Chicago MSN Bill is Real Bad Medicine

Posted on 03/10/2009











(Chicago, IL – March 9, 2009). The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association reaches out to Chicago

Aldermen to halt the rush toward Mandatory Spay Neuter. On March 12, 2009, the City of Chicago may

progress toward a new era of unprecedented oversight of pet health care in Chicago. What lies at the heart

of the issue is whether or not the City of Chicago will take the determination of medical need for spaying

and neutering pets out of the hands of pet owners and their veterinarians and place that decision in their

own hands. The Mandatory Spay Neuter Proposal or as proponents call it the “Pet Overpopulation and

Safety Act” would require all dogs and cats over the age of 6 months in Chicago to be spayed or neutered.

The proposal then offers several specific exemptions. The bottom line is that spaying or neutering a pet is a

medical procedure and decisions about medical procedures belong to pet owners in consultation with

medical professionals.

The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association stands in firm opposition to the current Mandatory Spay

Neuter proposal and the concept of compulsory sterilization in general. We believe that the decision of

whether to spay or neuter a pet is a decision that is best determined between a pet owner and their

veterinarian. Proponents claim that the measure still allows veterinarians to decide, but all the measure

really allows is the veterinarian to opt patients out of the procedure by granting them authority to submit

letters of exemption to the City.

The proposal lists a number of unproven statistics to support the case for mandatory spay neuter. These

random statistics create the illusion that there is a great need for governmental intervention. The proposal

lists everything from bite prevention through behavioral modification to decreased euthanasia and animal

control costs.


However, a review of outcomes in other communities where mandatory spay neuter has been

passed most often reveals the opposite outcomes with increasing costs and rising euthanasia rates.

Proponents also rely upon the success of a spay neuter program in New Hampshire, but fail to reveal that

the New Hampshire spay neuter program is voluntary not mandatory.

As with most things in life, there are risks and benefits associated with spaying or neutering a pet. The

health benefits of spaying and neutering pets have been long touted by veterinarians. Reduced incidences of

certain cancers and undesirable behaviors, along with an elimination of unexpected litters, are the top

reasons to neuter our pets.


100 Tower Drive, Suite 234, Burr Ridge, IL Phone: 630-325-1231 Fax: 630-325-4043

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However, some studies also show potential health risks associated with spaying and neutering. Though the

risk of prostatic disease may be reduced by neutering a dog, the risk of prostatic cancer actually increases

with neutering. An increased risk of bone cancer in large-breed dogs can be associated with neutering done

before maturity. Other risks associated with spaying and neutering may include: obesity, diabetes, urinary

tract infections, urinary incontinence, hypothyroidism and hip dysplasia.

Because there are significant health risks and benefits to consider, the choice of spaying and neutering pets

should remain firmly in the hands of the pet owner and under the advisement of their veterinarian.

To address the issue of unwanted pets, many municipalities have had success in reducing euthanasia and

animal control costs with programs of: (1) public education, (2) leash laws, (3) free or low cost spay/neuter

opportunities for low income families, (4) moderate price differentials for licensing of intact and altered

male and female dogs and cats, (5) vigorous marketing of shelter dogs and cats for adoption by the public,

(6) foster care, (7) off site adoptions and (8) working with rescue groups. Chicago is already one of the

success stories in reducing the population of unwanted pets.. Mandatory spay neuter stands to jeopardize the

progress that has been made by taking medical decisions out of the hands of pet owners and medical

professionals, dividing the local animal welfare community and overburdening animal control.

A key governmental function is safeguarding the public health, and veterinarians play a vital role through

oversight of diseases that can be spread from animals to people. Rabies, for instance, is a fatal disease in

people and animals, and is a real and imminent threat in our area. Rabies is carried by wildlife and can

easily pass from infected wildlife to dogs, cats and other mammals. The Illinois Department of Public

Health reports a dramatic rise in reported rabies cases in wildlife in Cook County between 2004 and


. Mandating spay neuter laws can

increase the risk of this deadly disease by creating a situation where fewer domestic pets are presented for

veterinary care because people will try to avoid detection of their unaltered pets. The best example of this is

Fort Worth, Texas, where that city ended its mandatory spay-or-pay program after a reduction in rabies

vaccinations led to an increase in reported rabies cases in that city. Another threat to humans comes from

animal parasites. And, children are most susceptible to the spread of parasites from the family pet. Regular

visits to your family veterinarian can help prevent such exposure. Once again, this ordinance threatens to

reduce visits to the veterinarian, resulting in fewer pets that are protected and an increased threat to public


The Chicago veterinary community’s concerns are backed by a review of outcomes in other communities

that have enacted and in many cases repealed their mandatory spay neuter laws.


The potential for negative

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outcomes associated with mandatory spay neuter laws is far too great,


and the focus of City policy makers

should be on initiatives that eliminate rather than exacerbate public health concerns.

Mandatory spay neuter is not only bad medicine, it is bad policy. At a time when the City is struggling to

fund basic services, it is not fiscally prudent to pass a controversial ordinance that will require increased

funding for enforcement. Rather than instituting “blanket” mandatory spay/neuter laws; we, the Chicago

Veterinary Medical Association, believe that the residents of the City of Chicago would be best served by

an aggressive public education campaign to promote responsible pet ownership, and the enactment and

enforcement of strict penalties for irresponsible animal owners.

The veterinary community in Chicago applauds the Aldermen for keeping animal welfare and public safety

in the forefront of their concerns, but we respectfully request that the Aldermen heed the advice of their

veterinary professionals before moving headlong into mandating the spaying and neutering of all dogs and

cats. The City of Chicago has a Task Force on Animal Welfare and Public Safety on which the Chicago

Veterinary Medical Association has an advisory position. Unfortunately, the task force has not been

involved in the consideration of this proposed ordinance. We recommend that the City Council refer this

proposal to the Animal Welfare Task Force for further discussion and to develop animal welfare

recommendations that unite the animal welfare advocates in the City rather than divide them.

The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association is one of the largest regional veterinary medical

associations in the nation, and has been serving the needs of animals in the Chicagoland community

since 1896. For further information, contact 630-325-1231, attn: Drs. Yuval Nir or Shannon Greeley.