AVMA and SPCA Change Their Policies

on May 8, 2009
Posted in News

The American Veterinary Medical Association recently changed its Dog and Cat Population Control policy to state that they no longer support any regulation or laws that make it mandatory to spay or neuter privately owned, non-shelter dogs and cats.

The policy changes were recommend by the Animal Welfare Committee which reads, in part, as follows: “The AVMA does not support regulations or legislation mandating spay/neuter of privately owned, non-shelter dogs and cats. Although spaying and neutering helps control dog and cat populations, mandatory approaches may contribute to pet owners avoiding licensing, rabies vaccination and veterinary care for their pets, and may have other unintended consequences.”

This policy was originally approved during November 2004 and was actually considered by the Animal Welfare Committee in accordance with a five year review directive. However, after extensive discussion, members of the Animal Welfare Committee agreed that the American Veterinary Medical Association should not support any regulation or legislation mandating spay/neuter of privately owned, non-shelter dogs and cats due to a variety of different reasons. Such reasons were established in the background of the recommended policy changes.

Even though spaying and neutering is a vital part of successful population control programs, and do actually benefit both individual dogs and cats, if they are performed during the appropriate time, “whether and when to spay/neuter specific animals requires the application of science and professional judgment to ensure the best outcome for veterinary patients and their owners.”

The Animal Welfare Committee acknowledges that spaying and neutering offers such benefits as:

“the prevention of unexpected litters; reduced incidences of some cancers and reproductive diseases; and prevention and amelioration of certain undesirable behaviors.”

Other potential health risks that are associated with spaying and neutering cats and dogs that have been identified are: “an increased risk of prostatic cancer in males; increased risks of bone cancer and hip dysplasia in large-breed dogs associated with sterilization before maturity; and increased incidences of obesity, diabetes, urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, and hypothyroidism.”

The Animal Welfare Committee also believes that making it mandatory to spay or neuter a person’s cat or dog may actually increase the chances of canine, feline, and zoonotic diseases that are spread because there will always be pet owners that will try to avoid exposing their unaltered cats or dogs by not taking them to veterinarian when they are ill or injured.

There also seems to be many different conflicting reports surround the actual euthanasia rate as well as animal control costs that are incurred in those communities that have already made spaying or neutering a cat or dog mandatory.

To read more on the American Veterinary Medical Association policy on “Dog and Cat Population Control”, visit the AVMA website.

Another well-respected animal welfare organization, the SPCA, has also made a statement regarding its stance on mandatory spaying or neutering of cats and dogs:

“To the knowledge of the ASPCA, the only method of population control that has demonstrated long-term efficacy in significantly reducing the number of animals entering animal shelters is the voluntary sterilization of owned pets (Clancy & Rowan 2003; FIREPAW, 2004; Secovich, 2003). There is also evidence that sterilizing very specific, at-risk sub-populations of companion animals such as feral cats and animals in shelters can also contribute to reductions in overpopulation (Zawistowski et al., 1998; Clancy & Rowan 2003; Levy et al., 2003; Lord et al., 2006; Natoli et al., 2006). In contrast, the ASPCA is not aware of any credible evidence demonstrating a statistically significant enhancement in the reduction of shelter intake or euthanasia as a result of the implementation of a mandatory spay/neuter law.”

To read more about the ASPCA’s statement visit their website.

Perhaps with the position statements of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals being made public, law makers should rethink their own position on mandatory spaying and neutering of dogs and cats.

Photo Credit: mickeymox

Read also: Paws In The Air!

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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