Every dog will be desexed unless they can pass a test proving they are good natured under a proposal aimed at reducing attacks.
The State Government is examining a Dog and Cat Management Board proposal to compulsorily desex dogs unless they pass a good-character test.
The board has made the recommendation to the Government because it believes it would reduce the number of dog attacks in South Australia.
Board executive officer Ben Luxton said yesterday the board’s long-term goal was to “work towards breeding a more amicable and socially acceptable dog population”.
“We are not saying it’s mandatory desexing. What we are saying is that dogs should be assessed for temperament and that those dogs that have a temperament that is suitable to be passed on to the next generation should be allowed to breed,” he said.
‘We’re not saying it’s mandatory desexing’, it’s just you will have to have your pet mandatorily desexed – unless we say otherwise – or we will fine you, or seize your pet for non-compliance. Why? Because we have decided that your pet should be illegal if it still has its full, naturally occurring genitatlia.
Pet desexing is good. We all know that. It’s good for pets, it’s good for owners and it tends to be good for community. But government mandated desexing absolutely always gets us in trouble. 1) because it makes otherwise appropriate pet owners criminals, and 2) because it puts much too much power into the hands of an animal management system which often lacks compassion, common sense and who still kills the majority of pets who enter its care.
The article continues;
About 65 per cent of dogs registered in South Australia are desexed. Mr Luxton said the desexing proposal would not be breed-specific but would apply to all dogs.
However, he said he favoured a model in which dog owners who wanted to prevent their dogs from being desexed would submit their pets for an assessment that would determine if they were suitable for breeding.
The crude assessment that the only pets who aren’t desexed are those owned by people who want to breed them, would likely only be made by a professional dog breeder, not anyone who has spent any time in working in animal welfare or rescue.
Every day people who can’t afford desexing phone around to local shelters looking for help. Studies have shown family income is still the single strongest predictor of whether pets living in households are desexed.
(Which is exactly why groups like the AVMA,ASPCA, Best Friends, American Humane, Ally Cat Allies, and the No Kill Advocacty Center are all opposed to mandatory desexing laws – making a near national consensus in the US opposed to such laws).
(Mr Luxton) said the board was funding research at Melbourne’s La Trobe University to develop a reliable test on temperament for dogs.
These kinds of studies are awesome. They help us focus on making temperament something to be championed amongst dog breeders and the community
However, it’s worth noting that the study results are still several years away. Even if the traits are able to be determined and proved with a level of scientific reliability, the study method is designed to help breeders select for amicability. The study was never designed to use as a function of law making, or to be turned into yet another unsophisticated, blunt instrument to punish the general pet-owning population.
The most recent figures from the board show there were 230 dog attacks in 2011 that were serious enough to require the victim to seek treatment in a hospital – up 35 on the previous year.
Mr Luxton said the incidence of dog bite injuries was vastly under-reported.
“The hospital admission statistics that the board publishes in its annual report really only reports the point of the iceberg,” he said. The board noted that since legislation mandating desexing was introduced in the ACT three years ago, dog attacks have almost halved.
Ok, let’s look at these figures. The number of dog attacks in South Australia is 230. According to the table ‘Admissions to Hospital for Dog Related Incidents South Australia’, from the Board, this rate has remained pretty steady – round the 200 mark – even as the dog and human population has climbed over the last ten years.
There are currently about 300,000 owned dogs in South Australia – making the bite rate about 0.07% – or less than 1 percent.
Which of course is too many, if some of these attacks are preventable. But it makes you wonder whether targeting the entire dog population with new desexing laws is the most effective use of our limited animal management budgets. Especially when 65% of dog owners are already desexing their pets.
“It is very likely that by increasing the number of desexed dogs in the community we will also reduce the risk of dog-related injury to people and other dogs,” the board said in its discussion paper.
Unfortunately, mandatory desexing laws do not help people comply with mandatory desexing laws. It simply puts a certain segment of the community (primarily disadvantaged owners and the elderly) in breach of the new laws – and their pets at risk of being seized and killed.
About 30,000 new dogs are added to South Australian families every year (based on 10% of the dog population of 300,000).
If 65% of dog owners are already complying with desexing, that means about 20,000 of these dog are going to be desexed by their owners, regardless of whether there is a law requiring them to do so, or not.
Instead of investing in consultation and the passage of new laws, couldn’t we simply target ‘at-risk’ pet owning families, and offer free surgeries? At $150 a pop, that’s about $1.5m dollars for a completely 100% desexed dog population (which is more than we actually need).
That’s a lot of money, I hear you say. Where would the government find such funds?
The South Australian Dog and Cat Management Board in 2010/11 clocked up about one million dollars in operating expenses. $1.2 million in 2011/12. They currently hold about one million dollars in cash reserves. And to do what exactly?
The Dog and Cat Management Board (the Board) achieves its objectives through activities identifed in strategic, operational and financial plans which are provided to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation (the Minister).
… During the reporting period the Board continued to collect data on dog and cat management to inform its decision making.
Three papers regarding this have been submitted to the Minister in the reporting period. The first report presented a ‘proposal for legislative amendment to control dogs which pose a higher risk of causing fatal injury to people in South Australia’.
The second report provided an ‘implementation plan for the requirement to desex dogs (and associated amicability testing)’ in response to research showing that un-desexed dogs are seven times more likely to bite than desexed dogs and the third report presented ‘administrative amendments to the Act to provide for improved control of cats through local government by-law’.
In short, they take a million + dollars every year, to recommend desexing laws to the South Australian government.
This is a great example of why desexing laws fail – not just because they have failed everywhere they have been tried – but because the process of law-making and enforcement sucks perfectly good resources from programs which actually save the lives of pets, and puts them into the pockets of bureaucrats. Two and a half million dollars in two years, that could have been directed into South Australian desexing programs, has instead resulted in a proposed mandate that dogs be desexed.