class pushing down on their dog's rear to "get them to sit." Using a clicker and a treat, I can accomplish the same thing in less time and without touching them. Not to mention, the dog actually learns and isn't just being physically manipulated.

Just like dogs, people are motivated by positive reinforcement (which explains the cup of M&Ms on my desk). And if people or dogs are forced to do something, they'll react one of two ways - they'll either do it out of fear of the negative consequences or they'll find a way to avoid the situation. Is that a way to live? Or learn?


Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Lisa | March 20 2009 |

Any time someone proposes legislation like this I get very nervous. While I fully support all efforts to reduce the number of unwanted puppies and kittens in the world, there are a few very legitimate reasons that someone might chose to keep their pet intact. My own personal example... I own an intact male Golden Retriever. I own him on a limited registration and never intend to breed him. Keeping him intact is a royal pain in the butt - I can never allow him off leash except in a securely fenced area (or in competition) and even then he is closely supervised, he tends to hump any dog who will let him, his nose wants to be on every girl-dog's butt, and he can get testy with other intact males. BUT, I live with these issues because Golden Retrievers die in distressingly high numbers of hemangiosarcoma and osteosarcoma, and research has indicated that intact males are statistically less prone to aquiring these fatal cancers. My "suffering" through the bahavioral issues of owning an intact male, and the effort I have to make to ensure he never fathers an unplanned litter, is a small price to pay if it increases the chances that my much beloved dog will be blessed with a long and healthy life. As long as I accept all the responsibilities of owning an intact male why should a public official be able to mandate what I should do to best ensure his health? Why should I, as a responsible dog owner, have to pay the price for the irresponsible owners in the world?? I recognize that SOMETHING needs to be done to encourage the majority of dog owners to spay or neuter their pets and reduce the pet overpopulation problem, but I agree with this article's author. Better to fund spay/nueter programs that make it EASY and INEXPENSIVE for pet owners to do the right thing. No one likes to be FORCED into doing anything, and many are willing but not able.

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