Los Angeles dog & cat sterilization funds cut
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2009:
LOS ANGELES–“Our spay/neuter program has not been
terminated,” Los Angeles Animal Services general manager Ed Boks
clarified on March 19, 2009, six days after rumors swept the animal
welfare world that the oldest city-funded dog and cat sterilization
program anywhere was a casualty of the U.S. economic crisis.
“Distribution of our spay/neuter coupons under this program
was temporarily suspended,” Boks acknowledged. “Since
implementation of the Los Angeles spay/neuter ordinance, the demand
for these coupons has exceeded our funding. We are working with the
mayor’s office to restore distribution in a manner that can be
sustained,” Boks said.
Explained Los Angeles Daily News staff writer Rick Orlov,
“The city last year adopted a law requiring dog and cat owners to
have pets spayed or neutered when they reach four months of age. As
a way to promote the program, the city included the certificates to
cover most of the costs of the procedure.”
During the 2007-08 fiscal year, Los Angeles Animal Services
assistant general manager Linda Barth told Orlov, the department
issued 22,000 coupons good for a $30 discount and 12,000 coupons good
for a $70 discount. About 35% were redeemed within the 90-day time
limit, Barth said.
The coupon program was the latest incarnation of a series of
initiatives begun in 1972. A year after Mercy Crusade opened a
low-cost dog and cat sterilization clinic in 1973, Los Angeles
Animal Services took over the management, and has been a low-cost
sterilization service provider ever since.
“From 1972 to 2008, 479,269 cost-assisted pet sterilizations
were performed under various Los Angeles programs,” recounted Animal
Issues Movement founder Phyllis Daugherty. “This reduced the number
of animals impounded from 83,500 to 25,478,” and reduced shelter
killing from 110,000 animals to 18,000, including surrendered dogs
and cats as well as impounds.
Working for the Los Angeles sterilization program from
inception, surgeon Marvin Mackey, DVM, developed and popularized
the small-incision, high-speed techniques that are now standard
operating procedure worldwide.
There was one previous interruption of funding, after the
“Rodney King Riots” of 1992 drained the city budget–and that was the
only time in the past 37 years that Los Angeles shelter killing
increased relative to the human population of the city.
Only a week before suspending spay/neuter coupon
distribution, Boks on March 6, 2009 celebrated “the lowest
January/February euthanasia rate in the department’s history,”
achieved “despite the highest January/February impound rates in
nearly a decade. With the opening of our new and expanded centers,”
Boks said, “we experienced nearly a 250% increase in kennels and
workload, while our staffing increased only 100%.”
Meanwhile, facing a 2008 budget deficit of nearly $500
million, the Los Angeles city council cut $300,000 from Animal
Services’ dog and cat sterilization budget, Boks explained, and
then for 2009 ordered Animal Services to absorb a further cut of
$414,000. Animal Services trimmed $250,000 from other budgets, Boks
said, before cutting the sterilization program.
“With an alarming increase in the number of dogs and cats
entering the city system, we need to maintain staffing,” Boks said.
“Our only recourse is to make up the remaining deficit through
another reduction in our spay/neuter coupon and mobile programs.”
Los Angeles city council member Tony Cardenas introduced a
motion to restore the sterilization budget, seconded by council
member Dennis Zine.
“Canceling the voucher program was insincere to the community
and a step backwards in trying to reach a no-kill policy,” Cardenas
“Although the city faces extreme budget challenges, this
decision is an error in fiscal and moral judgment,” agreed Zine.
But cuts to other Animal Services programs might not have
produced the same outcry in favor of restoring some of the money.
Operating on total funding of $19 million in 2008, Los
Angeles Animal Services is scheduled to receive $21 million in 2009.