Chance's Law: Spay and Neuter in the State of Florida
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On Saturday September 12th, the community of Marion County came together, with the help of others around the country, to support a small puppy named Chance. Chance was found alone and dying. Evidence and statistics suggest that Chance likely was a stray or abandoned puppy. Unfortunately, Chance did not survive. Dogs and cats die needlessly and in horrific numbers everyday in the state of Florida due to over-population. In 2013, more than 200,000 domesticated animals died or were euthanized in shelters before they had the chance to be adopted. In some areas, dogs and cats receive less than 2 weeks to be rescued. This is due to extreme over-population. Shelters and rescue organizations do not have the means to keep them all alive.
There is a current movement to prevent shelters from euthanizing as many animals. It is a well meant movement, and should be supported. It does not, however, address the real problem. There needs to be a mandatory spay and neuter law in Florida until the overpopulation problem is curbed. In Puerto Rico, there are now more than 300,000 stray and homeless dogs and more than three times the number of stray and feral cats are roaming their streets. We cannot allow that problem to occur here. We have domesticated these animals, and we need to do better by them.
We need a mandatory spay/neuter law which would be re-evaluated every five years and revised or even repealed after it successfully reduces pet over-population.
By requiring everyone except exempt, annually licensed breeders to spay and neuter their pets we can:
- reduce the number of drop--offs at area animal shelters, thus allowing the animals there more time to be rescued or adopted AND reducing operating expenses at said shelters
- reduce the number of stray and feral animals, the result of animals dumped or abandoned in the woods and rural areas (this also reduces the spread of diseases AND the danger to native, indigenous, wild species)
- increase monies via annual licensing fees/fines, monies which can be then used to create a spay/neuter voucher, waiver, or reimbursement program, enabling low-income families to also spay and neuter pets
- increase monies via annual licensing fees/fines that can be used for care programs at local shelters and rescue organizations as well as trap and release programs at each counties animal control services
- reduce the number of unsafe and inhumane puppy mills
Breeders could apply annually for licenses by demonstrating a means and history of providing appropriate medical care and ability to find homes for litters. Because animals for show generally are required to be unaltered their owners would also have to apply for breeding licenses, which would also allow them to breed their animals, or offer them for stud.
Under a mandatory spay/neuter law, breeders, sellers, and rehomers would be required to:
- spay or neuter cats or dogs over the age of 6 months (unless being rehomed or sold to another licensed breeder) in order to obtain a health certificate (already required in the state of Florida for any sales/rehoming fees)
- maintain safe and humane treatment of animals under care, and provide medical treatment and proper nutrition to animals under care
- maintain an annual license appropriate to the use and number of animals under care
Under a mandatory spay/neuter law, pet owners would be required to:
- spay or neuter cats or dogs over the age of 6 months within four weeks of receipt of animal
- spay or neuter cats or dogs within four weeks of turning 6 months of age
- spay or neuter cats or dogs over the age of 6 months within four weeks of moving into the state of Florida
- provide documentation of spay or neuter surgery with initial rabies tag/license of pet if pet is over age of 6 months
- OR provide veterinary waiver stating that pet is unable to undergo surgery due to health or weight as determined by the veterinarian completing the waiver
Reporting/investigating of violations:
- should never be done by veterinary staff unless accompanied by signs of animal neglect or cruelty. Animals should never be denied appropriate medical care or vaccinations based on spay or neuter status. While Chance's Law or any evolution thereof is in place, veterinarians and animal care professionals should never be required to report suspected violations of Chance's Law.
- should be done in cases of unlicensed breeders selling pets, during animal welfare checks for other animal-related concerns, if animal is picked up by animal control, or in cases when animal services suspect unlicensed breeding due to repeat drop offs at animal control. While Chance's Law or any evolution thereof is in places, door to door checks and random checks should never be required. While Chance's Law or any evolution thereof is in place, animal services and animal control officers must limit checks to aforementioned reasons stated.
Violators of a mandatory spay/neuter law would:
- be fined for first or second offenses, which would be waived if the animal in question received spay/neuter surgery within four weeks of fine. Voucher for free spay or neuter would be offered on first offense if the violator is deemed financially unable to pay for the services, if the violator is over the age of 65, and/or if the violator volunteers services at local animal control, animal shelter, or animal rescue as determined by county animal control services, but volunteer hours not to exceed 25 volunteer hours if performed at a government funded facility. At discretion of county animal control services, fines may also be waived by completion of volunteer hours.
- be fined for third offense, with unaltered animals removed from care until spay/neuter surgery has been performed. Voucher for free spay or neuter would be offered if the violator is deemed financially unable to pay for the services, if the violator is over the age of 65, and/or if the violator volunteers services at local animal control services, animal shelter, or animal rescue as determined by county animal control services, but volunteer hours not to exceed 50 volunteer hours if performed at a government funded facility. At discretion of county animal control services, fines may also be waived by completion of volunteer hours.
