“Spay or Pay” or another reason to kill?
I guess I have to start this one by calling the Mayor out. Again and again, she claims that the Save-A-Pet Program is responsible for the city’s 300% increase in adoptions – this is the argument she presents, without fail, to EVERY comment, questi
on, or opposition to the work she’s done to save our city’s pets. Yesterday, on her facebook page, the Mayor replied to one animal lover’s comment by saying “we have increased our adoption rate 300% since instituting the Save A Pet Plan”, and I’m sick of her fooling people into believing that she, and the city, is doing something that that they are not.
Let’s back up for a moment. Some of you may remember, may even have attended, the very first “Columbus No Kill Meeting” in January of 2011. That was when a post on the Happy Homes facebook page announced a chance to meet at the Starbucks on North Veterans, to discuss the No Kill movement and how we could bring it to Columbus. By this time, Happy Homes was pulling photos and information from Columbus Animal Care & Control’s website, and sharing them on Facebook and Craigslist, so that everybody else in internet land could share as well, and encourage others to save a life! Of course at this time, the shelter director had probably never even heard of PetFinder, and would later use every excuse as to why their staff would/could not utilize it.
In March 2010, Columbus Animal Control adopted out a measly 28 pets, and in March 2011 they had adopted out 104 – that is a 271% increase in adoptions – an AMAZING acheivement by just a handful of concerned citizens! It wasn’t until 2 months later, on May 24th, that No Kill Columbus Georgia submitted a formal request for the implemention of the No Kill Equation. It was at that time that we met with Mayor Tomlinson, City Manager Isaiah Hughley, Special Enforcement Division Manager at the time Chris Brown, and other city officials, and they presented to us the very FIRST DRAFT of the Save-A-Pet Program. How is it possible that the Save-A-Pet Program is responsible for the increase in March, when it wasn’t even drafted until May?
Our depressingly misinformed Columbus Mayor Tomlinson goes on to say, “We will propose this month an ordinance called Spay or Pay which will require animals to be spayed or neutered, or fined. Currently, they are required to do so, but there is no enforcement”. As of right now, if you were to adopt a pet from Columbus Animal Control, they will release the pet to you UNALTERED (more on that in a sec). The adoption fee includes a spay/neuter voucher, and sometimes the adopter is walked next door to PAWS Humane to set up an appointment, but PAWS appointment availability is limited because they have only one vet on staff. Often there is a 2-3 week wait, and the adopter can at any time, cancel that appointment. So in essence, Animal Control is adopting out animals with no idea of whether or not they are, in fact, being sterilized. In the adoption contract, it states that you have 30 days to submit proof that they were altered, but when AC staff doesn’t even have time to re-scan for microchips or to contact rescues to save their animals, they are not following up on all these adoptions to ensure compliance, and Mayor Tomlinson admits that. With Spay or Pay, she plans to spend even more money “going after” people that don’t comply. Getting out of providing proof will be as easy as telling them the dog died… are they going to require that you show them your pet’s remains?
Mayor Tomlinson then goes on to say, “This is one of the No Kill steps that we are employing as we improve everyday and continue to dramatically reduce the number of animals being put down”. Had the Mayor actually educated herself on the No Kill Equation, she would know that the No Kill movement directly opposes mandatory spay/neuter laws, which do not work, divert resources from programs that do work, and often actually increase shelter intake and killing. Still, she continues to misrepresent what No Kill is, first by leading the public to believe Columbus Animal Control is now a No Kill facility, and now by claiming mandatory spay neuter is a part of the No Kill Equation!
To make this clear, the No Kill movement does NOT support any mandatory spay/neuter laws, and No Kill Columbus Georgia opposes such an ordinance here. In FixAustin.org‘s “Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws: A Bad Idea“, one case study shows a city with a steadily decreasing intake and kill rate (6 year decline) UNTIL a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance was passed. Another document to read is the NoKillAdvocacyCenter.org‘s “The Dark Side of Mandatory Licensing and Neuter Laws“.
