Senseless In San Diego
by Geneva Coats, R.N., Secretary, California Federation of Dog Clubs Oct 2011
Despite record low shelter numbers and thousands of dog smuggled across the border each year, Chula Vista is considering (PASSED) a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance.
San Diego County imports thousands of dogs to satisfy lower shelter intake and higher shelter adoptions but seeks to neuter dogs and citizens’ rights!
According to the latest US Census, San Diego County is home to over 3 million people. And, by my calculations, there are approximately 2/3 of a million owned dogs in San Diego County. Please see meeting notices below.
How do we arrive at this figure? Over 39% of US households own at least one dog, according to the latest American Pet Products Manufacturers survey. Further, 40% of dog-owning households own multiple dogs. San Diego County contains over a million households. Crunching the numbers, the estimate is that San Diego County is home to at least 625,000 dogs.
Further, shelter numbers in San Diego County (as available on the website of the California Department of Public Health) reveal that, in 2009, for the entire county, there were 371 dogs killed in San Diego shelters. That's less than 0.06% of all the owned dogs in San Diego County.
In 2010, less than 1% (0.78%) of all the dogs in the county, or 4869 total dogs, were killed in San Diego shelters. The exact number of dogs who were truly adoptable, and not ill, injured, aggressive or otherwise not adoptable, is not known, but of course would be even lower than that 3/4 of 1%.
This chart is from "Maddie's Fund" website. Not many when put into perspective, right? Of course, there is always room for improvement. And, none of us want to see any adoptable pet killed unnecessarily.
In fact, no shelter in San Diego County should be killing any adoptable animals. There is a huge market for dogs in San Diego County. Those hundreds of thousands of dogs have to come from somewhere. If the average lifespan for a dog is about 10 years, then San Diego County will need over 60,000 new puppies each year. Demand far outstrips available supply.
At least one shelter in the County, Helen Woodward Humane Society, imports dogs from other states, and sometimes from as far away as Romania. When it was noticed that a proliferation of sickly puppies were being smuggled in from Mexico and sold to unsuspecting consumers in the greater San Diego area, a US Border Patrol survey was conducted in 2005. The survey concluded that, each year, nearly 10,000 dogs and puppies are brought into San Diego County from Mexico.
The City of Chula Vista is the second largest city in San Diego County (after the City of San Diego), and is situated about 10 miles from the Mexican border. Chula Vista undoubtedly absorbs thousands of smuggled puppies each year.
Ignoring the existing market demand and lack of locally-sourced puppies, Chula Vista City Councilman Rudy Ramirez has decided that a mandatory spay-neuter law is needed. Now perhaps we can't blame this gentleman for believing such a law might be necessary. On the City's animal control website, we find this:
"The Chula Vista Animal Care Facility encourages owners to always spay and neuter their pets. There is a serious pet overpopulation problem in San Diego County that has resulted in thousands of euthanizations each year."
The fact is that euthanizations in San Diego County are down significantly. The number of dogs euthanized in 2010 is down by 70% over the numbers killed in the late 1990s. Remember, some of these euthanized animals were severely injured, sick, aggressive, or otherwise not savable. Clearly, great progress is being made in the reduction of shelter intakes and deaths. And, this success was achieved without the use of coercive legislation.
"A serious pet overpopulation problem in San Diego County"? There is absolutely no evidence to support that assertion. Let's put the figures into perspective. There are over 3 million residents in San Diego County. Last year, one animal entered a shelter for every 63 county residents. One dog was killed for every 637 county residents. One cat was killed for every 327 county residents.
When animals are killed in shelters, it cannot be reasonably blamed on "overpopulation." The number of puppies smuggled in to San Diego County is more than DOUBLE the number killed in shelters. There is a market for pets in San Diego. Spaying/neutering all the local dogs and cats will remove the best sources for healthy, well-bred and well-socialized animals. People won't own fewer pets; they'll just get them from somewhere else. A mandatory spay/neuter proposal would only serve to increase the black market demand and to promote the breeding of dogs in foreign puppy mills.
While the goal of reducing shelter deaths is laudable, mandatory spay-neuter laws don't help. In fact, the opposite is true. Every locale that has enacted a mandatory spay/neuter law has seen a RISE in shelter admissions and killings.
No mainstream animal welfare organization supports mandatory spay and neuter. The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes it. So does Best Friends Animal Society, American Humane Association, Maddie's Fund, Alley Cat Allies, the American Kennel Club and the No Kill Advocacy Center. The ASPCA also opposes mandatory spay neuter, to wit: "The ASPCA is not aware of any credible evidence demonstrating a statistically significant enhancement in the reduction of shelter intake or euthanasia as a result of the implementation of a mandatory spay/neuter law."
Mandatory spay and neuter does not work because it does not address the reasons that animals enter shelters. Those reasons are varied, but they have nothing to do with births. Animals enter shelters due to social problems like loss of a job, home foreclosure, or divorce or death of the owner. Mandatory spay/neuter does nothing to help pets remain in their homes. Ownerless cats make up a large portion of shelter intakes and spay-neuter laws won't reduce the numbers of feral cats.
Sometimes there are behavioral issues for which training programs might provide a useful solution. To help get more animals adopted, shelters could implement more proactive ideas like extended hours, foster programs and off-site adoptions. Advertising campaigns can help educate prospective pet owners to consider a shelter animal when they are thinking of getting their next pet. Trap-neuter-release programs are proven methods for feral cat population control.
Besides, a recent national pet population survey reveals that 78% of owned dogs and 88% of owned cats are already sterilized. The public is cooperating with voluntary spay and neuter...in droves!
Education coupled with voluntary, low-cost sterilization clinics, has been very successful. Collaborative, supportive programs always outperform punitive and coercive programs like forced spay/neuter. Such laws do not serve the best interests of pets or their owners.
Community programs in our California cities should be based on education, science and fact, and modelled after programs with proven success. Mandatory spay-neuter is a proven failure. Chula Vista officials should reject this cruel and counterproductive policy.
Please attend Rudy Ramirez's "town hall meetings" and make your voice heard. *Chula Vista City Hall, 276 Fourth Ave. (Fourth and F St) Chula Vista, CA 91910 - Monday Oct. 17, 2011 @ 6 pm | Thursday Oct. 20, 2011 @ 1 pm | Saturday Oct. 29 @ 9 am*
And now, a glimpse into the crystal ball:
Recently my city forced me to have my dog Chipotle neutered. Chipotle was my best friend! I took him wherever I went. Unfortunately, Chipotle was a tiny Chihuahua who barely weighed three pounds. He died during his neuter surgery. I am devastated. What should I do?
Signed, Chumless in Chula Vista
First, I'm very sorry about the loss of your Chipotle. There is no sense suing the veterinarian when the City of Chula Vista is clearly the responsible party. Get a good lawyer and take them for every gold Chip in their treasure Chest.
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