Mandatory Spay and Neuter Laws In The US

Multiple states have fronted mandatory neuter and spay laws. However, there are currently NO state-enacted laws that require all pet owners to neuter or spay their animals. So, what states have mandatory spay and neuter laws in the United States?

So far, Rhode Island is perhaps the only state that has adopted legislation which requires cat owners to spay or neuter their pets unless:

  • The caretaker holds a breeding permit.
  • The pet has been adopted and the caretaker will be neutering/spaying the animal pursuant to an agreement with the adopting agency.
  • Due to the pet’s health, a veterinarian has determined that it would be inappropriate to neuter the animal.

The inability of state legislatures to pass mandatory neuter/spay laws has, however, not precluded city and other local governments from proposing and adopting their mandatory spay/neuter ordinances.

Los Angeles Setting the Pace

In 2008, Los Angeles County signed into law one of the country’s toughest legislation on pet desexing, requiring most dog breeds and cats to be neutered or spayed by the time they are 4 months old. Through the ordinance, the county aims to reduce and eventually eliminate the thousands of euthanizations carried out in Los Angeles’ animal shelters each year.

However, the ordinance does exempt certain pets, including guide dogs, pets used in police agencies, those that have competed in shows or sporting competitions, and those belonging to professional breeders. All average pet owners must have their dogs or cats spayed or neutered by the time they reach 4 months of age (or latest 6 months with a letter from a vet).

Owners with older unneutered pets as well as newcomers to the city with pets are also required to comply with the ordinance.

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Penalties for Non Compliance

In terms of penalties, first-time offenders will get information on subsidized desexing services and be allowed an additional 60 days to comply. Afterward, failure to comply will attract a fine of $100 and an order to serve eight hours of community service. Any subsequent offense could result in a fine of $500 or 40 hours of community service. Currently, about a dozen Los Angeles neighbors have enacted similar laws.

Note that pet owners and individuals with a breeder, animal handler, or fancier permits, and animals qualifying for temporary or permanent medical exemptions are not required to comply with the ordinance.

While only a few cities have passed mandatory neuter/spay laws for pet owners, many states have enacted statutes that require the desexing of pound or shelter pets prior to release. Additionally, many state statutes and city ordinances require higher licensing fees for intact animals and mandatory desexing for vicious or dangerous dogs.

Some states also require a monetary deposit to ensure future sterilization, and many of the states provide for certain exceptions.

Exceptions for Health Reasons 

Although desexing offers numerous health benefits, there are certain medical cases, particularly in dogs, where sterilization should be delayed until the pet is older to avoid heightening the risk of certain health problems. 

Desexing can cause some pets to put on more weight and become heavier. Early desexing, in particular, produces larger animals which can trigger cranial cruciate ligament disease and hip dysplasia in dogs. 

With a letter from your vet, you can be exempted from early sterilization until a later date as recommended by the vet.

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