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Advocate for spay/neuter laws

Some spay/neuter laws can be effective, but laws are not always the right solution.

Find out what laws The HSUS supports and why, and which types of laws create long term social change. There’s no need to spend time passing new legislation when resources won’t support it and there are more effective means.

Laws that Generate Spay/Neuter Funding

The HSUS supports legislative efforts to create funding streams for spay/neutering programs, especially those providing services and subsidies to under-served populations of pet owners. Cost is the primary barrier to spay/neuter services for individuals as well as for animal welfare organizations.

Several states have enacted laws to implement low cost spay neuter programs. While every state is different, the general framework is a funding mechanism in collaboration with a grant-making or voucher program. Essentially, using existing state revenue sources to fund low cost spay/neuter programs at animal hospitals, shelters and other clinics. Funding options may include spay/neuter license plates, income tax check-offs, dog license surcharge, rabies surcharge, pet food surcharge, differential licensing and infraction fines associated with animal related offenses.

Spay/neuter subsidy funds have proven to be effective in the states where they exist. We strongly recommend that any new efforts to create publicly funded spay/neuter subsidy include strategic marketing plans to raise awareness and participation, as well as considerations for the administration of funds. New funding opportunities have led to the creation of innovative programs in many states.

Studies have also shown a decline in shelter intake when targeted spay/neuter programs are used to manage community (stray, feral) cat populations. It is critical that funds be made available to address the 30-40 million community cats in the U.S., only %2 of whom are sterilized currently. Sterilization programs for these un-owned cats benefit cats, wildlife, animal sheltering and control programs, and communities as a whole.

Laws that Mandate Spaying and Neutering

Most people want to do the right thing and are not ideologically opposed to spaying or neutering their pets. More than 80 percent of owned cats and 75 percent of owned dogs are sterilized. For the remaining intact pets, 23 million of whom live in poverty-stricken households, affordability and access are the primary barriers to spay/neuter. We know this from surveys we have commissioned, and from data collected in our Pets for Life program from over 34,000 pets and 27,000 owners in 14 markets across the country. In the under-served communities in which The HSUS’ Pets for Life program works:

  • 77% of pets have never seen a veterinarian
  • 87% of pets are unaltered at the time of survey
  • 74% of pets are scheduled for spay/neuter by Pets for Life
  • 89% of pets scheduled for spay/neuter complete surgery

We know that when spay/neuter services are made accessible and costs are subsidized, sterilization rates will increase. When the opposite occurs, animal care resource deserts emerge, and this lack of access has a profound impact on the well-being of a community, from public health and safety to taxpayer dollars that fund animal services set up to respond to community animal problems.

We also know that when funding is made available to cover the cost of spay/neutering, organizations which deliver these services to communities can be more effective in their outreach and conversion efforts. In Maryland, after a pet food surcharge program was implemented, new organizations with the mission of reaching people and pets in poverty were established, due to the availability of funds. Because we know this, The HSUS focuses our efforts and resources on increasing access to spay/neuter services and eliminating barriers to spay/neuter, pet wellness and veterinary care.

When evaluating legislative proposals intended to increase spay/neuter rates, The HSUS feels it is important to assess each community’s current infrastructure, such as availability of affordable spay/neuter services, existing outreach efforts, and enforcement capacity of current animal control laws. Requiring the sterilization of owned pets of any breed or species and penalizing those who do not comply can put many pet owners between a rock and a hard place, resulting in unnecessary relinquishment and missed opportunities for meaningful community engagement. Laws that generate spay/neuter resources and that focus on incentivizing spaying and neutering can be more effective at reducing pet overpopulation in most communities.

The HSUS cautions against spending time and resources considering mandatory spay/neuter legislation when there is a necessary and effective path—one that will get us closer to building more humane communities and ending the euthanasia of healthy animals in shelters.