May 6, 2009

Of cow parts and dog parts

Body part puzzler of the day: why is it cruel to dock cows' tails, but kind to cut out the reproductive organs of young puppies?

I'm talking about the mandatory surgical removal of a puppy's reproductive organs — and you better get it done by six months, sez California's SB 250, because the minute your pup is six months old the existence of his reproductive organs will transform your irresponsible self into a for-reals dog breeder who must pay the state higher licensing fees on account of all the unplanned-for and unwanted puppies you'll be dropping off at the pound, you heartless witch, you. [Apologies for posting the SB 250 link: it's mainly a mashup of AB 1634 materials brought to you, once again, by Judie "if you have an intact animal, you're part of the problem" Mancuso.]

I'm wondering about the irony of it all because I'm not convinced dairy cows need their tails more than a Rottie mix, say, needs his balls. Cows use their tails to swat flies, which is certainly important. A Rottie needs his [or her] reproductive organs until he [or she] is at least a year old, to ward off a greatly-increased risk of bone cancer. Very, very important. [Don't take my word for it: read the PubMed link.]

I'm wondering because over in enlightened Scandinavia, Norway's Welfare of Animals Act prohibits the spay/neuter of dogs "unless it is necessary from a medical point of view." Sweden's Animal Protection Act concurs: it's unethical to spay/neuter without medical cause.

So what's up with animal welfare in the US? How is it that being a "responsible" pet owner here in California might soon involve mandatory surgery on your pet rather than, you know, actual responsibility? What kind of state mandates removal of your dog's reproductive parts - then turns around and punishes people for cutting tails off cows?

"The ASPCA does not support local laws that mandate the sterilization of all cats and dogs."

I would love to ask State Senator Dean Florez about all this, since he opposes the docking of cow tails and is the author of SB 250 -- the "Pet Responsibility Act" -- but the senator is a very busy man. Seriously, a state senator has so many things on his plate that he needs aides and lobbyists to help him examine all of the issues in depth, or "in depth."
Jennifer Fearing, a lobbyist for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) [...] and her boss, HSUS president Wayne Pacelle, sat down with Florez in December to talk strategy.

"Twenty years of attempting to pass modest reforms on animal welfare have gotten us nowhere," Fearing said. "Does it really have to be this way? We posed that question to Senator Florez as someone who had really supported Prop. 2."

Senator Florez reads Michael Pollan and comes to his position as chair of the Senate Food and Ag Committee with a farmworker's perspective, and I think that's great. Such a perspective is badly needed.

But Senator Florez may not know that the HSUS leadership opposes animal agriculture. I suspect that when the ag industry reps worry about Florez, it's because they understand the HSUS goals and ideology better than he does.

And I'm not sure Senator Florez knows what it means to dog owners when HSUS CEO Pacelle tells author Ted Kerasote, "I don’t want to see another dog or cat born." When dog owners protest bills like Florez' SB 250, we are protesting, among other things, the involvement of lobbyists like Pacelle in decisions that should be left to individual dog owners and their veterinarians.

I'm opposed to the docking of cows' tails. I think it's terrific that Senator Florez has authored a bill to phase out the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in animals meant for human consumption. I, too, read Michael Pollan. And as the granddaughter of Mexican migrant workers, I'm glad that Florez [who, like my dad, grew up picking crops] has a voice in California's ag policy.

I also love dogs. I adopt dogs and train dogs and read about dogs and spend lots of money on dog care. I wish there were some way I could sit down with Senator Florez and explain why the AVMA, the CVMA, the ASPCA, No-Kill leader Nathan Winograd [pdf link] and countless other groups and individuals - responsible, caring, educated groups and individuals - are so opposed to mandatory spay/neuter.

Because no matter what Judy Mancuso and Wayne Pacelle say, MSN doesn't work. It hasn't worked anywhere, and it doesn't help animals. All the spin in the world won't change that.

Oh, and did I ever tell you about the Aussie that I pulled from the pound up in Hanford? She was wormy and her coat was falling out and no one wanted her, but she was quite wonderful and now she lives a fine life with a nice man in San Diego and by the way, she'd been spayed before she wound up at the pound. Perhaps by the same "responsible" owners who never came looking for her, if such a thing can be believed.

Then again, I'm just a border collie & pit bull person who favors late spay/neuter and shudders at the thought of politicians telling me what medical procedures must be performed on my dogs, so what do I know.

Now living the life of Riley - thank you for your help, SoCal Aussie Rescue!

Link to AVMA position statement on dog and cat population control. Excerpt:
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.

Link to ASPCA position statement on mandatory spay/neuter laws. Excerpt:
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.


HTTrainer said...

You could pass a mandatory SNL of all politicians and lobbyists.

Monique said...

While I agree that mandatory S/N legislation won't fix the problem, I am a proponent of pre-sexual-maturity S/N for MOST pets. Working in the veterinary setting and animal rescue setting we see lots of "oops" litters on first heats :( Especially by novice dog owners because they don't even know how breeding works.

So where is the balance between unwanted pet overpopulation and early S/N for most pets? Hard to say...

I'm glad you're a responsible pet owner... don't forget you're likely in the minority. I smack my head on the desk every time someone calls the advice line in hysterics, "My dogs are STUCK TOGETHER!! What do I DO??"

Anonymous said...

So - is 'managed' the new 'responsible'?

Katie said...

I'm no fan of MSN, but I'm also no fan of "you may not speuter your dog unless it's medically necessary" laws either. I'd prefer to spay my bitch before she comes down with a rocking closed pyometra, thanks.

Mostly I just want to be left alone to speuter my dogs as I, as their owner, feel appropriate. Steve was 7 months old yesterday, still has his nutties, and hasn't knocked anybody up yet.

EmilyS said...

As for Winograd, one prominent California pit bull rescuer asserts that he is silent on MSN there, so his writing is meaningless and "divisive":
"As recently as March of this year, when facing the SF Animal Welfare Commission, he had the opportunity to finally look SF in the eye and wave his anti-MSN flag to decry their law, and, especially, the horrific language that condemns pit bulls as a high risk breed (gee I wonder why they aren't getting adopted?) ... ...

But he balked. Never mentioned the law or the dogs. Instead, he told the commission that "SF leads the way in progressive legislation" and promoted the original Adoption Pact again stating that "SF has proved viability of no-kill model."

Barb said...

You rock!
I am often amazed at the contrast between attitudes toward spay/neuter and, say, ear cropping or tail docking.
- Even though the crop or dock is a significantly less invasive procedure than the spay or neuter,
- Even though the crop or dock (done properly of course) seems to cause the animal less pain and distress afterward,
- Even though the crop or dock has no known deleterious medical or developmental effects, unlike spay or neuter when done too early,
- Even though all of these procedures are done for reasons that benefit or please humans more than the animals,

... usually the EXACT SAME PEOPLE who would require that all pets be surgically sterilized ASAP, thank you, simultaneously believe that ear cropping and tail docking are Of The Devil and must be banned.