The Oklahoma Spay Network has reviewed the results of the enactment and enforcement of spay/neuter ordinances in Oklahoma cities and towns. While the impact varies, Tulsa, Lawton and Claremore have had significant success in reducing shelter intakes through these ordinances. Euthanasia rates have also decreased in all three cities.
One year ago, the City of Claremore passed a spay neuter ordinance that compels pet owners to have pets sterilized or purchase an intact permit and collect and remit sales taxes on puppies or kittens sold. According to Claremore Senior Animal Control Officer Jennifer Cummings, the intake of litters in 2010 as compared to the same time in 2009 has dropped by roughly half. Cummings said, “Killing puppies and kittens is a tragedy that is especially hard on the staff. It is a tragedy that any city can and should avoid.”
Cummings credited their success to a local, low-income spay neuter program operated by the ARK, a private animal hospital in Claremore. The ordinance provides her officers with the ability to compel pet owners to get their pets altered and the local program enables low-income pet owners to follow through.
The 2007 passage of a strong spay/ neuter ordinance in Lawton has resulted in reduced shelter intakes, reduced shelter euthanasias and an increase in owner reclaims as well. Lawton Animal Control supervisor, Rose Wilson credits the increased owner reclaims with the fact that once pets are spayed or neutered the owner feels some sense of investment in the pet. She also noted that owners are less likely to relinquish pets that do not develop behavior problems associated with being unneutered. It closes the revolving door whereby people relinquish a pet with behavioral issues related to breeding behavior only to get another pet.
The Lawton ordinance also prohibits street sales of live animals. Lawton passed the first anti-chaining law in Oklahoma.
Lawton City Manager, Larry Mitchell said the decision to create a spay neuter ordinance was, “A team effort to address what we felt was an excessive euthanasia rate. This was the work of the mayor, our city council and most of all Rose Wilson. We’re very proud of the outcome.”
Euthanasias in Lawton have declined overall by roughly 40 percent since passage of the ordinance. Wilson said, “The numbers prove the success, but we still hope to bring intakes down even more.” In describing the numbers Wilson does not use the term, ‘adoptable.’ She said, “We call that, ‘a dog with nothing wrong’…that way we don’t excuse the tragedies by using special language.” Wilson said that if the dog is not ill, injured or a biter, the problem was excessive numbers.
The 2008 decision to begin enforcement of the Tulsa pet sterilization ordinance has also resulted in a decrease in intakes; an increase in adoption fees have not had any notable impact on the number of animals leaving the shelter to go to new homes. Most large cities in our region have experienced increases in intakes while Tulsa’s decreased.
Judy Kishner, President of SPAY Oklahoma said, “This is a matter of common sense. A spay neuter ordinance gets to the heart of the problem. Dogs and cats are born by the litter, but they only get homes one at a time. It does not make sense that we can stop the euthanasias by adopting out dogs and cats one by one when they are produced in litters that can be ten or more. Unfortunately, some people do not act responsibly without some urging by city codes.”
For information on spay neuter programs in Tulsa call SPAY OK at 728-3144 or 970-4222.