The price is nuts
WHEN THE GOVERNMENT "can come into our homes and decide whether our dogs can have gonads, that's the day I leave California."

-- Carol Hamilton

As regular readers to this blog know, the nanny-staters want your dogs' nuts and ovaries badly -- whether you feel like surrendering them or not.

Urged on by Bob Barker (who cares little about the devaluation of freedom), activists cheered this week as the city of Los Angeles voted in favor of a measure to formally put the government in the mandatory castration business:

LOS ANGELES - Urged on by retired "The Price is Right" host Bob Barker and a throng of supporters, the Los Angeles City Council has taken steps to require spaying and neutering of most pet cats and dogs by 4 months of age.

So much applause erupted Friday when Barker stood to endorse the idea that council President Eric Garcetti urged just a quick clap because time for public comment was limited.

Barker replied: "Councilman Garcetti, that's the most beautiful sound I've heard in months since I left 'Price is Right."'

Barker noted that for decades he closed his show by urging viewers to help control the pet population and that the audience was filled with people who had worked on the problem for years.

"The problem?" While there is certainly a feral cat overpopulation problem (a problem which will be untouched by laws which only regulate owned animals), the problem with dogs right now is quite the opposite -- a puppy shortage caused by so few dogs being bred. This measure will only exacerbate the problem, and dramatically increase the importation of overpriced puppies from outlying areas:
"Animal shelters in the USA are casting a wide net - from Puerto Rico to as far as Taiwan - to fill kennels. Critics say many shelters have solved the stray problem in their own area - but rather than shut down, they become de facto pet stores. Some charge more than $200 per adoption for imported dogs," reports USA Today (5). More than 14,000 strays have been shipped in from Puerto Rico, and many thousands more are being imported from Mexico, India and the Bahamas each year. Another USA Today article warns, "Agencies in Southern California created the Border Puppy Task Force after they saw a surprising number of very young dogs being brought across the border from Mexico. The task force estimated that during a one-year span, 10,000 puppies entered San Diego County." (6)
What's going on behind the scenes is that Lloyd "Light Bulb" Levine, the sponsor of AB 1634 (California's Mandatory Spay and Neuter Bill), and the bill's author, Judie Mancuso, are working to get these measures passed in Los Angeles in the hope that reluctant state legislators will see this as a done deal, and the wave of the future. The much-hyped claim is that sterilization prevents euthanasia:
Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), the author of a similar state bill, told the council that half a million dogs and cats are euthanized in California shelters each year, a figure that proponents of mandatory sterilization believe would be reduced if pet owners were forced to alter their animals.
Notice that Levine is statistically lumping dogs and cats together, even though the respective situations are very different.

Logically, it is certainly true if all dogs (or all members of any group of living creatures, for that matter) were spayed and neutered, there would soon be no euthanasia, because there would be no dogs to euthanize. However, the argument that dog euthanasia is a result of overpopulation does not withstand analysis. The dogs being euthanized are typically adult unclaimed strays, dogs surrendered for behavioral problems, and adult dogs surrendered because the owners are unable to keep them.

Moreover, euthanasia of unwanted dogs may be wholly unnecessary. There is a no-kill shelter movement which is increasingly at odds with the government shelter bureaucrats.

In the still-heated debate over reducing shelters deaths in California, there is probably no more polarizing figure than Nathan Winograd, former director of operations for the San Francisco SPCA.

At first glance, Winograd has all the credentials any animal rights activist or shelter professional could ask for. He's a vegan. He left a lucrative career as a prosecuting attorney to devote himself to helping animals. Last year, his income was only $35,000. He has spearheaded the No Kill Advocacy Center, a national organization aimed at ending the killing of pets in animal shelters. While director of operations at the San Francisco SPCA, he worked with then-president Richard Avanzino to implement a wide variety of animal livesaving programs, and then went on to achieve similar success as director of a rural shelter in upstate New York.

But Winograd isn't making a lot of friends in the shelter industry these days. That's because he authored a book called "Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America" that challenges the very foundation of nearly every theory and principle of shelter management in this country...

Read it all. The reason Winograd is making enemies is not merely for exposing the dirty little secret that "overpopulation" is a lie, but because he's an insider who argues that the euthanasia results from bureaucratic inefficiency:
There is probably nothing Winograd could say that would more inflame the shelter and humane society establishment than calling pet overpopulation a myth. But Winograd doesn't just stop there.

