ASPCA Position Statement on Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws -
The ASPCA does not support laws that mandate spay/neuter of all owned animals within a community; however, based on currently available scientific information, the ASPCA strongly supports spay/neuter as an effective means to reduce shelter intake...
In summary, the ASPCA recognizes that sterilization is currently the best method to reduce companion animal overpopulation and therefore to reduce shelter intake and euthanasia. The most important step a humane community can take to decrease companion animal overpopulation is to make a safe, effective, voluntary spay/neuter program available and readily accessible to the community, and create programs and incentives targeted to the populations known to be contributing disproportionately to shelter intake and euthanasia.
The Jackson City Council voted on April 2nd to approve a 1.5 million dollar construction contract for the Jackson Animal Care Center. We have asked to have spay/neuter involved during the planning and was told this was a "done deal" long ago. It was not, and the cost has skyrocketed for the building. A BIGGER BUILDING IS NOT THE ANSWER TO THE PET OVER-POPULATION PROBLEM IN WEST TN. Meanwhile, the powers-that-be are trying to push through a spay/neuter ordinance for the city, with no consultation with West TN Spay Neuter or any expert. We know that A SPAY/NEUTER ORDINANCE WILL NOT BE ENFORCEABLE AND WILL ONLY PENALIZE THE FOLKS WHO CAN LEAST AFFORD TO PAY FINES.
PLEASE SUPPORT US by attending the Jackson City Council meeting on May 7 9:00 in City Hall where I and others will speak out against the ordinance which is up for a vote that day. I will be representing you, folks who are burdened by the flood of strays in west TN. As well, tell your city council members that the Animal Care Center will only warehouse more animals and will do nothing to stop the animal breeding that plagues the area.
I am sharing the letter I wrote to Mayor Gist and city council members explaining the reasons why a larger version of the Humane Society will NOT be good for animals and is not good use of taxpayer and animal welfare money: bit.ly/2KLeJ2y
His response of 4/12/19: bit.ly/2KLeJ2y
and my response to that: bit.ly/2UZxd3
West TN Spay Neuter appreciates your support.
Dear Spay/Neuter advocates: At the 4/2/19 Jackson City Council meeting I spoke out AGAINST the Jackson Animal Care Center, which has now exceeded 1.5 million dollars in taxpayer money to construct and will cost at least 2-300,000 to operate per year. We in the spay/neuter community believe this is NOT a move in the right direction for animals and will do nothing to stop pet over-population. As well, the powers-that-be have written a spay/neuter ordinance that will penalize pet owners. The answer is not more buildings and criminalization, the answer is AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE SPAY/NEUTER. Please see my post with links to letters I have written to the Mayor and City Council members in the following blog posts.
April 12, 2019
Dear Mayor Gist,
Thank you for responding to my letter. I apologize for the scene and I do not wish to be antagonistic. However, nothing in your response gives me reason to stop being critical of this building. You have only reiterated what I knew or suspected, which is that there is no good vision of how to spend taxpayer and animal welfare money smartly for the benefit of animals. The narrative I will continue to tell is that the people were not given a voice or forum to have input into these plans, and we were ignored and marginalized through the entire decision-making process, including, stunningly, where we should have credibility: the spay/neuter ordinance. This lack of leadership will fall at your feet. You say you want to work with rescues and spay/neuter groups, but demonstrably have not. You have consulted only your friends who have given you bad advice.
I have been asked to submit a guest column to the Jackson Sun about my position on the ordinance. If it does not run, I will still take my thoughts to social media and will speak of it with anyone who will listen.
I got a call yesterday from a woman who rescued a kitten from the street that she could not keep. She, like many others before, have been turned away at the door of the JACC. The City has been in charge of the Center for two years - how will the new facility do more to prevent over-population than what you are doing now? The fact is: the center will fill up whether you have 20 cages, or 200.
There are big gaps in a plan, not just for spay/neuter but for how to work with rescue groups as well. Here are some of the points you are not addressing:
- First, and most maddeningly, decisions were made with NO public input. Spay Neuter was not at the table. Most rescue groups were not at the table. You cannot now give lip service to wanting to "coordinate and work" with those groups when you are asking us to be a part of a system we believe is ill-conceived, after giving us no voice or access and disregarding our efforts to be heard.
- What will be the projected per animal cost of rescue through this facility (how many animals do you plan to rescue and what are the operating costs)? I have not seen any numbers or projections. As taxpayers, we deserve to have confidence that our money is being spent wisely.
- How will the new facility work with rescues to ensure that animals are adopted more rapidly than they are now? What will you do with animals that are not adopted to prevent kennel syndrome and other ill health (lack of stimulation and exercise) that are effects of being kenneled indefinitely?
- How many animals will be turned away at the door and what does the City plan to to do support them. Will you support West TN Spay Neuter with funding so that we can adequately service the pet owners who will seek assistance when an ordinance is passed? Will you be willing to pay me or others fairly for the service we are providing the community for the care of animals? (Am I to continue unfunded and volunteering to provide a service to the community while folks with salaries are doing inefficient work that I believe is ultimately not productive down the street?)
- Some pets are very marketable through rescues and others are very difficult. How are decisions going to be made about which animals you will share with them. Who will get the pick of the litters? Will you be willing to fund rescues for their work with less desirable/more expensive animals as well? How are these efforts being made now, while the City has governance of a rescue facility. How will a new building make this dynamic any different.
- How will you enforce a spay/neuter ordinance? What officer training, procedures and proof will you require. I have read the ordinance and it does not address the bureaucracy that must be created to enforce such a law. The logistics of identifying the certifying animals reeks of government intrusion and over-reach.
