Friday, January 05, 2007

Cracking Down on Pet Owners

Albuquerque and a growing number of cities are passing tough new measures aimed at ending euthanasia in animal shelters. Owners are even being forced to clean up after their dog in their own backyard

For the past two years, Martin Chavez, mayor of Albuquerque, has brought his best friend to work every day. His friend doesn't talk, but he's often the first to shake visitors' hands. Dukes, Chavez's two-year-old floppy-eared mutt, is around not just for the company, but as a way to bring attention to the mayor's commitment to reduce the city's exploding unwanted animal population.

When he was re-elected to a third term in 2005, Chavez made a promise to end euthanasia at the city's animal shelters. He had already been meeting daily with City Councilor Sally Mayer and regularly with breeders and groomers across the city to come up with an animal ordinance that would improve the way the city treats its dogs and cats and increase the number of adoptions. At the time, the city was euthanizing more than 1,000 pets a month.

The law went into effect in October and it follows a nationwide trend of get-tough approaches to pet overpopulation. In Albuquerque, all cats and dogs older than six months must be microchipped and sterilized, unless owners pay an annual fee of $150 to keep their dogs able to reproduce — and another $150 for every new litter. Dogs can be restrained by a chain for only one hour every day, and people who want to have more than four dogs must obtain an additional permit. There is even a provision in the new law that requires dog owners to clean up after their pets in their own yards every week. While authorities won't be checking backyards for hardened poop, Chavez says that additional animal control officers have been hired, to make sure any animals they pick up have been neutered or spayed.

Lisa Peterson, a spokesperson for the American Kennel Club, considers the Albuquerque ordinance draconian, but acknowledges it is part of a nationwide trend. Ordinances similar to Albuquerque's have been passed or are being considered by 138 local communities, along with many states. She is concerned that the new laws punish responsible pet owners and breeders, and could even jeopardize the existence of some breeds. In Denver, for example, pitbulls are outlawed completely. This has forced owners to flee the city or go underground, where they keep their dogs behind closed shades and take them out only under the cloak of darkness. In 2006 alone, more than 800 of the dogs known for their ferocity have been rounded up in Denver, most of them destroyed.

Often, these laws follow vicious, sometimes deadly, dog attacks and are driven by a concern for public safety. They are also a response to overwhelming numbers of feral cats and puppy litters and reflect a desire to provide them more humane conditions. In Albuquerque, for example, 30,000 animals are brought to the city's two shelters every year. And that doesn't include animals that pass through private shelters and rescue networks.

It's a grassroots phenomenon, says David Favre, a professor at the Michigan State University College of Law, who has studied animal rights laws for 20 years. Feral cats, spaying and neutering, local shelters — these are all local problems that don't get the ear of folks at the federal and state levels. "It is not unlike the environmental movement when I was in law school. Animal welfare is a growing social interest."

As an avid animal lover I found this article interesting. Personally, I think if people would simply take responsibility for their pets instead of buying them and then treating them as an inconvience, we wouldn't have the animal overpopulation issues we have. It's great that someone's trying to do the right thing for these animals, instead of killing them because some humans are too stupid and irresponsible to care for them the way they should.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

while I can feel very comfortable about paying a PERMIT for a litter - I do not think I should have to pay a HUGE license fee because I do not want to spay my dog.
I have owned female dogs all of my life (and I am no youngster) and only 1 dog ever had a litter of pups. That was NOT a mistake.
I currently have #6 an old dog pound pup & #7 is my 3 year old pedigreed bitch. I may never breed her - but I might too. Breeding your dog and raising the pups - IS HARD WORK. and a TON of responsibility. I should not have to pay such a high fee - if I am a responsible owner.

1/05/2007 11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, responsible owners are the minority or there would not be around 30,000 dogs and cats turned in to the shelter each year.
So, thank your irresponsible neighbors for the price you now have to pay, and not the Mayor who is doing the right thing to protect the voiceless who are suffering.
Just so you know, no one can tell if your female is intact or not, they will be looking at the problem cases and the dogs they pick up. Your dogs will not even get their attention if they are kept indoors, kept healthy and happy with you and the family like a pet should be.

1/06/2007 10:45 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

That's great news...

The kitten/cat in the photo looks so sad and so cute... :)

Journey Through Divorce

1/07/2007 11:17 AM  
Blogger Leo said...

Thanks for the comments everyone!

1/08/2007 2:04 PM  

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