In "Redemption," Winograd lays the lion's share of the blame for shelter deaths not on pet owners and communities, but on the management, staff, and boards of directors of the shelters themselves.

"If a community is still killing the majority of shelter animals, it is because the local SPCA, humane society, or animal control shelter has fundamentally failed in its mission," he writes. "And this failure is nothing more than a failure of leadership. The buck stops with the shelter's director."

Redemption makes the case that bad shelter management leads to overcrowding, which is then confused with pet overpopulation. Instead of warehousing and killing animals, shelters, he says, should be using proven, innovative programs to find those homes he says are out there. They should wholeheartedly adopt the movement known as No Kill, and stop using killing as a form of population control.

I realize that I have devoted a great deal of time in this blog arguing against mandatory spay and neuter laws (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, for example), but this issue pushes my buttons for several reasons. The growing tendency of the nanny state to invade the most personal areas of our lives and our homes is a serious problem, and few things are more personal than someone's relationship with his dog. Whether you have invasive surgery performed on your dog (especially a four month old puppy) is an individual issue, not an issue for the state to decide for you. If you do not allow your dog to roam, and you are not creating problems for other people, its genitalia are simply not the business of the state. This is not to say that it is wrong to fix your dog; for many if not most dog owners it's probably a very wise and prudent thing to do. But a dog is your property, and as I've argued before, a dog is the most personal kind of property there is.
Few things are more personal to me than my relationship with my dog, Coco. The idea that the government can make me a criminal for not cutting out her ovaries (something which is entirely my business and no one else's) fills me with horror.

What happened to all the people who used to scream "KEEP THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF OUR BEDROOMS?"

What about the idea that a man's home is his castle?

A dog is personal. And it's property. But it's different than ordinary property, because there is a personal bond, an emotional investment between a dog and his owner that cannot be measured in economic value. Because of this emotional component, a dog may be the most valuable property that a person can have. I can't speak for other dog owners, but if my house was on fire, my very first thought would be to save Coco! I think many dog owners would feel the same way. That is the real test of value.

So, people who care about property rights ought to care very about this special form of property which, to the people who have it, is the most valuable property of all.

The idea of the government entering into my relationship with my dog is thus more than an ordinary violation of property rights. It's highly personal.

This remains a highly personal and emotional issue for me, because I love my dog, and the idea that the state could compel me to perform what I consider mutilating surgery on her is bad enough, but to do so in the name of "her" "rights" -- allegedly because other people are breeding their dogs indiscriminately -- that's extreme communitarianism. It holds me responsible for the conduct of other people -- which is alleged to cause "overpopulation." But when even that claim turns out to be false, my hackles are up. I see mandatory spay and neuter as nothing but a naked power grab. And some of the people leading it are deliberately childless activists who I suspect would want human sterilization if they could get their way. ("Homeless shelters are full! We have a serious human overpopulation problem!")

Another reason this issue pushes my buttons is that there's something I find even more offensive than seeing people misled, and that is seeing morality manufactured in the process. Perhaps "remanufactured" is a better word, for I can remember when castration was not something people normally did to "man's best friend." I mean, if we use the human analogy (which the AR crowd loves to use in other contexts) would you castrate your best friend to help stop overpopulation?

Without recalling the popular culture as it was in my youth, the American Veterinary Medical Association acknowledges that some Europeans still instinctively recoil the way I remember Americans once did:

In some parts of the world, elective gonadectomy is considered unethical and is strongly discouraged or disallowed by professional veterinary associations.2 Elective gonadectomy is illegal in at least 1 country.3 In 1 article4 published in Europe, elective gonadectomy is decried as "the tool of despots and tyrants throughout history," and the author of that article claims that gonadectomized dogs are "canine eunuchs, condemned to live their lives in a physical and mental twilight." That author also questions how a profession that publicly declares itself the guardian of animal welfare can, with impunity, perform elective surgery on animals for human convenience.4
Interestingly, the authors believe that veterinary ethics should be driven by what's best for the individual dog, and not by the communitarian/group impulse:
Pets should be considered individually, with the understanding that for these pets, population control is a less important concern than is health of each animal. Dogs and cats should be maintained as household pets. Responsible owners should ensure that their pets are provided appropriate and regularly scheduled veterinary care.
The problem involves more than considerations about "population control," though. Attitudes in this country have shifted to the point where it is now considered abnormal to have a normal dog. (I experienced this firsthand with Puff.) Swinging testicles are considered just awful. Evidence of "irresponsibility," and a vivid reminder that the pet owner in question is in serious need of "education."

