The city of North Las Vegas, a suburb of Las Vegas in Clark County, Nevada, has adopted a mandatory spay/neuter law. It is now a crime to have a pet 4 months of age or older that is not sterilized and can be punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
There are exceptions for licensed breeders, permitted animal fanciers and animals a veterinarian says should not have the surgery for medical reasons.
This community of more than 200,000 people does not plan aggressive enforcement at least at first. Al Noyola, assistant director or police services, has reportedly said enforcement will be on "the honor system". The city plans an education campaign to tell people about the importance of spay/neuter.
The city’s primary goal is to reduce the numbers of unwanted animals that end up in Lied Shelter, a large animal shelter the city of North Las Vegas as well as Las Vegas and Clark County contract with to shelter, care for and place or dispose of unwanted or aggressive animals.
But there is no indication the city hasÂ plans to subsidize or offer free or low cost spay/neuter. Lied Shelter no longer offers low cost spay/neuter though it is available in the area.
Will it work?
There is no doubt spay/neuter is the most successful means of reducing numbers of animals that end up in public shelters, usually doomed to death. In 2007 Lied is reported to have taken in about 49,200 animals and euthanized about 26,500. (It is not clear these numbers are accurate and may be higher.) In 2006 Lied took in about 52,000 animals and euthanized about 24,000 of them.
It is estimated more than 75 times each day Lied euthanizes an animal. And, Lied is actually euthanizing animals much sooner now after intake. Last year overcrowding contributed to an outbreak of disease and over 1000 animals were euthanized. Since then, the shelter’s philosophy has been to euthanize animals after an average stay of 6 days, down from 12.
The law is likely to prompt many people to spay/neuter their pets. 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 substantially 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. 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
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.
The law will also not affect feral cats, of which there is a high number in the Las Vegas area. It is estimated that feral or at least frightened, unsocialized cats make up a large percentage of animals euthanized in a public shelter and Lied is no exception.
It is hoped that Las Vegas and Henderson, another suburb, as well as Clark County will also adopt a mandatory law. Clark County is considering a law to require spay/neuter of dogs or cats repeatedly picked up by animal control officers. At least such a law is targeted to those animals likely to end up in shelters.
Call on North Las Vegas to set up a free or low cost spay/neuter fund that would be subsidized by the city or work with Las Vegas, Henderson and Clark County to implement an area free or low cost spay/neuter fund. Call on these officials to give spay/neuter a real chance to reduce shelter intake numbers by helping pay for it! Also urge them to approve Trap Neuter Return programs to spay/neuter rather than simply euthanize feral cats. (For more on TNR, click here.)
City of North Las Vegas
2200 Civic Center Drive
North Las Vegas, Nevada 89030
Click on the name of the mayor or council person listed below to send them an email.
For information about low cost spay/neuter in the Las Vegas area, call Las Vegas Valley Humane Society at 702-434-2009 or Animal Foundation at 702-384-3333