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Countdown to the spay/neuter law

September 24, 2008 | 12:15 pm

Hanna

If you've been on the L.A. Animal Services website in the last couple of months, you know they maintain a digital countdown of the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the city's spay/neuter law goes into effect Oct 1.

Now, you have a week to comply with the ordinance requiring most pet cats and dogs to be sterilized -- like Hanna, above. The 1-year old spayed Sharpei is up for adoption at the city's North Central shelter. (Her ID # is A0971625, and if you want her, act quickly. She went on Red Alert Tuesday, meaning if she's not adopted in a week, she could be euthanized.)

There are a number of options for sterilizing your animal at a lower cost.  The city's shelters and many of their private rescue partners offer vouchers -- to everyone -- worth $30 toward the cost of a sterilization procedure performed by participating veterinarians. If you qualify by having a lower income or disability or by being a senior citizen, you can get a certificate for a free procedure to be done at certain veterinary hospitals, or you can have it done at a mobile clinic.

Ed Boks, general manager of L.A. Animal Services, also notes that the South L.A. shelter has a spay-neuter clinic and that the Harbor and West L.A. shelters have clinics that will be up and running in two months. (And, as part of a push to get more pets spayed and neutered, a group of organizations is sponsoring the third "Spay Day LA" event Oct. 24-26. During those days, certain veterinary facilities will offer free spay services. We'll post details in the coming weeks.)

The ordinance exempts plenty of dogs and cats: those who have special skills, are being trained for special activities, have medical excuses or are show dogs or aspiring to the show circuit. Otherwise, dogs and cats four months and older should be sterilized. Owners found not to be in compliance have 60 days to alter their pets or pay a $100 fine.  A third offense results in a $500 fine.

When the L.A. City Council approved this measure last February, the hope was that pet sterilization would stem the tide of unwanted and stray animals into shelters. According to the Humane Society of the U.S., 3 to 4 million animals are euthanized in shelters nationwide each year.

Since then, City Controller Laura Chick released a report in August stating that L.A. Animal Services was ill-prepared to implement or enforce the new law.  Animal control officers, Chick wrote in her report, "stated they currently have difficulty enforcing other ordinances dealing with privately owned pets, such as the leash law, and no one is sure how spay and neuter canvassing or enforcement should occur. The Department plans to rely primarily on voluntary compliance...."

Animal Services general manager Ed Boks issued his response saying that his department would enforce the measure "to the fullest extent possible. Owners should not conclude that they can avoid compliance without consequence..." Boks said it was not possible to go door-to-door or patrol streets to enforce the law since he has only 64 animal control officers covering the entire city.

Animal welfare advocates believe there are plenty of reasons to comply voluntarily. As Chick herself wrote in her report to the mayor: "Spaying and neutering our pet population will significantly reduce unwanted puppies and kittens that are too often euthanized. The Department of Animal Services reported that over 15,000 dogs and cats were killed last year in our City shelters."

Enforcement of mandatory spaying and neutering starts next Wednesday.

-- Carla Hall

Photo: courtesy of L.A. Animal Services

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