Focus on the Law: Spaying and neutering pets

By Sharon Frankenberg, Attorney at Law

According to the Humane Society of the United States’ website, “about 2.4 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are put down in U.S. shelters each year.” This problem of pet overpopulation can be reduced by spaying and neutering pets.

In Tennessee state law requires that dogs and cats being adopted from an agency, animal shelter, dog pound, animal control agency or humane shelter, whether operated by a private organization or the government, must be spayed or neutered. The Tennessee Spay/Neuter Law is found at T.C.A. Sections 44-17-501 through 505. Dogs or cats may not be adopted unless they have already been spayed or neutered or unless the new owner signs a written agreement with the agency stating that the new owner will have the dog or cat spayed or neutered by a licensed veterinarian within 30 days of the date of adoption if such a dog or cat is sexually mature or within 30 days after the dog or cat reaches six months of age if the dog or cat is not sexually mature at the time of the adoption.

Further, if the dog or cat being adopted has not already been spayed or neutered, the agency shall require a deposit of not less than $25 from the new owner prior to the adoption to ensure that the dog or cat is spayed or neutered. The new owner may request a refund of his or her deposit from the agency upon providing confirmation of the spaying or neutering. If the new owner fails to have the dog or cat spayed or neutered within the time frame provided by the statute or if the new owner fails to request a refund within 10 additional days after the date by which the spaying or neutering was required to be performed, the deposit is forfeited to the agency holding the deposit. The agency is to use the forfeited deposit money to conduct programs to spay or neuter dogs and cats and/or to conduct educational programs in support of the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats.

If a new owner fails to comply with provisions of the Tennessee Spay/Neuter Law, the agency may file a petition with a court of competent jurisdiction seeking compliance and/or requesting the return of the dog or cat to the agency from which it was adopted. Nothing in this statute precludes the spaying or neutering of a sexually immature dog or cat at the discretion of a licensed veterinarian with the consent of the new owner. Nor should anything in the statute be construed to authorize an agency to spay or neuter a dog or cat, if such dog or cat is being claimed by and returned to its lawful owner within 7 days of such dog or cat being taken into custody by the agency.

Sharon Frankenberg is an experienced attorney licensed in Tennessee since 1988. She is a sole practitioner who handles foreclosure, evictions, probate, collections and general civil matters. She represents Social Security claimants and represents creditors in bankruptcy proceedings.  Her office is in Knoxville and she may be reached at (865)539-2100.

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