- be charged with animal cruelty (animal cruelty is now chargeable as a felony in all 50 states) for additional offenses if deemed appropriate by county animal control services and if fourth violation (and so on) occurs with five years of the previous violation.
- fines to be determined by county animal control services, but not to be less than median cost of local spay or neuter services.
Roll out of law:
- all pets over the age of 4 years are to be "grandfathered" unless used for breeding purposes, and then applicable licensing would be necessitated. Owners of pets over the age of 4 years would still be eligible for vouchers/reimbursement for cost of spay or neuter if desired.
- pet owners deemed financially needy would be eligible for vouchers for free or discounted spay and neuter.
- pet owners over the age of 65 would be eligible for vouchers for free or discounted spay and neuter.
- pet owners performing community service hours at animal services, animal shelters, and animal rescues would be eligible for vouchers for free or discounted spay and neuter as determined by local county animal services.
- licensed veterinary clinics offering non-voucher discounted or free spay and neuter for the elderly and and financially needy would be eligible for tax incentives.
- all pets between the ages of 7 months and 4 years would be required to be compliant within a six month period, or during such time obtain requirement waiver from veterinarian.
Breeders and those wishing to maintain unaltered animals would be required to apply for licensing within a six month period. Initial licensing would requirement a home/facility visit and submission of veterinary records including proof of all legally required shots. If application is submitted within required time, applicant is not to be fined due to any delays with processing of forms and facility visits.
Licensing fees and requirement: (in progress and very subject to change before submission of petition)
- current Florida Pet Law 828.29 applies to all sales of pets, breeders will be requirement to remain compliant. Failure to comply with 828.29 will result in suspension and possible termination of breeder license upon review.
- licensing laws of indiviual counties and cities would continue to apply as long as they meet the standards of Chance's Law. If no current breeder licensing law exists, Chance's Law minimum requirements would apply. Breeders would not be required to pay fees in excess of the total fee assesment under Chance's Law. Fees would be paid first to county or city as currently required, additional monies would be used to assist with spay/neuter vouchers and reimbursement or animal welfare programs as designated by Chance's Law.
- those obtaining license without intention to breed would qualify for a Non-productive Breeder License. Non-productive Breeder Licenses would require an initial home visit, submission of veterinary records, and fee of $25 per unaltered dog. The renewal process of Non-productive Breeder Licenses would not require a home visit however an animal welfare check may be done by Animal Services as warranted or as part of a random audit. Renewal would require submission of vaccine record and $20 annual renewal fee per dog. In cases of Service Dogs and Therapy Animals fees may be reduced or waived for those deemed financially needy.
- a Hobby Breeders License would be available for non-commercial, non-kennel breeders. A hobby breeder may sell 2 litters of puppies or kittens per year per household, so long as the total number of dogs kept does not constitute a kennel. Hobby Breeders Licenses would require an annual home visit, annual submission of veterinary records including but not limited to vaccine records, and an annual fee of $150.
- Pet Dealer/Breeder Licenses would range dependant on total number of animals to housed/bred/sold annually. License would begin at $200 and not exceed $1500. All breeders who sell more than 2 litters of puppies or kittens annually or maintain kennels for breeding purposes would be required to apply for this license. Breeders that microchip animals and have them registered to new owners would be eligible for discounted fees. Breeders that spay or neuter animals prior to sales would be eligible for discounted fees. Breeders which supply animals for Service Dog and Therapy Animals would be eligible for discounted fees. Pet Dealer/Breeder Licenses would require home/kennel visits annually, annually submission of vet records and sales records, and annual fees dependant on previous years number of animals/housed/bred/sold (first year fees would be predictive, and if exceeded actual amount required by actual litters and sales would be refunded or applied to license renewal).
Breeder/show animal license fees from this program could help to greatly reduce costs of spaying and neutering. Spaying and neutering would reduce animal destruction and care costs at animal shelters. A reduction in the over-population would result in less cases of abandonment, neglect, and cruelty as well as in fewer stray and feral animals. Chance's Law is not intended to make pet ownership burdensome or cost prohibitive for anyone!
If you are unsure if pet overpopulation needs to be address please consider these statistics from the ASPCA
- Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
- Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats).
- Approximately 2.7 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.4 million dogs and 1.3 million cats).
- About 649,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, 542,000 are dogs and only 100,000 are cats.
- Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 35% are adopted, 31% are euthanized and 26% of dogs who came in as strays are returned to their owner.
- Of the cats entering shelters, approximately 37% are adopted, 41% are euthanized, and less than 5% of cats who came in as strays are returned to their owners.
- About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners.
- It is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States; estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million.
- The average number of litters a fertile cat produces is one to two a year; the average number of kittens is four to six per litter.
- The average number of litters a fertile dog produces is one a year; the average number of puppies is four to six.
- Only 10%of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered, while 83% of pet dogs and 91% of pet cats are spayed or neutered.
- The cost of spaying or neutering a pet is less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for a year.
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