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Chicago Pet Owners Threatened with Animal Rights-Inspired Proposed Mandatory Spay/Neuter Ordinance by Margo Milde

"If you pass this ordinance here there will be cities all over the Midwest and coasts that will pass this as well, and we really need this legislation... it will spread like wildfire!", boasted that retired television game show host-turned-mandatory spay/neuter advocate, Bob Barker, before the Chicago City Council on July 29, 2008. Barker had traveled to Chicago in an attempt to persuade the Chicago Aldermen to approve a proposed Chicago mandatory spay/neuter ordinance. This proposal had been introduced in mid-May, of this year, at the behest of local animal rights activists. Barker was accompanied on his Chicago visit by Judy Mancuso, sponsor of California’s AB 1634, that state's own version of a mandatory spay/neuter bill. Barker and Mancuso couldn’t have been clearer in their vitriolic anti-pet message to the aldermen and citizens of Chicago: they and other animal rights extremists intend Chicago to become a gigantic stepping stone towards enactment of future draconian mandatory spay/neuter laws and other restrictive anti-breeder legislation throughout the United States. In short, under the deceptive guise of controlling pet overpopulation and reducing related government animal control costs, they are on a mission to end pet breeding across the United States.

"More importantly, these mandatory spay/neuter advocates also fail to disclose their true animal rights inspired motives: the eventual elimination of pets and other domestic animals from our society."

As with many other attempts to enact mandatory spay/neuter legislation, animal rights activists associated with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) played a major role in proposing and drafting Chicago’s ordinance. Paula Fasseas, the Founder and Chair of PAWS Chicago, a private and well-funded animal shelter whose policies closely ally it with those of the HSUS, provided much of the venomous breeder-hating language used in this proposed ordinance. In fact, PAWS Chicago’s press release of April 30, 2008, which announced the fine details of the ordinance, predated the City Council’s official release of the ordinance draft to the public by more than two weeks! Not to be outdone by Fasseas, Jordan Maytas, Illinois State Director of the HSUS, also had a hand in crafting the ordinance, giving it an especially caustic breeder-hating flavor typical of that inspired by animal rights extremists. Both Maytas and Fasseas directly modeled the wording of the ordinance on that suggested by HSUS’ legislative materials, as well as a recently passed mandatory spay/neuter law in Los Angeles, California. The HSUS later issued their own press release in support of the proposed Chicago ordinance, revealing their true hatred for Chicago’s pet breeders and owners. As animal rights-inspired mandatory spay/neuter proponents have done everywhere, Maytas and Fasseas, joined July 29, 2008 by Mancuso and Barker, attempted to use lies, deception, and trickery to blindside Chicago’s aldermen and push through the Chicago ordinance on an unsuspecting pet-owning public.

As of September 3, 2008, the final outcome regarding passage of this ordinance remains unclear. Although it will be presented again before the City Council, the date has not yet been set.

When reading the ordinance, it is difficult to determine whom Fasseas and Maytas despise the most: Chicago pet owners and breeders, or Chicago’s pets themselves. Should this ordinance be enacted, all dogs and cats kept within the City of Chicago limits would have to be sterilized by six months of age, an age that many veterinarians believe is too young to undergo this procedure without the significant risk of adverse side effects. While limited exceptions are granted in the ordinance that would purportedly allow owners to keep certain selected pets intact in the city, these exemptions are intentionally phrased very vaguely, making a clear interpretation difficult, or are just plain unworkable. For example, dogs that "have earned or are actively being trained and are in the process of earning an agility, carting, herding, protection, rally, hunting, working, or other title" are exempted should their owners provide proof of these activities, but how many dogs can be actively trained in these pursuits before the age of six months, let alone compete? "Dogs being trained or actively used by law enforcement agencies" and "dogs owned by a guard dog service" are likewise eligible for exemptions, but again, it is also unlikely that any dog would be trained or used by the police or a protection service at that tender age!

