This is a summary of state laws addressing spay and neuter of animals. Please contact the AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department for the actual text of any of the provisions.
We have not found a current mandatory state law requiring all pet owners to sterilize their animals. However, Rhode Island has adopted legislation requiring all cats to be spayed or neutered unless the caretaker has a breeding permit, the cat has been adopted and the caretakers will be sterilizing the cat pursuant to an agreement with the adopting agency or, due to the animal's health, a veterinarian states that it would be inappropriate.
Sterilization of pound or shelter animals appears to be relatively common in state statutes. Ordinances or statutes allowing for increased licensing fees for intact animals, or requiring sterilization for dangerous or vicious dogs, are not unusual either. Currently, California allows localities to enact "breed-specific" spay/neuter ordinances, though the law is being challenged in court. Delaware and Nevada require shelter animals to be sterilized prior to adoption, unless the animal is too young or it is medically dangerous to the animal. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia require sterilization or a promise to sterilize in order to adopt a pound animal, some also require a monetary deposit. Most states require the passage of a certain amount of time - for an owner to claim an animal that has been "picked up" and taken to the pound - before the animal may be altered.
We attach below links to relevant AVMA policies.
Age of animal and the procedure
As population control
The AVMA supports the concept of early (prepubertal, 8 to 16 weeks of age) spay/neuter in dogs and cats in an effort to reduce the number of unwanted animals of these species. Just as for other veterinary medical and surgical procedures, veterinarians should use their best medical judgment in deciding at what age spay/neuter should be performed on individual animals.
Source: Staff research, AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Department
The population of dogs and cats in the United States currently exceeds the capacity of our society to care for them and provide homes for them as companion animals. As a result, millions do not have homes and are euthanatized annually by animal control agencies, humane organizations, and veterinarians in private practice. Dogs and cats that are not adopted can become victims of trauma, starvation, or disease. The AVMA concludes that dog and cat population control is a primary welfare concern of our society.
A. Public Policy
State and local governments must:
1. Provide significantly more funding to animal control agencies to facilitate:
1. Strict enforcement of existing animal control laws, and
2. Licensing of all dogs and cats.
2. Prohibit the sale or adoption of intact dogs and cats by humane organizations and animal control agencies.
3. Promote surgical and nonsurgical sterilization of intact dogs and cats.
4. Require licensing, rabies vaccination, and permanent identification through microchipping.
1. The AVMA encourages research into the development and use of nonsurgical methods of sterilization.
2. The AVMA encourages research to better define and quantify the dog and cat overpopulation problem.
1. The AVMA supports public education campaigns that help pet owners be more responsible and concerned.
2. Comprehensive public education campaigns to prevent abandonment will require the commitment and cooperation of state and local governmental agencies, humane organizations, and veterinary associations.
3. Education to prevent abandonment should include tenets of responsible pet ownership, including appropriate selection, the importance of early-age spaying and neutering, keeping pets indoors or in restricted environments, preventing or solving behavioral problems, and consulting with veterinarians for information on these issues.
4. The AVMA encourages all independent sources of pets (eg, breeders, pet shops, shelters, animal control facilities, private individuals) to educate new owners about the importance of surgical or nonsurgical sterilization and regular veterinary care.
5. Schools of veterinary medicine and veterinary technology should emphasize the prevention and/or solution of behavioral problems and other factors leading to dog and cat abandonment.
Contact:Tara Madson, State Policy Analyst, AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Department, 847-285-6779