I was forwarded this letter written by a representative from PETA in support of the ordinance. In this response I have disputed her conclusion and found common ground as well.
Karen Byers' May 1, 2019 response to letter of endorsement from PETA representative, April 29, 2019
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Dear Mayor Gist and City Council Members -
I have copied the text from Teresa Chagrin in blue, and my response is in yellow. At the end of this letter I have attached data reports from successful spay/neuter groups and clinics that show success in areas without s/n ordinances.
Dear Mayor Gist and City Council Members,
I hope you're well. I'm writing on behalf of PETA and our many members and supporters in Tennessee who were happy to read that you want to take action to address the animal-overpopulation and homelessness crisis in Jackson.
We agree that it is good that the community recognize and respond to the pet over-population problem. However, we believe the plan you are implementing now is not a good one.
Teresa Chagrin's Linkedin profile page shows her living in Norfolk, Virginia. PETA has little presence in west Tennessee. I doubt many west Tennesseans have views that align with PETA, which is on the FBI's eco-terrorism list and is a frequent target of the American political Right.
We hope you'll pass a spay/neuter ordinance to reduce the number of animals who are born only to end up homeless. I'm enclosing information, including examples, about the way spay/neuter ordinances save tax dollars as well as animal lives.
We do not agree that a spay/neuter ordinance is appropriate in our community. I also do not believe she makes the case in her examples.
Your community isn't alone—communities across the country are grappling with the same issues, created by irresponsible animal owners and those who breed animals for profit, despite the deaths of millions of homeless animals on the streets and in shelters every year because there are simply not enough good homes for them.
Agree with this description, but does she know what's happening here? Did she do any research other than the link to the Jackson Sun article that you sent? Does she know that we have no dedicated high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic west of the Tennessee River and east of Memphis, an area which covers twenty counties with a population of over 500,000 people (excluding Shelby)? There are low-cost spay/neuter clinics all over middle and east Tennessee, and none here. (Please see first attachment below for a map of s/n clinics in TN.)
Exasperated with pouring more and more tax dollars into collecting, housing, and transferring or euthanizing the never-ending number of animals born for whom no homes exist,
Precisely. But this is what you voted to do in April.
many communities (including Memphis) have passed laws that require animal owners to spay or neuter their dogs and cats or purchase breeding permits that can help offset the costs of animal control.
Memphis passed this law in 2010. I don't think she can make the case that the ordinance has been effective there. Also, to our knowledge, Memphis is the only city or town with a spay/neuter ordinance in all of Tennessee. These are not popular here for many reasons, practical and ideological. However, there are many TN communities using aggressive and funded spay/neuter to make a difference without ordinances. (Attached are data from TN s/n groups and clinics that are successful while not having s/n ordinances in their community.)
The results are undeniable: After 10 years of enforcing a spay/neuter law in Santa Cruz County, California, a new animal shelter was constructed with one fewer dog kennel than the facility it replaced—in spite of human population growth.
We certainly agree the goal should be to have fewer animals in kennels.
The shelter's intake of strays had dropped by 60%, and it nearly halved the number of animals euthanized. Several communities in Oklahoma that have passed and enforced spay/neuter ordinances report a reduction in the number of stray animals. Claremore's animal control supervisor said that since the city passed an ordinance, "The number of strays taken in goes down every year."
Requiring that dogs and cats be sterilized unless their owners purchase an annual breeding permit—the cost of which would fund low-cost spay/neuter services—saves animals' lives and taxpayer dollars. Purposely bred puppies and kittens usually sell for several hundred dollars each—a permit fee is a reasonable and small price to pay to breed animals when taxpayers are funding the capture, housing, and disposition of others.
This story about Oklahoma says: "most communities have low-income programs that can start at $20" and even the source they quote sites “making (s/n) services available" as the first item to make an ordinance work. He also admits, “You have to enforce it. That’s probably where the biggest downfall is with those types of ordinances.” This buttresses our position that an ordinance in our area would not be effective when we do not have sufficient spay/neuter options available, and reinforces my claim that enforcement will be big obstacle.
A comprehensive spay/neuter ordinance should include the following provisions:
- Required breeding permits for backyard and hobby breeders (costing a suggested minimum of $100per litter)
NOTE: The Humane Society of the United States of TN has lobbied for regulation of backyard breeders in Nashville for years, to no avail.
- Mandatory spaying of mother dogs and cats and surrender of litters to a local shelter in cases of accidental litters or a requirement that guardians purchase a breeding permit and (on a case-by-case basis) pay a penalty fee for failing to buy one prior to breeding
Wow! Nearly a quarter of Jackson residents live in poverty. This would surely cause many pets to be surrendered.
- Mandatory sterilization of animals impounded by the city
- Pre-release sterilization of all animals adopted from shelters (In its Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians states that "[s]urgical sterilization (spaying or neutering) prior to release to adopters, including kittens and puppies as young as 6 weeks old, remains the most reliable and effective means of preventing unwanted reproduction of cats and dogs and decreasing their birthrates.")
We agree that animals should be spayed and neutered prior to release from any animal shelter or rescue. A spay/neuter clinic would help facilitate that.
- Significant differential licensing fees for animals to encourage guardians to have their animals sterilized
- Low-cost spay/neuter programs (Every dollar spent on spaying or neutering an animal reduces government animal control costs. The Minnesota legislature's Animal Population Control Study Commission found "that each dollar spent today on low-cost spay/neuter can lead to future animal control cost savings of approximately $18.72 over a ten-year period.")