"Furthermore, any applicant for a breeding permit must consent to a criminal history background check, along with any co-owner of that animal and other household family members of the owner. Completely in line with animal rights extremists’ philosophy, the writers of this ordinance consider potential pet breeders, and their family members and co-owners, to be outright criminals unless proven otherwise."

Finally, similar to the Los Angeles Mandatory Spay/Neuter law on which the Chicago ordinance was largely modeled, exemptions may be granted to "dogs or cats of breeds approved by and registered with a registry or association recognized by the commission and whose programs and practices are consistent with the humane treatment of animals". This language opens up a veritable can of worms. Would American pit bull terriers, rottweilers, and other frequently banned breeds be considered "approved" breeds under this ordinance? Would registries such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) that sponsor hunt tests and field trials, in which game birds are hunted and killed in order to test the instincts and skills of various sporting breeds, still be eligible for recognition under the "humane treatment of animals" clause under this ordinance should animal rights activists be placed in charge of the registry approval process? And, just what would qualify a registry to be an "approved registry" under this law, anyway? The ordinance is intentionally vague on these questions; there are no guarantees of any exemptions for the pets of any Chicago dog or cat owner, no matter how valuable their animals or exemplary their breeding operation.

Should this ordinance be passed by the Chicago City Council, the owner of any cat or dog granted an exemption must pay the current $50 per year intact animal fee, and, if they are intending to breed that animal, must pay an additional $100 per year "breeding permit" fee as well. That $100 per year fee is for each dog or cat that the owner may breed during the year, and must be paid by the owner in advance of any breeding. However, the owner is limited to only one whelped litter per household per permit year, no matter how many intact permitted animals they have - and no matter how many surviving kittens or puppies result from that litter. (According to the ordinance, a one-time additional litter exception may be granted only in extenuating circumstances, but there is no guarantee of this, either.) Furthermore, any applicant for a breeding permit must consent to a criminal history background check, along with any co-owner of that animal and other household family members of the owner. Completely in line with animal rights extremists’ philosophy, the writers of this ordinance consider potential pet breeders, and their family members and co-owners, to be outright criminals unless proven otherwise. When the puppies and kittens are sold, breeders must furnish the City of Chicago Animal Services Commission with the name, address, and telephone number of the animal’s new owner within five days from the date of sale or transfer, which can be done only on a "special form approved by the commission" according to the language of the ordinance. No doubt this clause was inserted to produce a paper trail that can be later used to ensure that those puppies and kittens sold will likewise be neutered by the age of six months, therefore never reproducing. The intent is clear: eventually under this ordinance, Chicago will become both a sterile and sterilized city, completely devoid of the companionship and valuable services of citizens’ cats and dogs.

The penalties for not having a cat or dog sterilized by the age of six months are extreme. Should an owner be cited with possessing an intact animal sixty days after the first violation, it is considered to be a second violation and the owner may be fined an additional $100. If a second sixty days were to go by without compliance, it will then be considered a third violation, punishable by a fine of up to $500, and impoundment of the pet! Note that the $500 fine and impoundment are punitive measures that punish any pet owner whose only crime has been to fail to have their pet spayed or neutered by the six months maximum age; no cruelty, neglect, or other charges need enter into the situation for the stiff fine and pet impoundment punishment to ensue. These penalties abrogate the property rights of Chicago’s pet owners while placing in peril the very lives of Chicago’s pets this ordinance claims to protect. Chicago is a very diverse city, and many Chicago pet owners do not believe in sterilizing their cats and dogs for religious or cultural reasons, yet these owners may still provide their pets with the best of care. Other responsible owners just don’t believe in spaying or neutering at that early an age, fearing the health consequences of doing so. Why should they, with their cherished pets, be punished so severely for nothing other than refusing to have their pet undergo a serious and life-altering surgery which may conflict with the owner’s strong personal beliefs against this practice?

