By a vote of 5-2, the Las Vegas, Nevada city council has passed an ordinance requiring residents as of April 1, 2010 to spay/neuter their dogs and cats 4 months of age or older. Mayor Oscar Goodman supports the new law.
There are some exceptions:
The animal cannot breed or a veterinarian certifies the animal is medically unfit for the surgery.
The animal has been trained and is used for law enforcement, search and rescue or as a service animal.
The owner has a valid dog fancier’s, cat fancier’s, breeder’s or professional animal handler’s permit.
A violation would be a misdemeanor with fines up to $225 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for the third and subsequent offenses.
Last year, 2008, North Las Vegas, a suburb, passed a similar ordinance.Â Â
Some thought the minimum age in the Las Vegas ordinance was too young and should be 6 months rather than 4.
Other opponents questioned whether a mandatory spay/neuter law will work to bring down shelter intake and euthanasia rates. At the Lied Animal Shelter, the Las Vegas public shelter, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, "the number of impounded dogs has increased 10 percent a year for the past three years, and cat intakes have been up 5 percent annually." Lied Shelter takes in about 50,000 animals a year. At least 50% are euthanized. The attitude at the Shelter and among council members is that this ordinance is better than doing nothing. Â Â
But they may need to do something else. Like make free or low cost spay/neuter readily accessible and aggressively educate people on the importance of spay/neuter and where they can obtain the surgery free of charge or at a heavily reduced rate.
The law is likely to prompt many people to spay/neuter their pets certainly over time as they get used to the idea. There is low cost spay/neuter available to some extent in the Las Vegas area. But, without free or low cost spay/neuter that is readily available, it is not clear the mandatory law will work to reduce significantly the numbers of unwanted animals that end up at Lied. Certainly, the law will be difficult to enforce and could not only divert but also increase animal control costs.
Also, studies have shown a mandatory spay/neuter law can mean fewer people license their pets, resulting in fewer animal control dollars and greater incidents of rabies and other diseases from animals whose owners fail to comply with licensing and vaccination requirements.
The burden of a mandatory law like this falls on low and moderate income pet owners.Â Without free, low cost and even moderate cost pay/neuter, many people are unlikely to be able to afford to spay/neuter animals and may simply dump them at least in the initial period following passage of the law.Â In Los Angeles, for example, shelter intake and numbers of animals euthanized increased following enactment of mandatory spay/neuter in 2008.
The new law will do nothing to stop breeding by for profit breeders, puppy and cat millers that are exempt from the requirements. It is estimated 25-30% or more of animals that end up in shelters are produced by for profit breeders. Â