Redlands, California Exploring Breed-Specific Mandatory Spay/Neuter Ordinance for “Pit Bulls”

Riverside County, California just passed a breed-specific mandatory spay/neuter law last week for that non-existent “breed” “pit bull” and so I guess nearby Redlands, California just had to have a BS MSN law too. (And yes, I call breed-specific mandatory spay/neuter laws, BS MSN laws for short.)

But it isn’t just Riverside that is being cited as reason to pass breed-specific mandatory spay/neuter laws.   Cities and counties are also using as examples Yucaipa, Highland, and San Bernadino County, all of which have breed-specific mandatory spay/neuter ordinances.

San Bernadino County claims that a breed-specific MSN law was necessary, telling the Redland Daily Facts that “pit bull breeds account for about 20 percent of the dogs at animal shelters and are put down more often than any other breed.”   Well how in the world do you claim accurate statistics for a “breed” of dog that, as already noted, does not exist?   And if you have to refer to them as “breeds” then there is an acknowledgement that the slang term “pit bull” is a conglomeration of breeds, not one singular breed in and of itself.

Indeed, “pit bull” can mean anything you want it to mean.   So if you want to skew statistics to make it look like your spay/neuter law for so-called “pit bulls” is working, you simply stop calling every mix a “pit bull.”   For instance, we’ve seen shelters like BARC in Houston wildly mislabel their shelter dogs, so why can’t you do the opposite and stop calling all mixes “pit bulls” to skew your stats? (At one point, I determined that over half of the dog population at BARC that they were referring to as “pit bulls” were actually Labrador mixes.)

Many shelters cannot accurately discern breeds, particularly “pit bulls” because the slang term “pit bull” can refer to countless actual breeds, mixes, and lookalikes.   So to definitively say that your intake is 20 percent “pit bull” might be an extremely misleading statistic, particularly because breed determinations in a shelter context are going to be subjective ones.

Still, San Bernadino County claims that “the countys intake of pit bulls has decreased 28 percent since the [breed-specific mandatory spay/neuter] ordinance took effect and that euthanization rates have dropped by 56 percent.”   Again, what does San Bernadino County consider a “pit bull”?  

It is also very telling that these statistics — for cities like Yucaipa and Highland and for San Bernadino County — that were cited in support of the MSN law in Redlands and probably Riverside County, are difficult if not impossible to find online.   Usually hard-to-find or impossible-to-find data means someone’s trying to hide something.  

Don’t you wonder what they’re trying to hide?   Well, what often happens when mandatory spay/neuter ordinances are passed, especially breed-specific ones, is that people go underground.   They stop taking their dogs to the vet, which means the dogs aren’t being vaccinated, or those who can’t afford to spay/neuter their dogs may give them up.  

As a consequence of many owner surrenders, local shelters may initially be flooded with dogs that would have had homes had the MSN law not been passed.   So there may be a huge spike in kill rates initially, which then tapers off over time.   Then cities and counties report the tapered-off kill rates and claim success.   All that’s really happened however, is that the dog population in a city or county has been decimated.  

For instance, in 1991, San Mateo County, California, passed the nations first MSN law and kill rates in areas covered by the ordinance increased 126% for dogs and 86% for cats while areas of the county not covered by the ordinance saw a decrease in kill rates.   Meanwhile, licensure compliance declined by 35%.

Likewise, L.A. County passed an MSN law in 2000 and recorded a decline in licensure and an Animal control budget that went from $6.7 million to $18 million.   The same happened in Santa Cruz, California.   Their 1995 MSN law saw licensing drop and costs rise significantly.   And if Fort Worth, Texas is any indication, vaccination compliance will likewise drop off.  

Sure, cities and counties can cherry pick and offer only those stats which seem to show that MSN laws are efficacious, but the truth about mandatory spay/neuter laws is the same as the truth about breed-specific legislation: It doesn’t work.   And if cities and counties have to manipulate stats or keep their statistics from the public in order to claim supposed success, what does that tell you?

For example, Redlands has some fuzzy math of its own when it claims to have a “pit bull” overpopulation problem.   The Redlands Animal Shelter reports that “nine of the 60 dogs on site are pit bulls or pit bull mixes. Twenty-six are full or part chihuahua.”   So 15% of the animal shelter population consists of so-called “pit bulls,” whatever they’re deciding those are.   Meanwhile, over 43% of the shelter population consists of Chihuahuas, and Redlands is looking at a breed-specific mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for “pit bulls”?   Something doesn’t add up here.

Make no mistake, I wouldn’t condone a breed-specific ordinance for Chihuahuas either.   But why single out any breed when Redlands simply needs to educate the community about the positives of spaying and neutering their pets?

As I said when writing about Riverside County, BSL and MSN are demonstrably ineffective and woefully inadequate in addressing the real problems communities are facing.   Punitive legislation punishes formerly law-abiding citizens and creates an us-versus-them animosity between citizens and their cities and counties.   What does work are community education programs that instruct about the importance of spaying and neutering pets in addition to vouchers for low-cost or free spay/neuter for low-income pet owners.  


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