Many statements contained in this ordinance are nothing short of ludicrous. "Eliminating brutal dog attacks" and "combating the phenomenon of dog fighting" are mentioned as supporting statements in the opening paragraphs of this ordinance, yet how many irresponsible dog owners and gang bangers will suddenly become model law-aiding dog-owning citizens once this ordinance is enacted?

Proponents of the Chicago mandatory spay/neuter ordinance, such as Barker, Mancuso, Fasseas, and Maytas, have attempted to deceive the City Council with falsified data, as well as empty promises. For example, they fail to note that in places such as Santa Cruz County, California, and the City of Los Angeles, two locales where mandatory spay/neuter laws have been passed, euthanasia and shelter intake rates have increased markedly in comparison to others surrounding areas which still lack this type of punitive law, and related government animal control costs have likewise skyrocketed. More importantly, these mandatory spay/neuter advocates also fail to disclose their true animal rights inspired motives: the eventual elimination of pets and other domestic animals from our society.

"In fact, there is such a shortage of adoptable pets in Chicago that thousands of homeless pets are imported into the city from other areas of the country each year, both by private rescuers and Chicago shelters, in order to satisfy the demand of Chicago’s potential pet adopters."

On the other hand, this ordinance is actively opposed by veterinary organizations, pet rescue groups, as well as cat and dog fanciers clubs, who support the rights of responsible individuals to own and breed cats and dogs. Both the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association and the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association have issued vigorously worded opposition papers in response to the proposed Chicago pet sterilization ordinance. To date, over 150 dog and cat organizations from throughout the United States have issued formal statements opposing the Chicago mandatory spay/neuter ordinance, with more arriving each day. Public opinion polls consistently show that the public is opposed to mandatory spay/neuter and other punitive laws, not just in Chicago, but elsewhere across the country. The United States is a nation in which pet ownership remains an important and valued right for a large segment of the population.

Reasons for opposing the Chicago mandatory spay/neuter ordinance are based on solid evidence, case history of other areas in which forced sterilization laws have been enacted, and reasoned thinking, including the following:

