Los Angeles Abolishes Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Program Despite Mandatory Spay/Neuter Law
Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) General Manager Ed Boks made headlines in his support last year of Assembly Bill 1634, California’s mandatory spay/neuter bill when he admitted that the legislation was more about expanding the bureaucratic power of animal control than saving animals. During a legislative hearing, a Senator asked Ed Boks, the General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) and one of the bill’s chief proponents: “Mr. Boks, this bill doesn’t even pretend to be about saving animals, does it?” To which Boks responded: “No Senator, this is not about saving dogs and cats.”
Not content to wait for the state (which did not pass the measure), Boks convinced the City of Los Angeles to pass its own version. He also demanded more officers to enforce it. The end result was predictable. Almost immediately, LAAS officers threatened poor people with citations if they did not turn over the pets to be killed at LAAS, and that is exactly what occurred. For the first time in a decade, impounds and killing increased—dog deaths increased 24%, while cat deaths increased 35%. In the process, he also fed the backyard breeding market for more (unaltered) animals.
Now, Boks is adding another insult. As others have reported, he has abolished LAAS’ low-cost spay/neuter program, which allowed some poor people to comply with the new law. Despite increasing impounds, Boks has decided that subsidized spay/neuter is expendable.
Giving shelters the power to impound and kill even more animals is no way to lower the death rate, as has been shown time and time again. And despite the claims of those who promote these types of laws that their approach will work, they flatly refuse to include protections in the law for the animals themselves. If they are so convinced that this is good for animals, every mandatory law of this kind, introduced anywhere, would include the following:
- A “no-impound/no-kill” provision, meaning an animal can never be impounded based on a violation of this law and if an animal is surrendered because a person received or was threatened with a citation, that animal cannot be killed.
- An exemption for feral and free roaming strays, as they have no “owners.”
- A provision for “free spay/neuter” in lieu of a citation based on a legislative approved income schedule. In other words, if someone falls below a threshold on income (e.g., is on any type of local, state, or federal welfare benefit or subsidy), they can demand free sterilization instead of a citation; or the citation cannot be written or the law enforced against them.
- A baseline impound and killing rate is established before the law goes into effect. If at any time, there is an increase in impounds or killing on an annual basis, the law automatic sunsets without further action by the legislature. In other words, if Year 1 impounds or killing exceeds Year 0, or if Year 4 impounds or killing exceeds Year 3, etc. the law is automatically repealed.
- If after the first two years, the decline in impounds or killing does not exceed the decline in impounds or killing for the two year period prior to enactment, the law is also automatically repealed.
The City should permanently suspend enforcement of the law because it fails to meet the above principles, but failing that, at the very least, until such time as it gives people of low income the ability to comply.
Doing it Wrong, Doing it Right
In February, the Animal Humane Society (AHS) in Minnesota claimed to have “rescued” about 120 cats from a situation they described as animal hoarding. According to press reports, the cats suffered from mostly minor and treatable medical conditions. Animal Ark, the largest No Kill shelter in Minnesota, and local rescue groups had offered to help pay for the care of the cats, offered to provide the care themselves, and offered to transfer the cats to their own groups to save them. But according to sources, AHS did not return their calls and killed all the cats without giving them a chance for adoption.
At about the same time, the 200-million dollar Humane Society of the United States which boasts 12 million animal loving members, embraced, endorsed, demanded, and defended the mass slaughter of 145 dogs in North Carolina, including some 60 puppies, despite similar offers of support from groups around the country. A volunteer was even ordered to return the tiny babies she fostered back to be killed.
Another hoarding bust in Minnesota recently occurred but Animal Ark reports that “their story and the outcome is far more inspiring” than the one under the large, well-funded Animal Humane Society, and certainly better than the mega-rich HSUS under Wayne Pacelle.
This second group of cats was rescued not by a large well-funded humane organization. They were taken in and cared for by a relatively small agency, the Humane Society of Freeborn County. In spite of the challenges, the Freeborn Humane Society reached out to rescue groups and put their efforts into treating the cats.
All of the cats have been placed with rescue groups. According to Animal Ark, “In spite of their small size and lack of resources, the Humane Society of Freeborn County was able to achieve a different outcome for these lucky felines by reaching out, asking for, and accepting help.”
Who should be teaching who how to do things right?
In San Francisco, it’s Déjà vu All Over Again
In 1993, both the ASPCA and HSUS opposed a No Kill San Francisco. The ASPCA called it a “hoax” and the HSUS spent years trying to derail it through data distortion and a deliberate campaign of misinformation. Now, both the ASPCA and HSUS are trying to hinder success yet again—even though the world of animal sheltering has changed. If ever agencies were blind to their own interests and bent on their own destruction, it is HSUS and the ASPCA.
The Animal Welfare Commission in San Francisco is considering the Companion Animal Protection Act, shelter reform legislation designed to maximize lifesaving by mandating how shelters operate. Ultimately, the question facing San Francisco is not will it or won’t it pass such a law? The real question is will it do it now? Or will it do it later?
In the end, laws of this nature are inevitable: not just in San Francisco, but in every community; and not just for sheltering, but in every social justice movement. All movements seek to codify expected norms of behavior into law. That is why we have—and embrace—voting rights acts, environmental protection laws, and laws against discrimination based on gender, race, and sexual orientation. Ultimately, such laws are essential to ensure fair and equal treatment and to prevent abuses which can come when those in power are given too much discretion. And we shouldn’t leave the decision as to whether dogs and cats live or die to discretion either—a discretion which has been abused by shelter directors to unnecessarily kill almost four million of them every year.
The proposed law has the ASPCA and the HSUS worried. Stay tuned…
Building a No Kill Houston
There is still time to sign up for the all-day seminar in Houston on March 27. Workshops include Cost Effective Lifesaving Programs, Turbocharging Adoptions, Saving Shelter Dogs, Feral Cat Care & Advocacy, and Reforming Animal Control. For more information, visit www.nokillhouston.org.