This is the second in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of the No-Kill Equation. The No-Kill is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable results.

This analysis compares the “No-Kill Equation” to LA’s programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the second recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter.

The Ten “No-Kill Equation” Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
3. Rescue Groups
4. Foster Care
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program
6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
9. Volunteers
10. A Compassionate Director

The No-Kill Equation will appear in this font.

The analysis of LA Animal Services’ efforts will follow in italics.

II. High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
Spay/neuter is the cornerstone of a successful lifesaving effort. Low cost, high volume spay/neuter will quickly lead to fewer animals entering the shelter system, allowing more resources to be allocated toward saving lives. In the 1970s, the City of Los Angeles was the first to provide municipally funded spaying and neutering for low-income pet owners in the United States. A city study found that for every dollar it was investing in the program, Los Angeles taxpayers were saving $10 in animal control costs due to reductions in animal intakes and fewer field calls. Indeed, Los Angeles shelters were taking in half the number of animals after just the first decade of the program and killing rates in the city dropped to the lowest third per capita in the United States. This result is consistent with results in San Francisco and elsewhere.

Research shows that investment in programs balancing animal “care” and “control” can provide not only immediate public health and public relations benefits but also long-term financial savings to a jurisdiction. According to the International City/County Management Association, “An effective animal control program not only saves cities and counties on present costs—by protecting citizens from dangerous dogs, for example—but also helps reduce the costs of animal control in the future. A city that impounds and euthanizes 4,000 animals in 2001… but does not promote spaying and neutering will probably still euthanize at least 4,000 animals a year in 2010. A city that… [institutes a subsidized spay/neuter program] will likely euthanize significantly fewer animals in 2010 and save on a host of other animal-related costs as well.

Ed’s Analysis:  It is fitting and appropriate that the No-Kill Equation cites the City of Los Angeles as a national model and leader for spay/neuter initiatives. After a number of years of reduced spay and neuter activities, the Board of Animal Services Commissioners in 1998 initiated a differential cost dog license ordinance to incentivize dog guardians to spay/neuter their pets. The City Council and Mayor adopted the ordinance into law in 1999 and LA Animal Services immediately committed to substantially expanding its subsidy of spay/neuter via discount vouchers and mobile clinics. Since then, those activities have grown impressively. During the same time period, impounds have declined more than 25% and euthanasia by more than 60%, contrary to recent false assertions that L.A.’s differential licensing law has failed.

Today, via the Department’s “Big Fix” program, approximately 45,000 subsidized spay/neuter surgeries are accomplished annually, including over 12,000 performed in fully-equipped and professionally-staffed mobile clinics operated by the nonprofit Amanda Foundation and the Sam Simon Foundation, primarily in underserved neighborhoods. The City of Los Angeles commits $1.2 million annually to the department’s spay/neuter programs. Additionally, long-dormant spay/neuter clinics in two of the City’s shelters re-opened in 2007 and five more high volume City spay/neuter clinics are scheduled to open by summer 2008. LA Animal Services has been responsible for approximately half a million total surgeries so far this decade and over 85,000 surgeries since January 2006 alone. This number does not include surgeries performed independently by private veterinarians for pet guardians in the City.

During 2006-2007, the Department spearheaded the development of statewide legislation mandating the expansion of spay/neuter (AB 1634) and is also helping with the development of similar legislation specifically for the City of Los Angeles. LA Animal Services advocates spay/neuter as the most effective tool available to reduce the flow of homeless animals into public shelters over time and enjoys the full support of all the City’s elected officials in that belief.

While not fully embraced by all, the decision to combine all the City’s disparate spay/neuter efforts into one identifiable program called “The Big Fix” in 2006 appears to have helped. Since the launch of “The Big Fix” the City’s annual spay/neuter rate, which had experienced only modest increases in previous years, rose over 60%.