This ordinance, which you did not ask me or any expert about, will cause pet owners to seek assistance. I will not be available to clean up that mess. Providing assistance is more than filling out forms and paying for a surgery, and the farce that is Community Spay Neuter will not be able to serve the people.
I look forward to helping the City find solutions to the issues of animal welfare in Jackson.
April 1, 2019
Dear Mayor Gist, and Jackson City Council members:
Nearly three years ago, I wrote a letter to the Jackson Sun (5/18/16) expressing my and others' concerns about the Jackson Animal Care Center proposal. The plan then, as it appears to be now, is to scale up and elaborate on the Humane Society business model that has existed for decades, and was not ultimately self-sustaining. https://www.westtnspayneuter.org/news/archives/05-2016
Soon after, I met with two important members of the committee of this project. I introduced them (by conference call) to Julie Jacobson of Spay Tennessee, and Natalie Corwin, Director of the Pet Community Center spay/neuter clinic in Nashville, both of whom were very willing share their experiences and knowledge with the Jackson committee. Unfortunately, this meeting lasted only thirty minutes and the committee didn't agree to any further discussion with me or the others.
In July 2016, I spoke with the Jackson Sun about the issue of pet over-population, trying to make the case for prevention, and also expressing my concerns that getting city government into the rescue business would NOT be an efficient way to spend precious taxpayer funds and limited animal welfare resources. https://www.westtnspayneuter.org/news/archives/07-2016
Finally, in September of 2016, Sally Alexander Graves and I formed West TN Spay Neuter, which has since helped fix over 1,500 area cats and dogs that were at risk of having unwanted litters. We have spoken with and helped hundreds of families - animal lovers burdened by strays, who want to do what is right for their pets, but simply cannot afford a retail vet experience or have other obstacles to service (transportation, access to affordable vets, just too many animals, etc.)
We have encouraged the employees at the Animal Care Center and JMC Rabies Control to share our WTSN hotline with pet owners, and we are happy to help those they refer. Roughly twenty percent of our assistance in 2018 was for referrals from these entities; meanwhile, we have received NO subsidy or assistance from the City of Jackson, Madison County, nor the West TN Healthcare Foundation. While our opposition to this project is not about our funding (WTSN), I bring this up to say that this need for low-cost spay neuter will not go away nor will it be addressed by the new Animal Care Center as currently conceived.
I have written letters, attended City Council meetings, and have approached many of you. All along, I was told that the Animal Care Center is a "done deal". Now there is a press push that seems to be appealing for support or celebration of Tuesday's vote. Having attended the recent local election debates, hearing calls for accessibility, transparency and fiscal accountability in our government, I cannot help but share my story. Everyone voting needs to know that there is sophisticated and fair opposition to this plan from folks who do indeed love animals and are working hard in the trenches to improve pets' lives. There has been NO public discussion of this, and other options have not been openly considered. And while ours has been perhaps a lone and largely unheard voice, I submit that the narrative I describe is shared by many - veterinary and city workers, rescuers, and pet lovers.
We believe that a full and expensive shelter is not attractive to businesses looking at our community. Warehousing animals is very costly to taxpayers. My quick math on this facility figures that each animal will cost at least $250 for the next 20 years. In contrast, our spay/neuter subsidies average around $25 per cat and $50 for dogs - and they already have families! Replacing Myth with Math - Well-Designed Intervention Plans are Preventative
Our community's goal should be LESS rescue. Building MORE kennels in a community already saturated with pets will mean that less desirable animals will remain in cages for even longer (weeks, months and years) which is called by some animal advocates "a fate worse than death" for a companion animal. In fact, the term "no-kill" is considered by some in animal welfare to be outdated, misleading and inhumane. We cannot adopt, warehouse or rescue our way out of dog & cat overpopulation!
For example, it is disingenuous to call a facility "no-kill" when it is turning away animals at the door and there is kill facility nearby. When the shelter is full, many animals that are turned away will remain in over-populated homes, un-sterilized and reproducing, or left to run loose to be a burden or hazard, or end up in shelters and eventually euthanized. There are simply not enough homes for the number of animals that are being rescued in this area now, and there won't be more homes in the future. Sending animals "up North" is not a cost-effective solution for any but the most desirable pets, and is not an option for cats at all.
Issues of animal cruelty, disease, and public safety are also addressed by reducing the number of homeless animals on our streets through accessible and affordable spay/neuter. Perhaps surprisingly, many or most in the s/n community do NOT support mandatory spay/neuter laws in areas such as ours (areas with few s/n options). Such laws are largely unenforceable, or if enforced are likely to punish the most vulnerable pet owners, and can have the unintended consequences of driving shelter intake and euthanasia up. This paper from the ASPCA - Position Statement on Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws says "the only humane method of population control that... significantly reduces the number of animals entering animal shelters is the voluntary sterilization of owned pets."
The spay/neuter solution works in other areas of the state and across the country. Shelters in East and Middle Tennessee see significant reductions in intake where spay/neuter is a priority. So while we appreciate the spirit in which the City has been moving forward with the Animal Care Center, we believe a high-volume, low-cost, spay/neuter clinic would be more effective than a rescue building. Our area falls well within the demographic requirements to support a clinic. A s/n facility can be set up and run for a fraction of this plan and can run in the black. It would be an economic generator as pet owners (and s/n volunteers) from all around the area would bring their pets to Jackson for the day. A clinic could be a resource for rescues and animal controls so that they DO NOT adopt out intact animals. Municipalities can support a non-profit clinic with grants (as Nashville does with Pet Community Center).
Thank you for your time and consideration of these points.