Last night I had a conversation with a new acquaintance. He told me he had two cats that were about to “pop” (i.e. give birth). When I asked him why he had not spayed his cats he said, “It's too expensive”. This man lives alone in a 6,000 square foot home, owns other acreage and collects cars, and yet he was not willing to spend $100 per cat to prevent unwanted births. He said, “It is not a problem; I give the kittens away at the grocery store”. Regrettably his attitude and actions are typical, and place a huge burden on animal lovers, as well as state and local municipalities that must deal with large populations of unwanted animals. Each and every year we euthanize 4 to 10 million domestic companion animals. Most of these are adoptable dogs and cats. In my opinion, over population is preventable. Below are 5 suggestions that could radically change the fate of abandoned and unwanted animals. Implementation and enforcement of these “laws” would cost less and be far more humane, than our current system of maintaining private and public animal shelters.

1. Require a License. Anyone who wants to breed animals (or is too cheap to spay or neuter a pet) would be required to purchase a license. The license would cost at least $1,000. A number would be issued and the license would have to be updated annually at a rate determined by the state municipality. Anyone not licensed and found with new companion animal offspring would be fined $1,000 for each litter and all animals would be seized immediately and brought to a shelter where they would be spayed, neutered and placed with a responsible guardian (i.e. new owners). If the fine was not paid, it would be attached to the property just like a mechanic's lien.

2. Limit how animals could be sold. The sale of all animals would be limited to regulated pet stores. Anyone caught selling an animal on the street, through the paper or over the web would be forced to do a minimum of 30 days of community service. Pet stores would need to maintain an annual log of the number of pets produced by a licensed breeder and turn these records over to the state.

3. Breeders would have a specific number of animals they could produce each year. For example a breeder might be authorization to sell a total of 50-55 dogs to the pet stores. Since litter size varies, there would need to flexibility, but the breeder would have a limit. Any breed who fell out of compliance would have their licensed revoked and all animals removed and placed in a shelter for adoption. They would not be able to obtain a new license. The number of animals available for sale would be based on supply and demand. If the number of available animals was low, breeders and pet store owners could make more money on each pet sold. The people who bought the animal may have to pay more for their pet and therefore are more likely to value and care for it.

4. Cities would be fined by the federal government for not capturing strays. Initially, the federal government would subsidize state and local municipalities so they could add staff to humanely trap strays. Regrettably, the number of stray animals euthanized during the first two years of this program would be high. Shelters would be very crowded; however, it would end the cycle and costs of stray, unwanted animals. After the initial capture of strays, the cities and state would be responsible for maintaining a no stray policy. States that did not comply would be fined by the federal government.

5. Anyone adopting or buying an animal would have a 48 hour wait period. People would go to the pet shop, look for a pet, and once they selected a specific pet they would fill out an application and pay a nominal fee. The pet store owner would provide a sheet to the prospective buyer, on the annual costs of pet care, and provide a list breed specific needs. The buyer would leave without the animal and the pet store would run a criminal background check to insure the buyer was not a prosecuted animal abuser. The pet would be placed on hold at the time of application. 2 days later the buyer would have the right to purchase the animal. If the buyer did not appear on the pick up date, the pet would come off hold and the pet store would keep the pet application money. This would insure people purchasing pets had been informed of what they were getting into.

I realize these original ideas have many potential problems. Some breeders and people with stray animals would shoot the overage of any litters or kill animals inhumanely, millions of stray animals would be euthanasized, and people would break the law. But these tragic events already occur on a daily basis. If we could adopt any of these policies we could reduce the burden of stray animals from kind hearted individuals, as well as federal and state budgets, and place the burden where it belongs-on breeders, pet shops and people who refuse to spay or neuter their pets.