Don’t make me cut my dog’s balls off; why the proposed county spay/neuter ordinance is a bad idea

Every day, without fail, whether I really want to or not, I take my buddy Huck for a walk in the woods. He won’t let me take a pass. Truthfully, it’s not an obligation. It’s a privilege. He’s such a good boy. He’s a Basset Hound, about 9 years old, who still has great energy (as long as it’s not too hot).

He is what polite people call “intact;” meaning he has not been neutered. Still has his balls.

Huck is the gentlest soul I’ve ever known. He loves other animals. Huck used to live in perfect harmony with a cat until the cat went to cat heaven. Huck delights in running across other dogs on our walks, whom he never tries to mount. Sometimes, we’ll see deer. He’ll watch them just long enough to make sure I see them, looking up at me with his droopy brown eyes for confirmation. Then it’s back to sniffing the plants and earth.

And kids! He sees little people coming a mile away. Toddlers toddle towards him, hands outstretched, like little Frankensteins. Parents will give me a questioning look. “Oh, yes, he’s very gentle,” I assure. “Go ahead, pet the doggie,” moms will say and Huck will stand docile and content as uncertain little hands bang on his head. Then, just like with the deer, he’s back to nature.

Despite his good health, good energy, his gentle disposition and lack of interest in trying to mount other dogs, the Guilford County Commissioner will be considering a new ordinance at Thursday evening’s meeting that would require me to neuter Huck. He’s fine the way he is, thank you.

The ordinance would apply to all pet owners in the county, except that people who can afford it can pay $200 to get an exemption from the law.

Here is a link to contact information for the Commissioners if you want to tell them what you think. The meeting starts at 5:30 (location and directions)

Here is what I sent them:

Dear Commissioners:

I encourage you to oppose the proposed spay and neuter ordinance in its current form. Aside from the problems of how it is to be practically enforced (how is an animal control officer going to determine if a pet has been spayed?), there are two fundamental flaws:

1. It is heavy handed and intrusive.
It is an overbearing and over-reaching government that would tell its citizens they must have surgery performed on their pets.

2. It is grossly unequal and unfair.
Giving people of means an opportunity to buy their way out from this ordinance for $200 creates one set of laws for people of means and another set of laws for the middle class and poor who don’t have an extra $200 at their disposal. It would be shameful if Guilford County went down the path of allowing people to buy exceptions to its laws. That’s downright un-American.

We may all agree that the goal of reducing the unwanted pet population is a good one — but this is the wrong way to go about it.



8 Comments on "Don’t make me cut my dog’s balls off; why the proposed county spay/neuter ordinance is a bad idea"

  1. Perhaps you should spend a day at the shelter watching them kill animals. There is a huge problem with pet overpopulation here. This ordinance is aimed at preventing more deaths. And the ordinance has exemptions. Some of us are tired of seeing healthy animals because people like you are more concerned with your “property” rights.

  2. Roch Smith, Jr. | September 21, 2017 at 12:59 pm |

    Thanks for commenting, Carol.

    I assure you that as an animal lover whose very first job was at a vet, I am not one of the “people like you” contributing to pet overpopulation. If you want to effectively address the over-population problem, it would help to understand its cause, and it is not people like me. Your scapegoating misses the mark.

    Instead, can you address my concerns? Is there a way to craft an ordinance that gives me, a responsible pet owner, the same options as the wealthy people who can afford to buy an exception? Or do you have some reason to think that less well-off people are less responsible pet owners and only the rich can responsibly have an intact pet?

  3. Unfortunately just because YOU are a “responsible pet owner” does not mean that everyone is. I think a $200 fee to own an unaltered animal is actually quite reasonable. If someone cannot afford the $200 fee, then they likely cannot afford the cost of an accidental litter. The need to breed is one of the deepest instincts of an animal, and accidental litters happen all the time. Reading your article, I’m actually unclear as to what your objection is. You say you don’t want to neuter your dog, but you don’t say why. Is there any particular reason other than not wanting to be told what to do? You say you worked at a vet’s office, but that doesn’t show the full picture of pet overpopulation, as most vets work primarily with private clients, not shelters and rescues. I’ve been doing rescue for some time now, and the number of animals I have seen euthanized simply because there was no space for them is just sickening. If requiring people to spay/neuter their pets is not an effective way to help reduce overpopulation, what would you recommend instead?

