Position Statements

Spay & Neuter Kansas City’s Position on Mandatory Spay / Neuter Regulations

Position on Mandatory Spay / Neuter Laws in Kansas City, MissouriSpay and Neuter Kansas City does not support laws that mandate spaying and neutering of all owned animals within a community. Based on data gathered by our organization and many professional animal health and welfare organizations, the greatest obstacle for a family’s failure to spay or neuter a pet is cost. Because the barrier to compliance is financial, citations with fees and criminal penalties only compound the family’s inability to comply. In cities with mandatory spay and neuter, the ultimate cost for these families who are not in compliance, cannot afford the surgery, and have incurred fines, is to surrender their pet to an already overcrowded animal shelter. Spay and Neuter Kansas City believes education and clinic access results in voluntary compliance, which is the most effective means of animal population control.

Spay and Neuter Kansas City joins the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American College of Theriogenologists (ACT), Society for Theriogenology (SFT), Best Friends Animal Society, and the American Kennel Club in our nonsupport for laws mandating spay/neuter of privately owned, non shelter dogs and cats.

In addition to cost, other barriers include education and access to affordable clinics. Mandating all pets be spayed and neutered would put enormous amount of financial burden on SNKC unless the local government enacting the ordinance is willing to cover it. This ultimately would mean the tax payers of our community would cover the cost of spaying and neutering pets as a result of the ordinance.

Although spaying and neutering helps to control dog and cat populations, mandatory approaches may contribute to pet owner surrender, mandatory impoundment for noncompliance, and pet owners avoiding licensing, vaccinations, and even veterinary care for their pets. Moreover, there are conflicting reports on the impact of mandatory ordinances, specifically reports regarding euthanasia rates and animal control costs achieved in communities that have enacted mandatory spay/neuter.

Spay and Neuter Kansas City supports voluntary neutering policies. Spay and Neuter Kansas City provides low-cost spay and neuter services for underserved areas of the city and families in need as a means of animal population control, to lower shelter intake, and for those pets to have healthy lives. There are many health and behavior benefits to spaying or neutering pets that make it a preferred surgery for most pet owners. However, an ordinance that mandates such sterilization, especially when that ordinance contain criminal penalties, is not supported by Spay and Neuter Kansas City.

Has the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for “pit bull” dogs in Kansas City, MO, been effective?

Kansas City, Mo. passed an ordinance mandating the spay/neuter of “pit bull” dogs in August 2006. In 2005, KCMO euthanized 981 pit bulls at the shelter.

In 2006, KCMO euthanized 1353 pit bull type dogs. In 2007, the first complete year of the ordinance it euthanized 1,722; in 2008, 1002 pit bull type dogs were killed. This was at a time when euthanasia for all non-pit bull type dogs was decreasing, yet more than 1100 additional pit bulls lost their lives in the next 3 years mostly because their owners were low income or on fixed incomes and simply unable to comply with the law. Moreover, this did not show a significant decrease in the number of pit bulls in the community. The city animal shelter is the safety net for Kansas City’s lost, stray and abused pets. Properly cared for animals with homes should never enter the shelter system, let alone lose their lives, due to any piece of legislation or local ordinance.

Most people choose to neuter their pets, with or without a law mandating it.

Most people choose to neuter their pets, with or without a law mandating it. According to Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) research, 78% of dog owners voluntarily chose to neuter their pets. Similarly, a 2012 PetSmart Charities study indicated that only 13% of dog owners had had a litter of puppies, and of those, only 38% were unintentional litters. According to the PetSmart Charities study, the top reasons why people have chosen not to neuter their pet are: pet is too young (41%), surgery is too expensive (32%) or haven’t gotten around to it (21%).

Additionally, because of Kansas City, Missouri’s mandatory spay/neuter ordinance having criminal penalties, many pit bull owners were afraid to come forward with their unaltered pit bulls for fear that they would receive fines for violating the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance, or have their pet impounded. This fear is one of the reasons that our Families Better Together™ program is so important – because we offer assistance to low-income families who need help with the cost and access to spay neuter services. This community policing approach is traditionally favored over the fear of being prosecuted due to an ordinance a family was either unaware of, or unable to afford compliance.

Why should the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance be repealed?

In an interview, the City of Kansas City, Mo., said “we know that many pit bull owners simply do not want their animals altered.” Why should the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance be repealed?

In 2013, Kansas City, Mo. received a $100,000 grant from PetSmart Charities that was to offer free spay/neuter for pit bulls in two targeted zip codes. Unfortunately, 86% of the money was returned because it was not used. The reasons were many. The grant was very narrowly targeted toward one breed of dog in only two zip codes, and it would have been unlikely to be fully used even if every pit bull in those zip codes had been neutered with the grant money.

Spay and Neuter Kansas City found the narrowly targeted grant to be a challenge, as we helped the City with door to door canvassing. For every pit bull, there were numerous other mixed breed dogs and cats in just as much need to be spayed or neutered. A total of 113 families came forward for a spay or neuter surgery at Spay and Neuter Kansas City for their pit bull through the grant. Interestingly, in 5 other zip codes throughout Kansas City, Mo., we spayed and neutered over 1,400 pit bull type dogs during the grant period. This is inconsistent with the assumption that pit bull owners simply do not want their animals altered, and more consistent with a humane community outreach approach to encouraging spay and neuter in underserved areas – for all pets.

What about public safety?

There is no information that would indicate that a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance has improved public safety. Voluntary spay/neuter allows animal control to better allocate resources directly toward animals that demonstrate dangerous or potentially dangerous behavior.

Doesn’t mandatory spay/neuter help crack down on back yard breeders?

Proper enforcement of cruelty and neglect is the first step to cracking down on backyard breeders. In addition to neighbors reporting unlicensed operations to the State’s Department of Agriculture, unlawful and unethical breeding operations can be quickly targeted and regulated. The theory is that mandating all pets being spayed or neutered will eliminate the number of homeless animals in a community.

What we have seen in cities nationwide and in our own metro area is that families are re-homing accidental litters at too early of an age, dumping litters and their own pets on the streets or at the shelter, all to avoid fines and ultimately adding to the number of homeless animals in our city animal shelter.