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Fluffy & Fido Must Be Snipped, It's the Law

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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed one of the country's most stringent pet sterilization laws yesterday, requiring dog and cat owners to spay/neuter their pets or face hefty fines.

What does this mean for you and fido or fluffy? It means that you must have them spayed or neuteured by the time they reach four months of age.

All dogs? All cats? Pretty much. The only animals exempted from the new law are those that compete in shows, are rescue or service animals, or that are registered as a pet used for breeding.

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What will happen if you don't? First time offenders will receive information about the law and they'll be given 60 days to spay/neuter their pets. A second offense gets you a $100 fine and 8 hours of community service. A third offense gets you a $500 fine "or" 40 hours of community service.

How can they possibly enforce this? Ah, the most important question. Will there be a new brigade of "ball police" roaming the streets of LA? Can you be given a ticket for Harry's hanging sack whilst walking for your morning coffee? What about the ladies? You can't tell just by looking at them. The big trick in all of this is how to enforce such a measure.

Anyone with half a brain can see that over-population of our animal shelters must be controlled. While a few nuts may say let's kill 'em all instead, the obvious approach is to prevent all those new pups and kittens from being born in the first place. Much more humane, right?

This law is a win in many ways - that big jerk with his big husky that has the big balls and bosses everyone around will finally be snipped. Hooray for those of you who live next door to the big jerk. More importantly, stray animals can't mate and make more animals. Easy math.

There aren't many who disagree with this law in principle. Who wouldn't want to handle our animals in the most humane way possible?

But the big question is: how do you enforce such a law? Who will be monitoring the situation? Who will be policing the balls and uteruses of dogs and cats in LA? If you are a first-time offender and get a 60 day reprieve, will someone come knocking on your door to check on Day 61? What happens after the third infraction? Is someone able to just continue paying fines and doing community service indefinitely without spaying/neutering their pet? And is a $500 fine for a backyard breeder that earns up to $3,000 a dog really harsh enough?

Who will check to make sure "professional breeders" are really breeding and not just skirting the law? Who will make sure "show" dogs are really being shown? Do we have the resources to seriously enforce this? Can Animal Control officers really be everywhere at once, or is the goal to slowly check every dog they come into contact with and hope that the problem recedes over time?

The clearest picture we have right now is that this law will target the biggest offenders - the dog and cat owners who allow their animals to mate unchecked. City Councilmember Richard Alarcón said as much

"The problem in our city is not the animals but the human owners, and this ordinance will allow the Department of Animal services to target resources towards the worst offenders whose irresponsibility threaten public safety and fills our shelters with unwanted dogs and cats."

Makes sense on the surface and might be the right place to start. Yet, in a city where we can't manage to get people to license their dogs and cats, it seems a very challenging task to get them to alter their dogs and cats.

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Opponents of the law are furious because they worry that it will encourage backyard breeders to to go "underground" to cheat the system, which could result in possibly more inhumane treatment of the animals, encourage breeding in a limited gene pool (resulting in genetic diseases) and more.

Is this a good thing for fluffy and fido? Right now, it looks like a decent place to start, considering that doing nothing will only allow the problems to multiply exponentially. It will take time to see how the law is enforced, how pet owners respond, and what unforseen problems may arise in the process. The law goes into effect in April.

What do you think about the mandatory spay/neuter law? How will this affect you and your pets?

Photo by S!za via Flickr