I Adopted an Animal from the Shelter and They Insist that I Get it Neutered Early!

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“I recently adopted a young male kitten from Oakland (CA) Animal Shelter. Their policy is to neuter all cats, even very young kittens, before adoption. However, this kitten was sick so they postponed the procedure and told me they would call in ten days (after I had administered antibiotics) and, if the kitten was better, would have me bring him in immediately for neutering.

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

I nursed the kitten back to health. In the meantime I called two vets who specialize in cats. They both recommend waiting until male kittens are six months old before neutering.

The shelter called today (not ten days but a month later.) They insisted that the kitten be fixed immediately and that it must be done at their clinic.

The Animal Shelter is part of the police department here in Oakland. I’ve been threatened with arrest if I don’t comply. Is there any way I can fight this? I don’t mind having them do the procedure. (Neutering is part of the adoption costs so I’ve already paid for it.) My concern is about the timing. I’d like to wait until he is six months old.

Is there some official power to whom I could present my case? Please let me know what (if anything) I can do to legally protect what I believe to be in the best interest of my pet.”

For this question we consulted with someone who although not an attorney is an expert on California animal control and shelter procedures, as well as being involved in animal health care and running a veterinary hospital. She explained the following:

“She is breaking her contract with them. The shelter is required by law – the Hayden Bill – to neuter kittens that young. The exception is of course when the kitten is sick, but that is when they go through the process of making the agreement with the new owners. She has to understand that they took a huge risk on letting the kitten go to her, despite not being neutered, and she is basically betraying their trust. Yes, private practice veterinarians may recommend neutering at 6 months, but that is because most veterinarians do not have much experience with pediatric spay and neuters, as do shelter veterinarians. She can not fight this – she needs to comply immediately . She needs to be very clear that the shelters do not mess around when it comes to this stuff. Veterinarians, like doctors, all have differing opinions of what is a good age. She happened to get two vets who agreed. She would also find, if she kept calling, that many vets agree with the early spay and neuter. She needs to get that kitten neutered ASAP!”



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Author: Anne P. Mitchell, Esq.

Anne P. Mitchell, Esq. is a noted family law expert, Internet law expert, and Professor of Law at Lincoln Law School of San Jose. She is the author of "Surviving Divorce: the Single Father's Guide" and "The Email Deliverability Handbook"

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