Belgium is about to be the first country in the world to make it illegal for cats to be capable of reproducing.
Like many other countries, Belgium is facing a serious feline overpopulation problem in all animal shelters. An estimated 300,000 cats are abandoned every year, and shelters simply don't have the money, means, or space to take care of them all. About half of the cats that end up in shelters are euthanized, and lawmakers think they've come up with a solution.
New laws state that spaying female cats and neutering male cats is now a requirement. All cats--whether they're someone's pet or a stray living on the street--must be sterilized before they're six months old to prevent unwanted litters. All older cats that have yet to be sterilized must also undergo the procedure. New cats that are brought into the country must be sterilized if they stay longer than 30 days, and a renewed effort will focus on trap-neuter-release (TNR) for the many stray and feral cat colonies.
The French-speaking region of Wallonia has been requiring animal shelters to sterilize all cats that come through their doors since 2013, followed by Brussels and northern Flanders, and the apparent success of the policy has fueled lawmakers to make it mandatory for the entire country. The plan is to gradually incorporate the new law across the country with the hope it will be applied nationwide by 2020. It is required that cats be registered in a database called CatID which will provide easy access to specific information about each cat--including whether or not the cat is sterilized.
So far, a measly .7% of the country's cats are registered with CatID. Lawmakers are still giving pet owners time to comply with the new laws, but failure to have a cat spayed or neutered could eventually result in a fine of 50 euros. If they continue to ignore the law for several years, they could end up owing the government up to 10,000 euros. Despite the low numbers on CatID, veterinarians are reporting more and more people are bringing their pets in to be sterilized.
There are many people who agree with the country's new laws and are optimistic it will help relieve overburdened shelters, but not every cat owner and animal advocate is on board. Many argue lawmakers are interfering with their rights to take care of their pets, especially those with exotic pedigrees, how they wish. They worry that it will only be a matter of time until the law ends up hurting the feline population in drastic ways. The Belgian government plans to review the law's impact in five years to look for reasons to either continue with the sterilization requirements or suspend the idea.
Do you think mandatory spaying/neutering laws are a good idea? Let us know in the comments.
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