Would Obligatory Sterilization of Domestic Cats Lead to Their Extinction?
It is an interesting thought. The authorities at various levels in several countries including at national level are considering introducing mandatory sterilization of domestic cats and linking it to mandatory micro-chipping. This way a database would be created and veterinarians would, in theory, be able to monitor the situation. The system would be voluntary.
Some people have criticized the concept because if it is carried out perfectly it would, in theory, lead to the extinction of domestic cats in the country where the legislation existed.
Belgium is one of those countries. It is the first country to introduce an obligation upon all its citizens to spay and neuter their domestic cats. The law has already taken effect in Brussels (the capital) and in the French-speaking region of Wallonia in the south. It will apply nationwide by 2020.
The objective, of course, is to reduce the number of unwanted cats in Belgium, to ease the burden on animal shelters, to reduce the number of cats unnecessarily euthanized at shelters despite being healthy and to introduce a balance into society whereby the cat population is stable and where every domestic cat is well cared for in a suitable home.
It’s an ideal which will never be attained but nonetheless it is a worthwhile goal. The Belgian government has no plans to audit compliance of these regulations. This means that nobody will be going around houses knocking on doors making sure that the domestic cats who live within are either spayed (females) or neutered (males). As stated, it is a voluntary process. And there lies the problem.
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We are told that only 0.7% of all cat in Belgium have been registered under the scheme. This amounts to 14,882 cats out of a total population in Belgium of an estimated 2 million cats.
Although the scheme is voluntary there is a fine for failure to comply which is €50 and if the cat owner refuses to comply after several years the fine goes up to €10,000. More cat owners are going into veterinary clinics to have their cat spayed or neutered but as we can see it is a very slow process. It is impossible to envisage a time when all the cats have been processed in this way and therefore in response to the question in the title it is also impossible to envisage the extinction of the domestic cat in Belgium!
The Belgian government realizes that it will take between five and ten years to see genuine change. They also understand that it is the only way to reduce the number of unwanted cats. There are plans to review the situation in five years to check on its impact.
A similar law was introduced, I recall, in one of the states of Australia. They also had a very slow pickup rate. I sense, I have to be honest, that the schemes will not work efficiently enough to make a substantial impact upon unwanted cat numbers because of a natural resistance to comply with it and lack of enforcement which is impractical considering the very large numbers of cats in Belgium.
However, the presence of the law will gradually effect change through a shift in attitude which in turn will save the lives of cats. All cats deserve a good home. Ideally feral cats should not exist. To allow them to be created is to create misery and unhappiness. We should find this unacceptable and do something about it.
Image (which I modified) from valevets.com. I don’t have an author.
I would need to see the entire law or statute because most of them provide a breeders or litter fee in one of the clauses.
I believe the fear of not being able to get a kitten or puppy on demand is why so many insist on letting their pets breed. Of course there is just common neglect and laziness and obscure beliefs that are just stupid.
For most sane adults education is the key for the rest of the miscreants we may need legislation to force them to be smarter.
You cannot legislate compassion, knowledge, and caring about animal welfare. It is a useless law right now. If they want people to comply they should have a non boring, non preachy media campaign educating pet owners that they are protecting their pets and stopping needless suffering for unwanted animals. Also offer government sponsored spay/neuter and microchip clinics at greatly reduced fees or even free if they truly want compliance. The law is still useless without a TNR program for ferals. I do not believe the cat population will be wiped out. Some owners will allow their pets to have litters for various reasons and all feral cats cannot be TNR’d before having litters.
Don’t think we need to worry about extinction. A few determined cats would always find a way. Actually, that could be the plot for a science fiction story set in the future. But seriously, I see the feral cat problem growing despite our strenuous efforts. There must be something more we can do.