  • Excessive cost and inability to enforce such ordinances creates budget woes for cities and counties where such laws have been enacted.
    • For example, several years ago Montgomery County, Maryland repealed their mandatory spay/neuter law after only 30 breeders licenses were requested instead of the expected 550, leading to a dramatic drop in revenue for their animal control agency.
    • More recently, the City of Los Angeles, California approved a mandatory spay/neuter law in February of 2008; shortly after this bill was passed, Los Angeles’ pet licensing sales dropped dramatically and still remain low. Due to this loss in revenue, less than six months later, the Los Angeles Animal Services Department is not even able to pay for public service announcements communicating information concerning this unfunded spay/neuter mandate; Los Angeles does not even have the money to open their new animal shelter and may be forced to lay off up to 27 employees in its Animal Services Department. Los Angeles’ mandated sterilization-related financial fiasco earned scathing criticism for the Los Angeles Animal Services Department in a formal report prepared by Los Angeles Controller, Laura Chick, on August 19, 2008.
    • Louisville, Kentucky passed a highly restrictive pet breeder ordinance, similar to a mandatory spay/neuter law, at the end of 2006. Less than two years later, Louisville’s shelter euthanasia rates have increased 70% since the ordinance was passed while license sale revenues declined 48%, leading to financial chaos in Louisville’s Metro Animal Services.
    • Finally, on July 1, 2008 California’s Department of Finance issued a financial analysis for AB 1634, California’s statewide mandatory spay/neuter bill, in which it opposed its passage, stating that it would probably increase the number of pets relinquished to shelters, and as a result would increase related costs to associated governmental agencies.
  • Increased shelter intakes and euthanasia rates in the regions where mandatory spay/neuter has been attempted. Santa Cruz County, California, passed a mandatory spay/neuter bill in 1995. Actual figures obtained by the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) found that a large increase occurred in Santa Cruz County pet shelter intakes and pet euthanasias during the first year after implementation of this law. Even now, over ten years later, the rate of shelter intakes and pet euthanasias for Santa Cruz county is significantly higher than the shelter intake and euthanasia rates for nearby areas not having mandatory pet sterilization laws on their books. A similar scenario has taken place every time and in every place when mandatory spay/neuter laws have been enacted.
  • Decreased pet license compliance as well as decreased pet rabies vaccination compliance rates in many areas where mandatory spay/neuter laws has been enacted. As pet owners attempt to shield their animals from this punitive legislation, pet visits to veterinarians decline, potentially causing a decline in rabies vaccination rates. This could provoke a major public health risk for both pets and humans from increased exposure to this deadly disease. In fact, Forth Worth, Texas, rescinded its mandatory spay/neuter law after it triggered a massive decline in pet rabies vaccination rates, which had led to an outbreak of rabies in that city.
  • Lack of scientific data to support pro-mandatory spay/neuter claims that sterilization leads to lessened pet aggression. In fact, research has determined that neutered females are more likely to bite than their intact female counterparts.
  • Far from the safe and benign procedure that pro-mandatory spay/neuter proponents claim that it is, pet sterilization can have serious health consequences for the animal undergoing this procedure, especially when performed at too early an age. This topic has been thoroughly discussed in a number of peer-reviewed veterinary journal articles, and increasing evidence points to a variety of adverse sequalae resulting from these procedures. For example, in many larger breeds, spaying and neutering, especially when performed at an early age, has been linked to significantly higher rates of osteosarcoma, a usually fatal type of bone cancer, in adulthood. Other possible adverse effects of pet sterilization include higher rates of hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone production), increased susceptibility to cruciate (knee) ligament injuries, and increased risk of certain cancers such as hemangiosarcoma (a usually fatal cancer of the heart or spleen). For these reasons, veterinarians strongly believe that it is they, as animal health care professionals, who should have the ultimate authority, along with the pet’s owner, in determining when and if to sterilize a particular pet. They also state that the spay/neuter decision should be made on a case-by-case basis for each individual cat or dog by weighing the advantages and disadvantages for that particular animal, and is not a decision to be mandated by government at a fixed age for all pets.
  • This ordinance would limit each household to only one litter per year. While burdensome to both dog and cat breeders alike, this would prove especially worrisome for cat breeders, since intact female cats are more subject to pyometria and other medical conditions when not bred on a regular basis.
  • Many valuable cats in breeding programs cannot be shown in cat shows, and are therefore ineligible for exemptions under the terms of this ordinance. Such cats would have to be spayed or neutered and removed from the breeding programs. These intrusive government mandated pet sterilization measures may quickly lead to the loss of a number of rare cat breeds.
  • This proposed ordinance would do nothing to effectively address such public safety concerns as dogs running at large off the owner’s property, or gang banger crime involving animals including dog fighting. Rather than pass new laws that cannot be enforced, Chicago should vigorously enforce laws already on the books concerning off leash dogs, animal cruelty and neglect, and dog fighting. In this way, responsible pet owners, who are already in compliance with Chicago’s pet laws, would not be unfairly targeted and impacted as they would under this proposed mandatory/spay neuter ordinance.
  • Mandatory spay/neuter simply does not work with regards to feral cats, who by definition have no owner. Cook County, which contains Chicago, recently approved a county-wide Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program for feral cats in October 2007. In other areas, Trap-Neuter-Release programs have been shown to be highly effective in controlling the number of feral cats living in a community and the same results should be expected for Cook County - including Chicago - in future years.
  • "Pet overpopulation" in Chicago, as claimed by animal rights activists, is nothing but a pure myth. Proponents of this bill cite "pet overpopulation" as a reason for mandatory spay/neuter in Chicago. However, in 2007, the Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance (CASA) reported that only 445 healthy dogs were euthanized in Chicago shelters, and, when compared with 2006 figures, a 5% decline in pet shelter intakes and an 18% decline in the number of euthanized dogs and cats were documented. Chicago is quickly approaching the coveted and exalted status of a real "no kill" city, accomplishing this through voluntary and educational measures alone. In fact, there is such a shortage of adoptable pets in Chicago that thousands of homeless pets are imported into the city from other areas of the country each year, both by private rescuers and Chicago shelters, in order to satisfy the demand of Chicago’s potential pet adopters.
  • Since Maddie’s Fund has a policy of not approving grants in areas where government mandates are in effect, Chicago shelters face a loss of millions of dollars should mandatory spay/neuter be enacted. Maddie's Fund ( is a foundation that seeks to fund programs that benefit homeless animals in shelters across the United States, including spay/neuter programs as well as programs which benefit less adoptable pets suffering from medical or behavioral issues. Many millions of dollars are awarded annually to shelters meeting stringent Maddie’s Fund requirements. The Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance (CASA) was formed with the major purpose of qualifying for, and then applying for, Maddie's Fund grants. Already a starter grant of $40,000 has been awarded to CASA shelters through Tree House Foundation, a CASA member, and it is expected that an application for a multi-million dollar grant would be submitted by CASA to Maddie's Fund administrators later this year. These amounts are expected to be substantial; for example, New York City was recently awarded a $19,000,000 multi-year grant. Chicago's share is expected to be proportional, based upon relative populations for each city; multi-year Maddie's Fund grants of many millions of dollars could therefore easily be expected in Chicago. However, Maddie's Fund has a strict policy of not awarding grants to shelters in regions in which government mandated programs, such as mandatory spay/neuter, are in effect. Therefore, should Chicago enact this ordinance, Maddie's Fund would deny Chicago shelters at least 40% of this expected grant money, the portion that would have gone directly to fund spay/neuter programs, and quite possibly even a higher percentage. The loss to Chicago of this funding, and the resulting loss of programs directly benefiting Chicago's homeless animals, would be a direct tragic consequence of a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance, should it be enacted. The City of Chicago faces a huge budgetary shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year, and would not be able to supply additional funding to its animal shelters to make up this deficit if the expected Maddie's Fund grants were lost. Private philanthropy would have to make up the difference, and may be difficult to obtain during our country's current economic crisis.
  • Only one of the CASA shelters, PAWS Chicago, openly supports this Chicago mandatory spay/neuter proposal. A second CASA shelter, Harmony House, has issued a public statement in opposition to the ordinance. The rest do not have a public opinion at this time, but are understandably concerned about the loss of Maddie’s Funds that would result should this ordinance be enacted. They are also worried about the negative impact of mandatory spay/neuter on shelter intakes and euthanasia rates, as based upon examination of statistics from other areas where mandatory spay/neuter laws have proven to be an complete failure.

