Spay/Neuter Religious Freedom Issues

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Mandatory Spay and Neuter Laws Violate
Right Of Religious Freedom For All Jews

by JOHN YATES
The American Sporting Dog Alliance
http://www.americansportingdogalliance.org

Laws and ordinances that mandate pet sterilization violate the constitutionally protected right of religious freedom for all practicing Jews, not just those who adhere to Orthodox beliefs, The American Sporting Dog Alliance has learned.

This issue was part of the brief filed by dog owners in a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, which recently passed a pet sterilization ordinance. The court document did not elaborate on the sources for this opinion.

The American Sporting Dog Alliance has independently verified that traditional Jewish law – called Halachic Law – specifically forbids all followers of Judaism from spaying or neutering their pets.

The lawsuit document says the ban on pet sterilization applies to Orthodox Jews. However, the American Sporting Dog Alliance has verified that it applies to all practicing Jews, regardless of how reformed, contemporary or liberal their beliefs.

Jewish law does not prohibit keeping animals, and indeed many practitioners of Judaism own dogs, cats or other household pets. However, Jewish law does raise some complications for pet owners ranging from feeding to confinement. One of those complications, surgical pet sterilization, amounts to an outright ban of the practice.

Rabbi Howard Jachter of Yeshiva University in New York City summarizes the issues for practicing Jews.

“Halacha forbids removal of reproductive organs from humans or animals, whether male or female,” Jachta wrote in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society.

Jachta also wrote that it was a violation of both Rabbinic and Talmudic principles for a Jew to ask or hire a non-Jewish veterinarian to spay or neuter an animal, or to transfer the animal to a non-Jewish third party to perform the procedure.

Jewish law contains 613 Halachic commandments, many of which are routinely practiced by many if not most Jews. Many regard them as a blueprint to the practice of Judaism. For non-Jews, perhaps the most familiar Halachic commandment is the requirement for eating only kosher food, which is practiced by a large majority of Orthodox Jews and a rapidly increasing number of liberal Jews. Other well-known Halachic commandments are observing the Sabbath on Saturday and not working on Saturday.

The issue of pet sterilization arose last year in Israel, where new laws were aimed at reducing pet populations.

Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, the chief rabbi of the city of Ramat Gan, Israel, and one of the leading rabbis of the religious Zionist movement, strongly opposed spaying and neutering of pets and other animals.

Last June, Rabbi Ariel issued a ruling that forbids practicing Jews from spaying female animals or castrating male animals. He cited Halachic law as the basis for his ruling.

The Torah (Lev. 22:24), a major holy book for practitioners of Judaism, specifically prohibits castrating a male animal of any species, and the neutering of female animals is prohibited by general laws against tza'ar ba'alei chayim (causing suffering to an animal for any reason except to save the animal’s life or cure a dangerous medical condition).

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a part of the Bill of Rights, forbids government from infringing upon the religious beliefs of any American. The amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

Mandating Jewish people to spay or neuter an animal thus would violate the “establishment” clause of the First Amendment, if a person adheres to any part of Halachic law. This potentially applies to all practicing Jews.

The American Sporting Dog Alliance represents owners, hobby breeders and professionals who work with breeds of dogs that are used for hunting. We are a grassroots movement working to protect the rights of dog owners, and to assure that the traditional relationships between dogs and humans maintains its rightful place in American society and life. Please visit us on the web at http://www.americansportingdogalliance.org.

The American Sporting Dog Alliance also needs your help so that we can continue to work to protect the rights of dog owners. Your membership, participation and support are truly essential to the success of our mission. We are funded solely by the donations of our members, and maintain strict independence.

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