Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Majority favors mandatory pit-bull spay/neuter ordinance

Boulder is a true pit-bull ambassador,
exemplifying the best qualities of the
breed. He is 3 years old and is intelligent
and friendly with a strong desire to please.
He is available for adoption today at YHS.
Last week I asked for feedback on an important and controversial issue - should a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for pit-bulls be considered as a strategy for ensuring our community remains among the safest in the nation for companion animals.
YHS defines pit-bull as the American pit-bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier and any crosses of these three breeds.

The question was prompted by both my love for pit-bulls and these facts: pit-bulls account for 51 percent of all dogs rescued and 47 percent of all dogs euthanized at YHS. Nation-wide, pit-bulls represent 60 percent of all dogs euthanized; 22 percent of all dogs abused or neglected; 46 percent of all dogs that injure humans; 51 percent of all dogs that attack other animals; and virtually all dogs impounded in dog-fighting cases.

These facts are all the more startling when you consider pit-bulls and all pit-bull mixes combined represent only about 4 percent of the total dog population. [Data Source: ANIMAL PEOPLE]

Here are the results YHS received to the ordinance question. There were 82 responses to the query; and 82 percent (67) favored a mandatory pit-bull spay/neuter ordinance in our community.

Twenty-one percent (17) felt mandatory spay/neuter for all dogs and cats should be required. Four people favored banning pit-bulls altogether, while two people feared mandatory spay/neuter would lead to pit-bull extinction. While this is not a likely outcome, it could easily be addressed with a sunset clause.

One person seriously felt mandatory spay/neuter is an attempt by YHS to corner a lucrative pit-bull market. Two people felt mandatory spay/neuter ordinances infringed on their American freedoms, even though courts across the U.S. have consistently upheld a community's right to regulate the breeding of animals considered problematic.

Four people felt mandatory spay/neuter is discriminatory, but they were equally divided - two stating an ordinance should include all dogs and cats, while the other two opposed any spay/neuter ordinance at all. All four perhaps overlooked the prejudice currently practiced against pit-bulls and the fact that a targeted spay/neuter ordinance could help alleviate that suffering.

Three people felt education is a better approach than legislation. However, humane organizations have been promoting the virtues of pit-bulls for nearly 30 years with no metric pertaining to pit-bulls improving in all that time.

Four people felt spay/neuter ordinances are ineffective. They failed to notice the success in San Francisco where in just 8 years there was a 49 percent decline in the number of pit-bulls impounded, a 23 percent decline in the number of pit-bulls euthanized and an 81 percent decline in the number of pit-bulls involved in fatal and disfiguring attacks.

Several thoughtful responses suggested an ordinance should include adequate enforcement provisions and stiff penalties, funding to help subsidize low-cost spay/neuter and humane education and breeding permits for responsible breeders.

Two responders did not understand that all YHS animals are spayed or neutered prior to adoption, meaning YHS does not contribute to or profit from this problem. In fact, YHS invests more than $400 into every animal adopted and never fully recoups those costs. YHS also performs a behavioral assessment on every pit-bull prior to placing them up for adoption.

In addition, per state law, owners of unaltered pets are issued a spay/neuter voucher when claiming a pet from the YHS Lost & Found Center. Sadly, only 50 percent of those vouchers are redeemed, further evidence, perhaps, that a mandatory ordinance is indeed needed.

YHS will submit this data to local officials asking that a committee be formed to help draft an ordinance that reflects our community's exemplary humane standards for animal welfare. Thank you all who participated in this survey.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.