The message is clear: Chicago does not need or want a mandatory spay/neuter law. Instead of solving any of Chicago’s animal control problems, this mandate would only create additional problems through increased costs to the Chicago’s Animal Care and Control Department, higher shelter intake and euthanasia rates, a decline in licensing revenues, and possibly a decline in rabies vaccination compliance, leading to a potential public health threat from this deadly disease. Since irresponsible pet owners and gang bangers already disregard existing laws, the proposed ordinance could not reduce the number of dog bites, nor would it halt the use of dogs in illegal activities such as dog fighting. Instead, this ordinance would target Chicago’s law-abiding dog owners and breeders, seriously impacting the ability of responsible hobby breeders to supply healthy dogs and kittens to the Chicago’s citizens.

Alliance of Chicagoland Pet Owners (ACPO), a coalition of allied pet owners, animal trainers, dog and cat breeders, pet rescuers, and veterinarians, has been formed to oppose this highly restrictive anti-pet breeder legislation. Pet owners, purebred fanciers’ clubs, and pet associations from across United States have joined ACPO in opposition to the proposed Chicago pet sterilization ordinance. These groups and individuals are fully cognizant of the dangers that such laws pose to our traditional pet ownership and pet breeding rights, and will attempt to vigorously oppose and defeat such legislation wherever it arises.

