Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mandatory Spay-Neuter (castration) laws in New York

New York City law differs significantly with New York State on this subject.

Background: Law on dogs seized and impounded in New York State

New York State law regarding impoundment of unidentified strayed and lost dogs (
Ag & Mkts Article 7, section 118) allows dog owners five days from the date the dog is impounded (seized) to reclaim the dog.

If the dog's owner can be identified, state law requires the impounding agency to immediately notify the owner of record, either personally or by certified mail, of the impoundment and procedures for reclaiming the dog. In such cases, dog owners have seven days under state law to reclaim their dogs.

Under state law, the owner forfeits title to the dog once the relevant time period has elapsed. The dog may then be euthanized or sold by the impounding agency.

Municipal laws (other than New York City)

Under state law, municipalities may establish different redemption periods by local law or ordinance, as long as they give dog owners a minimum of three days to reclaim their dog, or seven days if notification is made by mail.

Municipalities may also establish local laws requiring the surgical sterilization of "adopted" dogs:

Any municipality may by local law or ordinance establish additional conditions for adoption including the requirement that adopted dogs shall be spayed or neutered before or after release from custody upon such terms and conditions as the municipality may establish.

New York City requirement for surgical sterilization of all impounded dogs

ADC Title 17, Chapter 8, 17-804, New York City requires that any dog (or cat) released by a shelter be neutered. The law covers not only dogs (and cats) that are being "adopted" out to new owners, it also covers dogs and cats being claimed by their lawful owners.

Exemptions under city ordinance for dogs:

(a) health of the animal, if a licensed veterinarian examines the dog and certifies that surgery endangers its life, or that the animal appears to be under 8 weeks of age

(b) owner establishes status as a show dog "to the satisfaction of the shelter." Note that owners of "show dogs" must be able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the shelter, that the dog either has a breed ring show record dating from no more than 12 months prior to impoundment, or has attained the title of "champion." Acceptable registries are the AKC and UKC or similar "to the satisfaction of the shelter."

(c) status as a service dog, proven by the owner "to the satisfaction of the shelter."

Challenges to NYC mandatory sterilization ordinance

There are several serious problems with the New York City ordinance.

The confiscation and destruction of personal property (by surgical removal of a dog's reproductive system) without due process of the law is controversial and highly objectionable to dog owners and civil rights advocates everywhere.

Many dog owners, and the Dog Federation of New York, support and encourage voluntary, funded, low-cost spay-neuter programs. On the other hand, surgical sterilization should be a matter of personal choice, not law.

In New York City the rate of voluntary sterilization is already high. It is unreasonable and facetious to state that requiring sterilization of the rare impounded, intact dog whose owner objects will have any significant impact on unwanted pet population numbers.

Finally, dogs may be impounded through no fault of the owner. The use of mandatory sterilization as a "punishment" is unreasonable in such cases. Dogs can end up at a shelter after accidental release by firefighters, or if they are riding in cars involved in traffic accidents, for example. Dogs may be maliciously released by disgruntled neighbors, or accidentally by children.

Dogs may be released when their owner is the victim of a crime.

Pete Georgoutsos: victim of two crimes

During the summer of 2007, New Jersey resident Pete Georgoutsos made headlines when he challenged the NYC mandatory sterilization requirement. His dog, Spartacus, was picked up stray by the City's Animal Care and Control department after Georgoutsos' truck was vandalized while he visited friends in New York City. The dog was released by the thieves.

Within a matter of hours, Georgoutsos located his dog at a city shelter and requested that the dog be returned to him in the same (intact) state that Spartacus had entered the shelter. The shelter refused, citing the NYC mandatory sterilization requirement for all impounded dogs.

After several hearings, and posting a $10,000 bond, a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge ordered the dog released to his owner, intact -- and he used blistering language to do it:

We'll hold [Spartacus] hostage and then we'll kill him," said [Supreme
Court Judge] Schack. "That's what it sounds like."

The furor over Spartacus and the issues associated with mandatory sterilization requirements continue. Spartacus returned, intact, to his home in New Jersey a year ago. As of this writing, the City of New York is appealing Judge Schack's decision.
Legal precedents against mandatory spay neuter laws in New York

Judge Schack based his decision primarily on the fact that Spartacus was not "stray, unwanted or abandoned." His owner immediately and in clear terms requested that his dog be returned to him, and continued to do so throughout the proceedings.

The Dog Federation of New York recommends that New York dog or cat owners faced with mandatory sterilization of their animals under the New York City ordinance promptly advise the impounding shelter in writing that their dog (or cat) is not "stray, unwanted or abandoned." They should seek the services of a lawyer immediately.


Michael Wentland said...

My town has a fee of $7.50 for Spayed/Neutered dogs, and a $15.50 fee for Unspayed/Unneutered. Is this legal? Sounds like discrimination.

Anonymous said...

My town charges $10 for neutered/spayed and$20 for other in NY.

Svetlana Kolar said...

My dog was stolen and after.3 months today I found her at a animal care and control facility in brooklyn and I live in queens. When I approached the front desk A worker or volunteer took me to identify my baby and when they witnessed the reunion I was told they have.a fee.of $193 & they wouldnt release her without spraying/neautering her. And although I had my dogs licence they said weekends they cannot confirm licence information. I was told I had 48 hours to come back with the money and the only choice I had to avoid neautering.was court. I feel I dont need to do any of this being ive prooved shes mine.and the reuinion was evident.