Update June 25, 2008: After sometimes emotional and at other times contentious testimony Wednesday, the Dallas City Council passed a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance.
Animal welfare advocates decorated the council chamber with 512 balloons, representing the number of dogs and cats killed each week at the city shelter.
Breeders and some dog owners complained the restrictions interfered with their rights and punished responsible dog owners. They complained the city cannot enforce existing animal-related laws let alone something like this.
The vote, though, was 10-3 in favor of the new law.
With this ordinance proponents hope to reduce not only intake and kill rates at the shelter but also decrease the number of stray animals said to be roaming the city.
Under the new ordinance, if an animal is not spayed/neutered, the owner must obtain a $70 breeder’s license, pay a $30 registration fee and attend an education class. This ordinance is called the "pay or spay" requirement.
The ordinance does have a number of exceptions: dogs and cats younger than 6 months old, service animals, animals a veterinarian has certified should not be spayed/neutered for health reasons and animals belonging to a licensed breeder.
The new ordinance made no provision for funding for free or low or moderate cost spay/neuter.
Read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier report below for information about the importance of free or low or moderate cost spay/neuter in reducing intake and euthanasia rates and where such services are available in the Dallas area.
Another provision passed by the city council today restricts tethering or chaining of dogs. Click here for more on that new law.
The city also restricted owners to no more than 6 cats and dogs in a single family home under half an acre. Animals already part of the family can be grandfathered in under the new law. People with more than one half acre can have up to 8 cats and dogs.
Original report: Dallas continues to have high euthanasia rates despite efforts to improve spay/neuter and adoptions including the building of a new shelter facility this past year.
A September 24, 2007 report by Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center Operations reported the city impounded "more than 35,000 this year….Euthanasia rate is high and the adoption rate is low."
Indeed, in 2007, Dallas euthanized 28,479 of these animals, a 14% increase over 2006.
What to do?
Dallas is considering mandatory spay/neuter among other proposals. These proposals:
Require all dogs and cats over 4 months of age to be spayed/neutered unless the owner has a breeder permit;
Require $500 breeder permits (unobtainable for residentially zoned property);
Mandate pet limits of 6 dogs, cats or combination in a single family home;
Require rescuer and foster home permits to be able to keep more than pet;
Allow the city to seize immediately animals deemed dangerous (which is defined as animals that have attacked a person without provocation).
The city may join other Texas cities and ban unsupervised tethering or chaining of dogs. (Click here for more on the movement in Texas to ban tethering or chaining.)
Dallas is the largest but certainly not the only North Texas city with high euthanasia rates.
Some are trying in other ways to lower these high intake and euthanasia rates. Irving and Garland have added a veterinarian to the staff to spay/neuter animals. The Irving shelter works with a group that runs trap neuter return programs for feral cats. The city has solicited feedback from the public on other improvements.
Both shelters along with Plano have worked to make the shelters more of a draw to the public and increase adoptions. Plano’s shelter, for example, is now friendly and comfortable with lots of natural light. The location is accessible.
Fort Worth has increased enforcement of animal neglect laws. Fort Worth dismisses citations for animal neglect if the violator attends a course, which includes a tour of the shelter. That is one way to impress on people what happens to their animals if they end up in the shelter.
What is Needed
Surely, Dallas and other North Texas cities must focus on funding free or low or moderate cost spay/neuter to reduce intake and euthanasia rates. It is unlikely Dallas’ proposed mandatory spay/neuter law will work without such funding or enforcement. It is not clear at this point what funding, if any, Dallas will commit to increasing free or low or moderate cost spay/neuter services or enforcement for its proposed mandate.
Texas law does already mandate spay/neuter for any animal adopted from a public shelter or humane organization. Tex. Health & Safety Code Â§Â§828.001, .2.
But state law also allows the shelter or rescue to enter into a sterilization agreement with the adopter. Under the agreement the adopter must agree to have the animal sterilized within 30 days or 30 days after a baby female becomes six months old or a baby male becomes eight months old. Tex. Health & Safety Code Â§828.003. The adopter is required to send a letter confirming the sterilization or face a misdemeanor charge; the shelter or rescue can also then take back the animal. Tex. Health & Safety Code §§ 828.005, .009, .010
Enforcement is reportedly non-existent. Also, this law does not apply to animals reclaimed from the shelter by their owners or to counties with less than 20,000 people or municipalities with a population of less than 10,000.
The Animal Friendly Account authorized by Tex. Health & Safety Code Tex. Health & Safety Code §828.014 and 25 TAC § 169.102 allows money to be given to organizations that provide free or low cost spay/neuter. The Account is funded by fees from a specialty license plate. Contact the Fund for Animals 713-862-3863 for more information.
Contact these clinics for information about free or low cost spay/neuter in the North Texas area.
SPCA of Texas
Martin Spay/Neuter Clinic
Humane Society of North Texas
1840 East Lancaster
Fort Worth, TX 76103
North Texas Spay Neuter Coalition
Denton Low Cost Pet Sterilization and Vaccination Program