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September 1995
Guest Editorial: Why Intro. 321 must pass

By Jane Hanley



The figures are shocking. One pair of cats with two offspring can generate over 11.5 million animals in nine years. Unless these animals are spayed or neutered, the result is massive overpopulation, and misery for these animals. New York City is late in recognizing this issue. Other major municipalities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Vancouver, San Mateo County, Santa Barbara, Denver, Charlotte, and Kings County, Washington State are already realizing dramatic decreases in the number of animals turned into shelters, collected, and euthanized as a result of breeding moratoriums and spay/neuter legislation.

Two arms of a solution that will make a difference in New York City’s animal crisis are spay/neuter legislation, the particulars of which are answered in Kathryn Freed’s Intro. Bill No. 321, and a low cost spay/neuter clinic. If people will not voluntarily accept responsibility for indisciminate breeding in a community where animal overpopulation is rampant, we must require that the main suppliers, such as pet stores, backyard breeders, and irresponsible owners be regulated. A low cost spay/neuter clinic will make spaying and neutering more accessible and broaden the educational outreach. Neither solution, however, will work on its own. Without specific spay/neuter legislation and regulation of breeding, the clinic will not curtail the endless reproductive stream of cats and dogs. Precedence has been established: spay/neuter legislation, combined with low cost spay/neuter programs, can and does make a difference. The Fund for Animals has secured the funding and the building for a low cost spay/neuter clinic at no cost to the City. This is one arm of the solution already established. We must accompany this powerful tool with legislation to reduce the animal overpopulation issue in New York City.

Not only is spay/neutering legislation necessary, but it is also enforceable. The very visibility of animal breeding, selling, and ownership makes it so. Breeders and sellers must advertise — it is the nature of their business. People and entities that advertise kittens and puppies for sale must hold and advertise a seller’s or combined breeder and seller permit. Fees associated with this and other related permits will go into a fund that will address the administration and enforcement of this law. It is a self-sufficient law.

This law is as enforceable as the Pooper Scooper Law, the canine licensing laws, and even the anti-smoking laws in restaurants. Public support will ensure compliance, especially in more visible arenas such as pet stores and breeders. We must remind ourselves that, as with any law, a certain portion of the population will comply simply because it is law. The most obvious contributors, breeders and pet stores, will be the primary and most visible compliance targets. For those that comply with the law, there are no added costs to pet ownership than exist today, other than the one-time cost to spay and neuter the animal.

We must realize that allowing animals to reproduce is a privilege, not a right, and it is one that must be regulated when we have interfered with natural laws that control animal populations under natural conditions. We have gun laws, seatbelt laws, firecracker laws, and smoking laws that regulate potentially dangerous or harmful public behavior. Animal overpopulation is one of these. When any personal privilege threatens a community at large, it is subject to regulation. This law seeks to hold those who are contributing to a City crisis responsible for their actions.

Some have argued that the large stray animal population that do not “belong” to anyone will be untouched by Intro. 321. The truth is that these populations are the cumulative results of years of societal neglect and irresponsibility toward the keeping and breeding of companion animals. If we begin now to regulate breeding and to encourage responsible pet ownership, we will see a significantly reduced stray population in a matter of years.

Even if we focus on the budgetary bottom line, spay/neuter legislation comes out in the black. Increasing the number of animals sterilized will curtail the number being born to be killed. This will reduce future animal control costs and bring in substantial revenue. This law would also increase the numbers of licensed dogs by default. Otherwise, costs associated with animal control and euthanasia will escalate along with the numbers being born and killed.

Animal nuisance complaints arrive at New York City police precincts about once a day (and more frequently in summer). The amount of time spent by police in responding to these complaints will drop. Dog and cat bites, animal over-crowding, vehicular accidents, barking complaints, dog-dropping complaints, dead animals on streets, parking lots and highways — all these issues are related to animal overpopulation and neglect, and will be reduced substantially by legislative enforcement of indiscriminate breeding.

In terms of our stray animal population, our streets look like scenes from a nation in the developing world, and still we cheerfully encourage breeders and other sellers of animals. We euthanize hundreds of animals every day, but we host the Westminster Dog Show each year. We can no longer address the problem of overpopulation by killing the surplus and encouraging the free and unencumbered breeding of animals. It is a matter of ethics and of using our intellect to determine proper legislative solutions.

Time is a luxury the animals don’t have.


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