Can you believe it? California, Arizona and many municipalities within these states and others have caught the mandatory spay/neuter bug. And now it’s Florida’s turn…

Florida State Rep Scott Randolph brought the bill before the House on January 20th. Here’s the short verbiage (can’t download the complete one yet):

GENERAL BILL (Florida House Bill 451) by SR Scott Randolph

Sterilization of Dogs and Cats: Requires sterilization of dogs & cats of specified age; provides exceptions; authorizes county or municipality to enact ordinances requiring licensure of dogs & cats that are not sterilized; requires DOACS to adopt rules for approval of breed registration organizations; provides penalties; conforms requirements for sterilization of dogs & cats in animal shelters & animal control agencies to changes made by act; deletes provision extending time for sterilization; authorizes county & municipal ordinances relating to sterilization of animals; authorizes county or municipality to collect surcharge on civil penalties.

Effective Date: January 1, 2010

In my view, it’s the disease of short-sighted animal welfare advocacy that's at the root of this infection—one which pits veterinarians, breeders, and independent-minded animal welfarists against those who would advocate population control over the individual needs of our pets.

No longer would the decision of your pet’s spay/neuter status be one made individually or with consideration of your veterinarian’s specific advice. No, it’ll be a decision left to our state’s legislature—most of whom I can only hope are good ol’ boys whose huntin’ dogs’ testicles are as precious to them as any gemstone of their exact proportions.

So you know, the FVMA (Florida Veterinary Medical Association) has not yet developed a specific policy statement, but it will almost certainly side with those advocating for the veterinarian’s role to remain as it stands: spay/neuter is NOT a decision best left to the likes of our legislators, whose understanding of this issue is as deep as Lake Okeechobee after a long drought.

For my part, on behalf of the South Florida chapter of the AVMA, (SFVMA) I'm currently drafting a response to the bill, carefully incorporating the points offered by the Veterinary News Network (of which I am a member/reporter). Sorry if this is long but it’s everything you need to know from most veterinarians’ point of view on this important topic (skip it if you’re already well-versed):

Message Points for VNN Reporters

1) The American College of Theriogenologists (ACT) and The Society for Theriogenology (SFT) believe that companion animals who are not intended for breeding should be neutered.

2) In these message points, the term "neutering" will be used to refer to both the spaying of female pets (ovariohysterectomy) and the neutering of male pets (castration).

3) Both groups also believe that the decision to spay or neuter is a decision that the pet owner and veterinarian should make on a case by case basis. In general, mandatory spay/neuter laws are not in the best interest of the pet or the owner.

4) The benefits of neutering are well documented and include population control, decreased roaming, decreased aggression and decreased risks of mammary, ovarian, or testicular cancers.

a. As an example, spayed female pets are unlikely to develop mammary cancer, a common small animal neoplasia.  This cancer is malignant 60% of the time in dogs and 90% of the time in cats.

5) Less well known are the disadvantages of neutering surgeries. They include increased risk of obesity, diabetes, increased risk of certain cancers, endocrine disorders, and even increased incidence of hip dysplasia.

a. Other research has shown that intact cats of both sexes experience a decrease in shyness when compared to neutered cats.
b. Additionally, there appears to be a decreased incidence of cognitive dysfunction in intact dogs of both sexes.

6) Mandatory spay/neuter programs (MSN), while well intentioned, are often responsible for decreases in licensing of animals and routine vaccinations in areas where MSN has been implemented.

7) Owners of intact animals are less likely to seek veterinary assistance because of a fear of being reported to local authorities or a fear of fines associated with their intact animal.

8) If owners avoid veterinary care, public health could be at risk due to decreased rabies vaccinations and routine prophylactic de-worming of our pets.

9) Some pets may possess medical conditions that could result in complications during anesthesia or surgery. Therefore, a mandate of spaying or neutering, especially at a specific age, is not in the best interest of the pet.

10) The pet overpopulation problem will not be resolved by mandating obligatory neutering of our pets.   The problem is multi-factorial and must be attacked on a variety of levels.

a. Countries in the European Union where neutering is illegal do not have significant pet overpopulation problems.

11) Most pets in the US are relinquished because of behavioral issues or economic/life changing conditions of the owner.

a. Accurate data on numbers of relinquished dogs and cats is essential to enable humane organizations and governments to help resolve reasons why pets are relinquished and/or abandoned.

That’s my a nutshell. What’s yours?

Image: Cats love the Sun too by DeeKnow