The Las Vegas city council passed a new ordinance last week that requires most dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered by 4 months of age. Las Vegas now joins Los Angeles, Dallas and a handful of other U.S. cities where sterilization of your pets is no longer a choice – it’s the law.
According to the Las Vegas Sun, the ordinance is partly aimed at illegal breeders who are severely adding to the city’s pet overpopulation problem. It does not apply to people with a breeder’s, animal handler’s or fancier’s permit, or to pets that qualify for a medical exemption.
Proponents of the ordinance included animal control officials, veterinarians, community activists and a teenager who’s a foster mom to eight puppies. They said the ordinance would help reduce the number of homeless animals that are euthanized each year. The number of dogs impounded at the Lied Animal Shelter, which serves Las Vegas and its surrounding areas, has increased 10 percent annually for the past three years. The shelter takes in about 50,000 animals each year and euthanizes half of them. Approximately 86 percent of the animals it takes in are not sterilized.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that a main concern of the ordinance’s opponents is that four months is too young for a dog or cat to be sterilized. They also said that studies have not proven mandatory spay-neuter legislation to be effective in reducing unwanted pet populations, since the law is difficult to enforce.
Major organizations including the ASPCA and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) also oppose laws mandating the sterilization of privately owned animals. The AVMA’s policy states, “Although spaying and neutering helps control dog and cat populations, mandatory approaches may contribute to pet owners avoiding licensing, rabies vaccination and veterinary care for their pets, and may have other unintended consequences.”
The Las Vegas ordinance takes effect April 1, 2010, and will be reviewed annually to ensure it is working as expected.