Rather than the emotional falsehoods and fabrications of the animal rights associated mandatory spay/neuter proponents, opposition to mandatory spay/neuter is based on solid facts and statistics, and serves to protect America’s pets as well as the ownership and breeding rights of the people who own them. Given that the ultimate goal of the animal rights movement is the complete extinction of all of our breeds of domestic animals, it is critical that everyone who owns a pet, breeder or not, become informed on these issues, and then stand up and be counted by expressing their opposition to proposed animal rights-backed laws such as this to their legislators. This is simply a fight we cannot afford to lose.

Animal Statistics Table: Community Summary, Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance (CASA), Jan - Dec 2006, retrieved Aug 31, 2008 from CASA web site.
Annual Reporting Form, Adoption Guarantee Organizations, Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance 2007, retrieved Aug 31, 2008 from CASA web site.
Appeasing animal rights activists won’t save pets or taxpayer dollars June 26, 2007, National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA)
Basis for position on mandatory spay-neuter in the canine and feline, retrieved Aug 31, 2008 from American College of Theriogenologists web site.
Budget of Los Angeles Animal Services for 2008-2009 Aug 21, 2008, retrieved Aug 31, 2008, from the City of Los Angeles Animal Services web site.
California Department of Finance Bill Analysis for Bill Number: AB 1634 July 1, 2008, retrieved Aug 31 2008 from California Department of Finance web site.
Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance announces lower euthanasia rates in Chicago, Sep 12, 2006, retrieved Aug 31, 2008 from the Anti-Cruelty Society web site.
Chick, Laura N. Letters to the Members of the Los Angeles City Council, Aug 19, 2008, retrieved Aug 31, 2008 from City of Los Angeles web site.
Dale, Steve. Mandatory Spay/Neuter, retrieved Aug 31, 2008 from Steve Dale’s Pet Central Blog.
Duffy, Deborah L, and Serpell, James A. Non-reproductive Effects of Spaying and Neutering on Behavior in Dogs, proceedings of the Third International Symposium on Non-Surgical Contraceptive Methods for Pet Population Control, retrieved Aug 31, 2008 from Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania web site.
Eigenhauser, George. Mandatory Spay/Neuter: Pedigreed cats are NOT exempt!, Fanc-e-Mews, July/Aug 2008, retrieved Aug 31, 2008 from the Cat Fanciers’ Association Legislative web site.
Eigenhauser, George. Mandatory Spay/Neuter: The Wrong Answer for Cat Lovers, Fanc-e-Mews, Mar/Apr 2007, retrieved August 31, 2008 from Cat Fanciers’ Association web site.
Kustritz, Margaret V. Root. Determining the optimal age for gonadectomy of dogs and cats, Dec 1, 2007, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol 231, No. 11, retrieved Aug 31, 2008, from the American Veterinary Medical Association web site.
Long-term health risks and benefits associated with spay/neuter in dogs, May 14, 2007, Sanborn, Laura J., with Precis by Katz, Larry S., retrieved Aug 31, 2008 from the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) web site.
Maddie’s® Policy on Funding Government Programs and Mandates, retrieved August 31, 2008 from the Maddie’s Fund web site.
Position statement in opposition to the City of Chicago proposed Mandatory Spay/Neuter ordinance, Board of Directors, Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. Retrieved Aug 31, 2008 from the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association web site.
Position statement on mandatory spay-neuter, retrieved Aug 31, 2008 from American College of Theriogenologists web site.
Substitute Ordinance to amend Chapter 7-12, Municipal Code (City of Chicago), July 22, 2008, retrieved Aug 31, 2008 from the Cat Fanciers’ Association Legislative web site.

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Margo Milde is the AKC Legislative Liaison for the Rand Park Dog Training Club Inc and the Agility Ability Club of Illinois. She is also a founding member of the Alliance of Chicagoland Pet Owners and the Health Education Chair of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of America.

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