Another Municipal Adoption of Mandatory Spay/Neuter
On October 1, 2013, the Georgia city of Macon enacted a “mandatory” spay/neuter law. It requires that dogs and cats over the age of six months, within city limits be sterilized. In principle, the city’s motive (reducing overpopulation and killing) is commendable and ISAR supports it. The ordinance is an explicit acknowledgement of the overpopulation problem, and an attempt to deal with it in a humane and practical way. (According to a Macon City Councilman, the city has been euthanizing four to five thousand stray animals a year.) Indeed, the Macon ordinance reflects some of the provisions originally propounded by ISAR in its Monograph entitled “The Policy, Law and Morality of Mandatory Spay/Neuter.”
However, the Macon ordinance contains the same defect found in virtually every other so-called “mandatory” spay/neuter law: a categorical exemption for those holding a valid unaltered animal permit, which can be obtained for designated breeders, hunting dogs, businesses which board such animals for training or resale, dogs or cats which are registered with the American Kennel Club, the Cat Fancier Association or other recognized registry. As ISAR explains at length in our Monograph, exemptions in so-called “mandatory” spay/neuter laws, especially for breeders, gut those enactments and do little to reduce the overpopulation problem.
As ISAR’s Monograph and Model Statute prove, a (if not the) major culprit in the overpopulation problem is the breeder, especially the commercial manufacturers of puppies and kittens who operate “farms” at which these unfortunate animals are produced like sausages on an assembly line.
Obviously, as usual with “mandatory” spay/neuter laws, the Macon ordinance was the product of compromise — unfortunately a typical ingredient of the legislative process. Until compromise at the expense of animals is wrung out of the system at the insistence of voters, we will continue to get laws which are “mandatory” except when they are not.
Once again, breeders get a pass.
Although there is a sad irony here — breeders are a major cause of the overpopulation problem, that the Macon ordinance seeks to ameliorate — the law as enacted is a giant step in the right direction, in at least two respects.
First, the ordinance represents a municipal judgment that enough is enough, and that the fate of unwanted dogs and cats, and the problems they cause through no fault of their own, is no longer socially acceptable in the City of Macon, Georgia.
Second, other than the breeder exception, conscientious enforcement of the ordinance should help dry up a large number of the city’s strays, and significantly reduce the number of those yet to be born.
The City and its officials deserve the gratitude of all of us who understand the tragedy of dog and cat overpopulation, and the unspoken thanks of those who cannot speak for themselves.