The City Law includes mandatory sterilization requirements for 8
week-old puppies and kittens who weigh at least 2 pounds.
The question is not "can the surgery be performed on a 2
pound 8 week old puppy" but rather, based on the totality of
the circumstances, can the veterinarian recommend the procedure for
a puppy or dog housed before and after surgery in a pet store and
obtain informed consent from the animal's owner.
For the following reasons, as NYPWA experts and NYC
veterinarians testified, the answer is no—not without
violating the standards of veterinary practice the State
The State considers it unprofessional conduct if a veterinarian
fails to obtain informed consent before proceeding with any medical
care or surgery, and has disciplined veterinarians who have failed
to obtain informed consent.
The State requires each pet store to designate a veterinarian to
provide care to pets in the store, and to provide accepted
veterinary standards of care to all pets in pet stores both pre-
and post-operative. This cannot be accomplished if a
veterinarian performs the mandatory surgery because, no matter the
age, there are environmental stressors in a pet store that, when
added to the stress of anesthesia and surgery, will harm
animals. This is most serious for puppies whose immune
systems are still developing.
The Law prohibits the transfer of ownership until after the pet
is sterilized. Therefore, the pet must return to the pet
store after the surgery for post-operative care, which according to
veterinarians is substandard care.
"A pet store is not a suitable environment for
post-surgical recovery of baby animals."
"Post-operative care typically provided by pet owners in their
home cannot be performed in a pet store."
Recently scientists have discovered that early gonadectomy is
harmful to pets. "Gonadectomy prior to puberty or sexual
maturity may make the risks of some diseases higher in certain
breeds and individuals."
The American Veterinary Medical Association, the Society for
Theriogenology and the American College of Theriogenology are
opposed to mandatory sterilization laws for privately-owned
pets. Based on scientific evidence, veterinarians and
specialists now recommend delaying sterilization until the first
heat to prevent the harm from premature removal of endocrine glands
needed for proper growth and certain metabolic disorders and
According to the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, "A
veterinarian should make the final decision regarding acceptance of
any patient for surgery . . . [t]he surgeon should use discretion
regarding minimum and maximum patient age and body weight taking
into account the availability of staff expertise and necessary
equipment to care for patients. Owned pets may be best served
by scheduling surgery at 4 months of age or older . . . [i]n
situations involving animals that will be placed for adoption,
neutering is best performed prior to adoption . . . to ensure
The interstate pet market is based on sales of puppies between
8-14 weeks of age, the time for optimal socialization with their
owners. The City's response to professional objections to
early sterilization is that the pet stores should hold onto these
puppies for a longer period of time. According to animal
behavior experts "[d]elaying sales as the City has suggested
traumatizes the animals [and] increases undesirable behavioral
traits that are detrimental to successful lifelong pet
For all these reasons, the City Law creates an insurmountable
obstacle for pet stores and veterinarians to comply with both the
State and City Law, and should be considered preempted by State
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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