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Lay Down the Law (What to do about animal protection laws in your state)


If the animal protections laws in your city, your county or your state aren’t strong enough, do something about it!

Lay Down the Law (What to do about animal protection laws in your state)


  1. Obtain copies of existing laws for your area. Ask your librarian, elected officials, humane society or local prosecutor’s office for help.
  2. Determine whether the law you want to pass would best be considered at the local, county or state level. A cruelty-to-animals law, for example, might be statewide, while a law establishing pet license fees may be local or countywide.
  3. If possible, obtain copies of model laws from other areas.
  4. Enlist support for the law. Contact veterinarians, your local humane society and other animal interest groups.
  5. Find a sponsor for the law. Begin with your own elected official. If s/he is not interested, contact legislators from other districts.
  6. Work with the sponsor’s office to generate publicity and media coverage.
  7. Seek support for the legislation from other interest groups (civic associations, tax reform groups, business forums), which may endorse the measure not for its humane aspects, but for its impact on animal control, taxes, or other reasons.


Frustrated with inadequate protection for animals and deadly slow progress in combating dog and cat overpopulation, animal advocates are turning to legislation to put some teeth into their good intentions.

The current wave of breeding regulation laws was triggered in 1990 by Kim Sturla, then director of California’s Peninsula Humane Society. Sturla’s focused, compelling campaign to impact dog and cat euthanasia resulted in passage of a law prohibiting the breeding of dogs or cats in San Mateo County in the absence of a special permit.

A number of cities and counties nationwide have since passed similar laws. Common components include financial incentives and penalties, special permits, funding for low-cost neuter surgery and mandatory spay/neuter for impounded, roaming animals. Many of these communities have experienced a significant reduction in the number of cats and dogs euthanized by shelters following the law’s passage.

As Western Director for the Fund for Animals, Sturla introduced the “Feline Fix Bill” which would have required that all outdoor California cats be neutered. Although it was endorsed by over 140 animal protection groups, that bill did not pass.

Other standouts that have taken the balls and run with them include the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), which passed a breeding regulation bill in King County, Washington; and Doris Day Animal League, which helped pass breeding regulations in Montgomery County, Maryland. The latter requires that all outdoor cats be neutered and sets a $200 fine for unaltered dogs running loose.



Require that all animals adopted from shelters be SPAYED OR NEUTERED

Strengthen CRUELTY-TO-ANIMALS laws

Prohibit transporting animals in the back of open PICKUP TRUCKS

Require dog and cat licenses and establish DIFFERENTIAL LICENSE FEES: much higher for unaltered animals than for altered animals

Require permits for BREEDING

Prohibit GIVING AWAY OF ANIMALS in public places or selling them as auction or raffle items

Require that dogs or cats be kept ON LEASH, fenced or under voice command when outdoors

LIMIT THE NUMBER of litters produced by hobby or professional breeders

Limit breeding in general until the SURPLUS ANIMAL PROBLEM is under control in your community

Prohibit CHAINING of dogs as primary means of confinement

Prohibit RESEARCH LABORATORIES from obtaining dogs and cats from animal shelters for experimentation

Require animal shelters to use humane EUTHANASIA methods

Require PET STORES to distribute spay/neuter information with each animal they sell

Require that all OUTDOOR CATS be spayed or neutered

Even if your efforts are not successful The process of introducing the law and debating the issue can be a very effective public relations tool. Working to pass a law educates legislators, enhances public awareness, gives animals needed legal protection and sends the message that animal abuse is serious.


The The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
424 East 92 Street
New York, NY 10128
(212)-876-7700, ext. 4550
The ASPCA Government Affairs department works to change public policy and obtain stronger protections for animals through legislation, citizen initiatives, and consumer boycotts. Join The ASPCA Legislative Action Team to learn about current issues affecting animals, bills pending in your state and in Congress, how to address them, and what you can do to help. Sign up by sending your name, home address, telephone number, fax and e-mail to the address above; email; or sign up on line at

The Fund for Animals
808 Alamo Drive, Suite 306
Vacaville, CA 95688
The Fund’s offerings include “Killing the Crisis, Not the Animals”, an must-read step-by-step guide to passing lifesaving ordinances. The quarterly spay/neuter legislation bulletin, regional legislative workshops, legislation assistance, spay/neuter comic book, legislation alert mailings to members are free. Also, available at no charge: copies of legislation, priceless advice, moral support.

Doris Day Animal League
227 Massachusetts Ave., NE #100
Washington, DC 20002
Contact DDAL for help with drafting, critiquing, and testifying on overpopulation bills. DDAL also offers legislation alert mailings to members and provides grants to local governments working on innovative spay and neuter solutions.

Adapted from The Hands-On Handbook
Produced by PAWS, PO Box 1037, Lynnwood, WA 98046

Courtesy of
424 East 92nd St.
New York, NY 10128-6804
(212) 876-7700

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