(Isn't it time that we who have behaved responsibly and castrated our dogs see to it that the laws are changed? That way, instead of being upset or intimidated by swinging nuts, we can call the authorities, who will see to it that society is protected.)

I confess to a feeling of strong repugnance to this, as it horrifies me to think that people have been manipulated (hoodwinked is more like it) into accepting an unwarranted premise. I'm not saying my feelings of repugnance constitute wisdom, though, so I try not to rely on them as a way of deciding things. (If I did that I'd be doing what the people I'm complaining about are doing.) Instead, I try to use my feelings as a starting point and examine whether I am being logical.

Anyway, it strikes me that the goal has to involve more than preventing dog reproduction. If that were truly the case, there would be less intrusive ways to do it. Why not target females only, for example? They only go into heat twice a year, and most people find intact bitches very inconvenient, and would spay them even if not asked. This is why many an intact male has never seen and will never see an actual bitch in heat. And why require castration? If the purpose is really preventing reproduction, then why aren't vasectomies acceptable?

The answer (at least according to a number of postings on AR boards) is that only a perverted zoophile would want a dog vasectomy.

No I am serious. Discouraging bestiality is actually used as an argument against dog vasectomies:

The benefits of spay-neuter are well documented, now there's another reason for it to be done:

In the past couple of years our group has become aware of a number of zoophillic individuals who are actively attempting to skirt spay-neuter requirements, regulations, or laws, by trying to convince the humane society or rescue group to allow a vasectomy or tubal ligation. They encourage others with this interest to ask for this "alternate" surgery as a specific. Some may cite objections to surgery or "mutilation" to hide the real motivations. Others willingly put up a cash deposit and sign an alter contract they know can't or won't likely be enforced. The deposit is gladly forfeited in order to obtain intact dogs at almost any cost.

Tubal/Vas has been discussed as a very specific method to skirt spay-neuter as far back as 1994 on the usenet newsgroup and similar bestiality related forums.

This is done specifically to obtain dogs for the purpose of engaging them in sexual activities. Tubal/vas allows the zoophillic individual to use the animal for this purpose, whereas a spayed or neutered dog is generally not physically able to, and is far less desirable.

Well, if we're going to be logical about such an argument, why limit it to people who'd settle for vasectomies? If only a zoophile would want to preserve his genitalia with a vasectomy, then it flows logically that only a zoophile would refuse to castrate his dogs. Which means, of course, that only a zoophile would oppose mandatory spay and neuter.

So of course all opponents of mandatory spay and neuter are into bestiality! I'd like to think this is satire but people seem to be taking it seriously. I really don't think it's helpful to maintain that only a pervert would be opposed castration. (They're almost inviting the counter-argument that it's at least as sexually twisted to want castration as it is to be opposed to it. I'm no shrink, but what might Freud say?)

So far, at least, the mainstream nanny state activists have refrained from calling their opponents "zoophiles." Instead they call them "irresponsible, unlicensed and uncaring breeders." Geez. That sounds like the what the lesbian agengers in Berkeley used to call heterosexual couples.

Can't we all get along?

I realize that the real issue now is McCain versus Romney, and that no politician at the national level is likely to weigh in on mandatory spay and neuter laws. At least, not for now. (Well, Hillary did neuter and declaw her cat, but she's not trying to make it mandatory.) These are personal decisions. Mandatory spay and neuter laws, when imposed on personally owned animals kept on private property, are a galling example of government intrusion into a very personal area in people's lives. It crosses a line which should never be crossed in a free country.

If the government can come into your home and force you to have surgery performed on your animal, your privacy is gone and your home has ceased to be your castle. Might as well have armed mobile spay and neuter teams go door to door doing "nut checks." (A dog barking would supply probable cause, of course.)