  4. As I understand the ordinance, it was directed at people who “come into contact with Animal Control” – pets running loose or ending up at the shelter or a complaint made, not all of Guilford Co. It was suggested as one way to help curb pet overpopulation. That was explained at the Animal Shelter Advisory Board meeting in July. Perhaps that has changed, I don’t know.

    No, I do not believe that only wealthy people should have animals. There are homeless people who treat their pets very well and there are rich people who don’t. I have volunteered in rescue for 10 years, however, and when I hear people balk at an adoption fee that covers spay/neuter and all vetting for an animal, I have to wonder how they plan to pay for the animal’s care after adoption. We have low cost spay/neuter clinics in Guilford Co. as well as groups that help people without the means, all of which can be found with a simple Google search.

    If I wrote the ordinance, it would be a differential licensing ordinance, which has been very successful up north. Shelters there are bringing petcles in from the south because there aren’t enough there and there is a huge problem here. What this means is that a license for a spayed/neutered animal might be $5 a year, where an unaltered animal might be $100. I would have all funds collected go only to low cost spay/neuter clinics to subsidize those who can’t afford it. (I’m not clear on where the $200 fine will go but it should not be another tax going to the general fund.)

    Whenever mandatory spay/neuter comes up, it has always had exemptions for hunting dogs, show animals, breeders and pets that can’t be altered due to medical reasons. At 9 years old, your dog would be at greater risk than a younger one so I would think would be exempt. As long as your intact dog is not running loose causing unwanted litters, I don’t have a problem with an intact animal. It’s the people who let their pets run loose and dump litters off at the shelters, or the backyard breeders who cause the problems.

    I am always struck at the resistance to something like this, but we pay a property tax on a vehicle every year and if that same vehicle is sold, the buyer pays a sales tax. Tax is collected no matter how many times the vehicle changes hands, and yet no one complains about that. Animals are considered property so why is there always resistance to trying to stop the killing?

  5. I understand the concern about pet overpopulation and the euthanizing of thousands of dogs and cats yearly in Guilford County. These animals suffer dearly because of human ignorance and carelessness. But an across the board mandatory spay/neuter is not the way to solve the problem. Are those that let their intact pets roam the streets and countryside without regard to pet overpopulation and public safety really going to have their pets altered? How do you enforce this law unless the animal is actually taken in by animal control? I don’t usually see loose dogs running in my neighborhood in the city. Cats, yes, but that’s a whole other topic. Leash laws for cats!! So where is the issue the biggest problem? Focus on those areas of the county! Spay/neuter any pet that is picked up by animal control or brought into the shelter before it is allowed to leave. There are unscrupulous pet breeders and sellers (puppy mills, pet stores, back yard breeders) out to make a buck at the expense of helpless animals. Many of these animals are raised in horrible conditions without proper care and socialization, and end up with behavioral and health issues the owners can’t handle or afford. Then they get surrendered at the shelter. Let’s go after them and make laws regarding who is allowed to breed and sell cats and dogs. Another thing that I’m very concerned about is the negative long term health effects of spaying and neutering our pet animals. I’d like to see a lot more research done in this area by the veterinary community. Perfect tubal ligation and vasectomy surgery instead of removing reproductive organs. We need to come up with a way to control the animal population that is fair to responsible owners and appropriately punishes irresponsible ones. Many, many things need to change!

  6. Roch Smith, Jr. | September 21, 2017 at 6:15 pm |

    Informative comments, folks. Some good points.

    If mandatory spaying and neutering is required to address the problem, then it makes no sense to create exemptions unless there are good reasons. And there are some good reasons, but $200 is not a reason at all. It is just the sale of of special treatment for any reason I might have, or for no reason at all. I don’t have a good reason, I just have to have $200. That’s not fair and it doesn’t serve the objectives of the ordinance.

  7. Dara lamberson | September 22, 2017 at 4:36 am |

    Shame on you…using scare tactics….please, no one is making you get your pet fixed. The way I read it, this does not even affect you unless your pet is picked up by animal control. So enjoy those balls, just hope the poor guy never gets testicular cancer.

  8. Roch Smith, Jr. | September 22, 2017 at 6:30 am |

    Nice, Dara. Thank you.

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