A controversial ordinance was just passed in Riverside County, Calif., that requires all pit bulls in the unincorporated part of the county to be spayed or neutered for what officials say is an effort to lower the number of both attacks and pit bulls who are euthanized every year.
The ordinance, which takes effect in a month, will require all pit bulls and pit mixes over four-months-old to be altered, with exceptions for licensed breeders, dogs who work in law enforcement or therapy and for dogs who have a medical condition. Violations will be a misdemeanor and come with a fine.
John Welsh of the Riverside County’s Department of Animal Services told ABC News that the county takes in 3,500 to 4,000 abandoned and surrendered pit bulls annually, and that 80 percent of them are unaltered. Other numbers indicate that pit bulls make up 20 percent of the dogs in shelters and that an estimated 30 percent of them are euthanized.
The number of pit bulls who find themselves needing new homes and who are being killed is serious, but is targeting them with breed specific legislation the answer here?
Some critics of the ordinance don’t believe it’s fair to target pit bulls, or any specific breed, with mandatory spay/neuter laws and that if they are imposed at all they should encompass all dogs and cats. They also believe more should be done about irresponsible owners who don’t take care of their dogs properly or let them run loose.
Ledy VanKavage, a senior attorney for Best Friends Animal Society, said she believes this will only lead to even more pit bulls being euthanized because people who can’t afford the procedure will surrender their dogs.
Still others oppose mandatory spay/neuter laws entirely. Organizations including the the No Kill Advocacy Center, ASPCA and Alley Cat Allies, among others, don’t believe they will help with overpopulation in the long run. The latter two have conducted studies concerning the effectiveness of this type of legislation and have concluded that it doesn’t work and is difficult to enforce.
In general, those opposed to mandatory spay/neuter laws believe that making free and low-cost services available to areas that need them and that educating and empowering people who want to do the right thing, instead of threatening them with citations, fines and seizures, is a better and more effective option.
According to the ASPCA, communities that are having the greatest success reducing overpopulation all have something in common: a multifaceted, targeted community program that, in summary, is based on careful research on which populations are contributing to shelter intake and euthanasia, focuses on barriers to spay/neuter, has support and funding and has an efficient infrastructure to serve areas that need it the most.
According to Welsh, people need more of a push than that, stating that, “People are ultimately going to do what they wanted to do, it just takes a citation on their door to get them to do it.”
Is it fair to target pit bulls with this ordinance? Or should the county be focused on increasing access to free and low cost spay/neuter services, working to decrease the total number of animals euthanized every year through other programs and dealing with irresponsible owners individually?
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