By Steven Piper
Each year more than three million cats and dogs are euthanized nationwide, and most of those animals’ lives are brought to an end simply because there are not enough homes to take them in.
Furthermore, most of the homeless pets found in shelters or on the street are the offspring of animals that did have an owner.
The unnecessary deaths are a preventable issue since there are methods to manage the pet population, such as spaying and neutering, the only 100-percent effective birth control for dogs and cats.
In an effort to fundraise and address pet overpopulation, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is offering preorders for California license plates that support “spay and neuter.” The bottom of the plate, which features artwork by actor Pierce Brosnan, reads “Spay and Neuter Saves Lives.”
The new plates cost $50, or $98 for a personalized version. Any funds generated will be disbursed to spay-and-neuter programs through clinics and shelters. Vouchers redeemable at local veterinarians will also be distributed.
The DMV, however, will not officially start the program until 7,500 pre-orders are made.
The California Veterinary Medical Board, an agency under the California Department of Consumer Affairs, is sponsoring the program, and the nonprofit California Spay and Neuter License Plate Fund will administer the generated funds.
On June 8 Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Brosnan, LA Seventh District Councilmember Richard Alarcon, and numerous animal welfare advocates such as Judie Mancuso, met at the West LA animal shelter to recognize the new program. Villaraigosa referred to Mancuso as a “force of nature,” driving the program to its current existence.
“We have to do everything possible to make sure that fewer unwanted animals are born in the first place,” Villaraigosa said. “Making spay and neuter programs affordable to everyone with an unfixed pet is the goal of the license plate program.” The mayor also rallied support for LA’s strict spay and neuter laws. The ordinance, for example, mandates that dogs older than four months be spayed or neutered unless they are licensed, which requires payment and adherence to other criteria.
The City of Signal Hill has adopted Long Beach’s codes regarding animal regulation. There is only one code that requires an animal be neutered. 6.16.085 states “No person responsible for a cat over the age of four months shall allow such cat to remain unaltered…” If the cat is not suitable for spaying or neutering, then the owner must obtain certification from a licensed veterinarian.
According to the local nonprofit organization Friends of Long Beach Animals’ (FOLBA) website, two unaltered cats can generate up to 420,000 over the course of seven years and two unaltered dogs can lead to a family tree of 67,000 in six years.
FOLBA has taken a lead in addressing the local animal population issue. The group has initiated the city’s only Spay and Neuter Incentive Program (SNIP). The program encourages all city residents to participate, and it offers low-cost and/or free vouchers to local residents who require financial assistance. Since the program began,13,057 animals have been spayed or neutered at a cost of $527,746.
SNIP has partnered with Long Beach Animal Control to help distribute vouchers that make it cheaper for pet owners to have their animals spayed and neutered. All animal control officers’ vehicles are equipped with the coupons. Numerous community outreach organizations, like the Neighborhood Resource Center on Atlantic Avenue and the Neighborhood Watch program hosted by the community relations division of the Long Beach Police Department, also have the slips.
Liz Latham, a Signal Hill veterinarian with Banfield Pet Hospital at 2550 Cherry Ave., said she has had clients who have talked about the FOLBA coupons. “Anything that promotes spaying and neutering is going to be a good thing,” Latham said. “Spaying and neutering is infinitely better for the pets’ health too.” The veterinarian said that dogs and cats in particular are prone to reproductive cancers, and spaying and neutering can reduce the chances of the animals acquiring them.