Whether the Spay or Pay program is or is not the equivalent of mandatory spay/neuter (and I admit, I’m not entirely clear on all the details, as this has not yet gone before city council), it could possibly mean that people “caught” with an unaltered animal, or possibly somebody trying to claim their unaltered pet from Animal Control, and most likely people adopting from Animal Control, (if unable to provide proof of sterilization) will be cited and face huge fines. Because of those fines, they may not be able to get their beloved pets out of impound. And this is the main reason why mandatory laws do not work, they mean more animals being abandoned, and an increase in killing. In addition, it encourages noncompliance and the “irresponsible pet owners” it targets aren’t effected. They will continue to NOT license their pets, they continue to NOT get them fixed, NOT take them to the vet for a Rabies vaccines, and they continue to NOT do the things that they are already NOT doing. In essense, ordinances like this only hurt the animals, and the responsible pet owners that may not have the money, or the EDUCATION, to get them fixed.
Mayor Tomlinson DID say that PAWS has recieved a grant for a Mobile Spay/Neuter clinic, which is GREAT! Certainly a step in the right direction (although you may have seen their adoption trailer sitting in the driveway most of last year, I hope a mobile clinic would not share the same fate), and I hope they can get some more local veterinarians to help out around the community by donating their time to provide low/no-cost sterilization. A mobile unit of this kind can help target “problem areas”, but still does not address what the city themselves are doing – releasing unaltered animals to the public. Instead of Spay or Pay, why don’t they use those resources to figure out a way to spay and neuter before they are released to the adopter?
This is 2012, there is no reason for ANYBODY in this country to be adopting an animal from an animal “shelter” and taking them home when they aren’t even fixed! We are trying to get as many pets fixed as possible, why let these ones pass by? Too many things can (and often do) go wrong – dogs taken out of a scary shelter and put into an unfamiliar setting can and do run away, they may never be found by the adopter and if they are, could have easily mated by then. Some people would never DREAM of “fixing” a pregnant animal (thus aborting the pregnancy) and will not have their pet fixed if they think they may be pregnant. Other adopters may have unaltered pets of their own and we all know what happens when an unaltered boy doggie falls in love with an unaltered girl doggie… there are enough purebred dogs coming out of Animal Control that this is not an unlikely scenario, they NEED to be fixed BEFORE going home. I find it silly that the city doesn’t do this themselves, but wants to fine pet owners for not doing it.
Spay or Pay might be good in theory, but much like Breed Specific Legislation, it does not solve the problem and instead has a negative effect on our life-saving efforts. As I have mentioned to the Mayor on more than one occasion, a more proactive approach would involve waiving impoundment fee’s or citations IF the owner has their pet spayed or neutered (and of course, microchip them at that time), and ensuring that it happens BEFORE the pet is released to them. More low- and even no-cost surgeries, made available to the people who need it most, the people that can’t afford to have their pets fixed, and a new and improved spay/neuter education campaign. These are the things that reduce shelter killing, and prevent “pet overpopulation”. Sure, PAWS has a low-cost s/n program, but with such a long wait for appointments, they have proven unable to keep up with the demand. IMO, the root of the problem lies in the final proponent of the No Kill Equation, a compassionate director, ideally for both Animal Control, and PAWS Humane.
If YOU need to get a pet fixed, Benning Animal Hospital is holding a special spay/neuter day for CATS on January 16th, just call their clinic at 706-689-6240 for details or to set up an appointment! Also, Affordable Veterinary Services offers low-cost s/n (Female Dog Spay – $90, Male Dog Neuter – $75, Female Cat Spay – $60, Male Cat Neuter – $40) every day, and has had spay/neuter specials as well. Go here for PAWS Humane’s Vet Clinic Pricing page, or call them at (706) 565-0035.
From the No Kill Columbus Georgia facebook page, “Columbus GA is proposing a mandatory spay and neuter ordinance supported by PawsHumane. This is in direct conflict with No Kill. Gives Animal Control even more enforcement power to impound due to city ordinance violation, increase the intake, more fines………more killing! Mandatory S/N does not work!!!!” Finally, view FixAustin.org’s blog from last year, “Why We Join the National Consensus Against Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws“.
Write to your City Councelors, and tell them that this is NOT what Columbus wants! Mandatory S/N is not effective, will cost the city money, and result in an increased intake and kill rate. View Columbus City Councilor’s contact info: emails, addresses, phone numbers, or a map of the city council’s districts, and be their voice!