Animal rights groups and their furry friends hit the Capitol steps last week to try and pressure a lawmaker, any lawmaker, to take on legislation that would establish a voluntary statewide spay/neuter program for pets.
The Texas Federation of Animal Care Services wants Texas to pass an incentive for people to spay or neuter their pets before they have unwanted offspring, a measure they say will go a long way toward fighting animal overpopulation in the Lone Star State. The proposal would offer a licensing differential for pet owners who also spay or neuter their pets when they have them registered, and some programs have also included a voucher for the procedure.
"The only way we’re going to stop killing animals in shelters or cut down the pet overpopulation is by solving the problem," said Pat Nordyke, executive director of the Texas Federation of Animal Care Societies in Austin. "Spay and neuter all the animals out there that are breeding indiscriminately."
But so far, their proposed bill has no sponsor in the Legislature, and it can't even get a hearing until it does. Similar legislation in the past faced opposition by breeders and some of the agricultural community, which is always wary of unintended consequences and has considerable sway in the lower chamber.
The proposed program is voluntary, but the opponents call it a slippery slope that could lead to costly restrictions and mandates.
Texas currently requires people who adopt pets to do so under an agreement to spay or neuter them. There is also a state program through the Texas Department of Health that allows organizations to apply for grants to help them subsidize spay/neuter services and keep costs down for owners. Also, cities are free to design their own spay/neuter and registration ordinances.
Across the U.S., animal welfare advocates say anywhere from 6 million to 8 million homeless animals enter shelters every year; about half of them are euthanized for health, temperament, or simply for lack of space.
The spay/neuter proposition is among the most popular solutions to the overcrowded shelters and other issues that come up with the overpopulation of domestic pets.