By Jennifer Clark, Manager, Canine Legislation
The images are enough to break anyone’s heart – stray dogs roaming the street without proper food, water and basic needs; shelters overflowing with unwanted animals. There is no question that something needs to be done. The dogs – and the people of Puerto Rico – deserve better.
But punishing those who responsibly own and breed animals – those who dedicate their lives to the betterment of dogs and ensure Puerto Ricans have the ability to own healthy, well-bred purebred dogs – is not the answer. Yet that’s exactly what a proposal pending before the Puerto Rico Legislature would do.
PC 2950 and PS 1631 would place a five year ban on the breeding of dogs and mandate the sterilization of all dogs in Puerto Rico. Those who don’t comply would risk fines, imprisonment, and having their dogs seized by law enforcement. Supporters say this is the solution because no one will be able to breed dogs until the street dog problem is under control. But consider the following:
- A breeding ban will not address the real issue of unowned street dogs. Puerto Rico’s dog issues are related primarily to street/feral and unowned dogs, not owned, purpose-bred purebred dogs. However this law does not address this real problem, but will harm responsible breeders. Punishing breeders and dog owners who take care of their dogs and make sure they are in good homes will do nothing to fix this issue.
- Puerto Rico already has extensive licensing, cruelty, and abandonment laws. Puerto Rico already has many laws addressing breeding and the treatment of dogs. How will more laws fix the issue – especially as the proposal itself admits current laws aren’t being followed? And how will seizing the dogs of those who do not comply help the shelter population issue? The focus should be on strong enforcement of these laws, and basic laws such as not allowing owned dogs to run free, rather than on new laws.
- Mandatory sterilization is expensive, difficult to enforce, and a health risk. Mandatory sterilization laws in other American cities have been shown to actually increase animal control costs. In Dallas, the animal control expenses increased by 22 percent. Santa Cruz, California, saw its costs increase by over 50 percent over 12 years. It’s also been found that many who are not in compliance even stop taking their dog to the veterinarian to hide the fact that the dog isn’t sterilized. This then risks the health of dogs and the public if the dogs are not given proper check-ups and vaccinations. These are just some of the reasons why the AKC, veterinarians, and organizations such as the ASPCA all oppose mandatory sterilization laws. Also, mandatory sterilization of young dogs can result in many health problems and even a shorter life. A law that can harm the health of dogs should never be supported.
- Responsible breeders are not the reason for uncontrolled street dog populations, abandoned dogs or shelter population problems – they are the solution. Dogs are left at shelters or abandoned for many reasons, including training issues, excessive barking, health issues, or even lack of money to properly care for the pet. Dog experts such as responsible breeders actually help address this problem. They produce healthy, well-bred dogs and ensure they are placed with a home that is the right fit for the family and the pet. They also have a lifelong commitment to the dog and will ensure the dog is never abandoned or left at a shelter, but is always in a safe and loving home.
Kennel clubs, responsible breeders and dog shows also have a positive impact on the economy. From facility rental to awards to other event needs, dog shows generate significant money in local Puerto Rico communities. This is in addition to veterinary care, dog food, grooming, and other basic dog needs that are paid for in Puerto Rico communities as part of a breeder’s dedication to their dogs.
So what’s the answer? A better approach is to a focus on low-cost or free sterilization programs to help dog owners who are not part of a responsible breeding program ensure there are no unwanted litters. Likewise, specific programs to address populations of street dogs should also be developed. We will also be joining with health experts and local Puerto Rico Kennel Clubs to teach about responsible dog ownership, how to be good dog owners, and making sure people choose the right dog for their family.
Together, we are committed to ensuring a better life for dogs in Puerto Rico.
See what these local dog owners have to say in the video below.