Private shelters and municipal pounds in Rhode Island killed about 1,600 strays in 2004, the most current figure available, and animals rights groups hope this new law will lead to a decrease in unwanted pets. Violators of the new law can be fined $75 per month.
"By signing this legislation … we are taking the necessary steps to reduce the number of impounded cats that are euthanized in cities and towns throughout the state," according to a written statement from Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri.
Most of the state’s animal advocates agree with the new law, saying that it will annually reduce by 65 percent the number of cats in Rhode Island pounds and shelters that must be killed, although some are worried that the bill could lead cat owners to abandon their pets rather than risk a fine or pay for the procedure. Provisions have been made for this though, as low-income pet owners would be eligible for subsidies for low-cost surgery and farmers are exempt.
There are questions regarding the enforcement of the new law, although the bill’s backers say that inspection of cats is unnecessary; written proof of their sterilization should be adequate. And Rhode Island might just be the first of a wave of states to introduce similar legislation, with Massachusetts looking like the next likely candidate.