"Oh, so you don't want to let us in? Well, we can do it the hard way. There's plenty of SWAT team backup available."

Who knows? "The Gonad Cops" might make for great television for pliant citizens who think they're being protected.

There probably should be a TV show, though. Because television not only entertains people but promotes the idea and humanizes the enforcers.

Hey, how about "Ball Busters"? They could even prop up Bob Barker and have him host the show. Plenty of alliteration there....

(They're already being called the "Gonad Nazis," and while that might seem a bit offensive to some, the term "Safety Nazis" is in wide use with few objections. Nazi comparisons are, I think, best avoided. But if someone were paying me to think about them out loud, I'd say that "Gonad Gestapo" is more alliterative. But as a title for a TV show it just won't do.)


I realize that sexual morality and reproductive freedom are hot button issues, but I just wish the moralists would leave my dogs alone.

MORE: In the comments below, I said something I've said before, but which IMO can't be stressed enough:

Because those who conform resent those who don't, compliance with tyranny ultimately leads to a demand for tyranny.
This is why I believe there is a moral duty of defiance -- even over the "small stuff."

(To put it in today's parlance, if they tell you "No you can't," the answer should be "Yes we can!")

MORE: A bill in Mississippi would prohibit restaurants from serving food to obviously obese people.

(Talk about a great idea for a TV show!)

posted by Eric on 02.02.08 at 05:42 PM


Barker? His name is Barker? And he wants your dog's gonads? His name can't be Barker.

Robert Beck   ·  February 2, 2008 6:45 PM

That's exceedingly creepy, Eric.

At what point are people going to go "Okay - enough already!" and scale things back? Will this be the tipping point?

JLawson   ·  February 2, 2008 10:41 PM

We're a bit late on this one, guys. The State can take your children away for your heinous crime of failing to vaccinate them, and no one seems to think much about it. Wherefor, then, shall we protest when it makes the ownership of reproductively functional subhumans a matter of State licensure and decree?

That "giant sucking sound" H. Ross Perot made famous wasn't all our jobs being drawn to Mexico; it was all our freedom being swallowed by the thugs in our legislatures. And we have yet to find a way to reverse the flow.

Francis W. Porretto   ·  February 3, 2008 6:14 AM

They can make you vaccinate your dog for rabies, too. But laws aside, you'd be crazy not to, as there are rabid raccoons and skunks all over the place. I don't need a law to tell me to vaccinate my dog, and if I had a child, I wouldn't need a law telling me to vaccinate him either. There is a vast difference, though, between vaccination and castration -- as well as a public health issue present in the former which is absent in the latter.

The problem is that even laws based on common sense like vaccinating create a bureaucratic machinery that demands more and more laws. First they want children vaccinated for things like whooping cough and polio, then it's mandatory drug testing and psychological screening, and ultimately mandatory treatment. With the advent of socialized medicine, the government will demand more and more, and people themselves will join in the demands.

Because those who conform resent those who don't, compliance with tyranny ultimately leads to a demand for tyranny.

If you oppose them, you're a kook like me.

(At least I'm still allowed to write blog posts.)

Eric Scheie   ·  February 3, 2008 12:20 PM

The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has a similar draconian anti-pet law. Major teeth. If you are caught with your dog on a leash more than six feet long, you go before a judge, who can send you to jail. (All violations of the ordinance are criminal, not civil, violations.)

Don't want to de-nut your dog? Well, that's OK, for $150 a year you can have a "permit" allowing you that freedom---maximum of four dogs, however. If they catch you in defiance, it's mandatory time in front of the judge, and possible jail time. A friend's neighbor was given a jail sentence (suspended) when someone else let his dog get loose.

The question remains: how does one effectively oppose the nanny-state? Seriously, what means are really available to say "this is too much"?


hidinginalbuquerque   ·  February 3, 2008 2:18 PM

My brother in Des Moines is risking a $500 fine and 30 days in jail for the crime of...not getting his indoors-only (he's seriously scared to leave the house) cat a rabies shot, required by the city for a cat license, required for all cats whether or not they ever go outside.

Jail time. For an unnecessary procedure on a freaking CAT. "Demand for tyranny" is dead on.

Heather   ·  February 4, 2008 10:36 AM

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