This April in Los Angeles, one of the nation's strictest pet sterilization laws takes effect, mandating that most of the city's pet owners have their cat or dog spayed or neutered by the time the animal is four months old. Certain animals, such as service dogs and those belonging to registered breeders, are exempted from the law.
"This ordinance, which contains clear guidelines and enforceable penalties, creates a valuable tool to take this city another step closer toward eliminating the unnecessary euthanasia of animals," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at a February news conference attended by animal rights supporter Bob Barker and Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.
A similar measure passed by the California Assembly last year failed to gain state Senate support.
Pedigree groups such as the American Kennel Club and Cat Fanciers' Association are opposed to mandatory spay and neuter laws, saying dog and cat overpopulation is a complex problem that goes beyond reproductive status to multiple aspects of owner irresponsibility. The Los Angeles ordinance will be difficult to enforce and evaded by owners who don't license their pets with the city, the AKC added.
Each year, there are nearly 50,000 unwanted cats and dogs are born in Los Angeles, far exceeding the capacity of local shelters and rescue groups, according to the city. In 2007, the city spent more than $2 million to euthanize animals, killing 8,960 cats and 6,049 dogs, the city added.
The ordinance requires all pet owners in Los Angeles to have their cats and dogs that are four months of age and older spayed or neutered unless otherwise exempted. People with older unneutered pets and newcomers to the city with animals also have to obey the law.
Persons violating the spay/neuter law will be cited and could be subject to up to a $500 dollar fine or 40 hours of community service.
Specific exemptions from required sterilization apply to dogs and cats approved by a registry or association sanctioned by the city Department of Animal Services; dogs being trained for work; service dogs, including guide and signal dogs; law enforcement, military, or rescue dogs; animals for whom the owner can produce a letter from a veterinarian stating there is a medical reason to exempt the animal; and animals having a valid city breeding permit.
The ordinance also establishes an advisory committee that will educate the public about services and the importance of pet sterilization. Vouchers for free and reduced-cost spay and neuter procedures are available to senior citizens and low-income owners.
"This spay and neuter law will move Los Angeles towards being the most humane city in America by educating pet owners to be more responsible, making our streets safer, reducing the number of animals killed each year in our shelters, and allowing us to more effectively use our resources," said Richard Alarcón, the city council member who introduced the ordinance.