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.