She's making our case here again, very strongly. She cites that one dollar spent today on spay neuter saves an eighteen-fold cost over ten years. That's over a 100% return on investment annually. Bottom line: Communities see decreases in shelter intake when they decide to fund and provide aggressive spay/neuter for pet owners. It costs less to subsidize a low-cost spay/neuter surgery for an owned pet than it does to house a shelter pet for a day.
A critical element to any new law is effective enforcement. We suggest requiring enforcement in any legislation drafted.
I do not see any requirement for law enforcement to enforce in the proposed ordinance.
Perhaps you could publish this ordinance for the public to see before taking a vote. Thank you for your communication and consideration of these points.
Karen Byers, 5/1/19
The following map and data are here as well for closer viewing.
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.
Make 2017 a year of solutions for animals
CAROL REESE, Special to The Jackson Sun Published 6:35 p.m. CT Dec. 27, 2016 | Updated 10:44 a.m. CT Dec. 30, 2016
I know that many of you reading this column were the child that came home with the a tiny kitten or skinny pup you found abandoned. It is certainly my story and it was only in the last decade or so that I found “my people.”
I was so grateful to find that several animal rescue groups are devoted to linking animals in need with people that can help, but it does feel a lot like the story of the little Dutch boy. There are simply more animals being born in West Tennessee than there are places for them to go.
This was the story of Jackson County, Tennessee, until Julie Jacobson took initiative. She realized that the only way to stop the tide was to prevent it. With her passionate movement called Spay Tennessee, she focuses on finding funding to get animals fixed, It became so successful that not only did she help people that were looking for inexpensive ways to get their animals fixed, but she was able to begin an aggressive program of reaching other people who were not actively seeking that service. While word of mouth proved to be effective, it also helped to pass out informative fliers at places where people buy pet food, or even knock on doors.
It wasn’t overnight, but within a few years, the tide of homeless animals began to ebb, until it was apparent that Jackson County had made this work. Jacobson decided to take her mission to other counties and any time she can get a group to hear her message, she hits the road.
I heard her at the recent meeting organized by Karen Byers of West TN Spay Neuter, and I’m all in. We learned of a few opportunities for funding from large corporations, and grants here and there, and those will certainly be sought ... but there is lots of competition for those sources.
I say we should make this work by using West Tennessee funding to fix a West Tennessee problem ... and this is how: I signed up to make a $20 donation each month and promised to find two more friends who could do the same. They are each to ask two more friends to do the same, who will ask two more friends to do the same. Can’t do $20? Even if you do $5, or $10, it will multiply exponentially until there is a steady income stream, and the beauty of it is that all of it goes to getting local animals fixed..
On Facebook, you can find and smile at the great stories already being told about the successes of West TN Spay Neuter and spread the word to those that need a hand. I hope you will be inspired and sign up to support this mission. You can also check out the web page at westtnspayneuter.org, or call 731 300 6610 for more information.
Carol Reese is ornamental horticulture specialist for the Western District of the University of Tennessee Extension Service.
Carol Reese: Tunnel puppies point to need for spaying
The Jackson Sun Published 8:28 a.m. CT Dec. 22, 2016
Some people can drive past a homeless dog with nary a pang. Certain members of my family wish that described me, concerned that I take on too many animals in need. They are right. I do. Fiercely, I explain it this way. Though I know a human life is far more highly valued than an animal’s life, the need of that animal inspires the immediate reaction that I would have for a wailing child. Could you drive past an abandoned baby on the side of the road?
Luckily, I am not alone, evidenced by the many folks involved with responsibly run rescue groups of West Tennessee. It is also true that all of them are overwhelmed with the numbers of animals that need a place to go. What do they all want for Christmas? Certainly not a call about a litter of dumped puppies just as the family is getting in the car to go to Grandma’s house! Their fondest dream is that there are no more unwanted and abandoned companion animals.
It is hard not to be angry when it is discovered that the litter came from a nearby home with an unspayed female, and this is not the first litter. It is hard not to be angry when the person who answers that door tells you they can’t afford the cost of a spay as they take another drag on a cigarette or another sip of beer or fast food soft drink.
Other times you feel a surge of love for the kindly white-haired lady who, despite a limited income, fed the hungry pregnant dog dumped on her road. Or in a recent case, for the tenderhearted mail route carrier who called with heartfelt concern about more small pups at the tunnels where she helped engineer a rescue last year.
This was more complicated. Other dumped dogs had found this a good place to bear young and, once the dust settled, it appeared there were three litters in all. A few small pups were easily grabbed, and a few older pups, befriended by a lady across the road, were rounded up. The ease in grabbing one confused pup was later explained by the discovery that he was mostly blind and completely deaf. The amazing Sarah Kidd with Carroll County Humane Society found fosters for him, the little pups, the bigger pups and one mama dog! Karen Byers of West TN Spay Neuter Coalition boldly knocked on doors and arranged with those willing to keep fixed dogs how they could get that done economically.
These people rock, and you can help. Fix your animals, and if you can, support the groups that assist with fixing those pets with owners who can’t or won’t afford it. Please go to the Facebook page of West TN Spay Neuter Coalition or westtnspayneuter.org for details, and a master plan to put this problem to rest.
Carol Reese is an ornamental horticulture specialist for the Western District of the University of Tennessee Extension Service.