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Decision to cut spay and neuter vouchers angers L.A. city councilmen

March 19, 2009 | 12:49 pm

Ed Boks

It would be an understatement to say that the decision by L.A. Department of Animal Services General Manager Ed Boks to end the city's sponsorship of free spay and neuter vouchers for low-income pet owners has been met with great criticism.  Distribution of discount coupons for spay and neuter procedures has also been halted.

The decision, Boks said, was one he made as a result of economic necessity and only as a last resort.  But other city leaders, including Councilmen Dennis Zine, Jack Weiss and Tony Cardenas, say ending the program is simply not an option. 

Zine has said he'll introduce a motion to restore it.  Weiss announced on Tuesday his intention to hold hearings on its suspension next week.  And yesterday, Cardenas announced that he plans to introduce a measure to reinstate the voucher program.  Our colleague Carla Hall at the L.A. Now blog reports:

With shelters taking in more animals than they have in years because of the economic hard times and spring — the start of puppy and kitten season — on the horizon, terminating the voucher program would only mean more strays and more costs to house — and euthanize — unwanted animals, Cardenas said.

"The bottom line is this is a solution that is going in the wrong direction," Cardenas said in a phone interview.

But Boks said the suspension of the program was nothing short of a desperate last resort — one he staved off for months as he sought to cut other things to make up a $414,000 shortfall in his budget.

"We've cut to the bone. We're down to the marrow. The only option would have been to lay people off," Boks said earlier this week. "And we're taking in more animals now that we have in over a decade. To care for that many animals with minimal staffing, laying people off is not even an option.... No one regrets cutting these funds more than I do."

Cardenas doesn't quite see it that way. "I'm going to be real blunt," he said. "He's the general manager for a reason. He came to the city with a lot of experience.... I would imagine he can continue to comb through his whole budget and find a better solution."

A statement posted on the L.A. Animal Services website notes that coupons already distributed will be honored and that that the department will "continue to fund the Amanda Foundation's efforts on behalf of the City."

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Boks receives some affection from a dog in one of the city's six shelters.  Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times.

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