Spay or Pay

Spay or Pay

By: Norma Bennett Woolf  Date: 10/31/1997 Category: | Animal Legislation | Canine Issues |


The Los Angeles, California, Board of Animal Commissioners has approved a proposal for a tax of $500 on unsterilized pets. The ordinance was drafted by the city's Pet Population Task Force in an attempt to deal with a large number of stray dogs and what they termed an excessive number of shelter deaths.

According to the Los Angeles Times, board commissioner Gini Barrett, director of the western region of the American Humane Association, said that city taxpayers spend more than $4 million to euthanize an estimated 55,000 dogs and cats every year.

There is confusion about figures. An October 16, 1997, story in the Times said that the City of Los Angeles County euthanized 55,000 dogs in 1996, and the county killed 170,000 dogs, but city officials say the former number includes dogs and cats. Figures compiled by The Animal Council for 1995 - the latest year statistics are available from the California Department of Health Services - indicate that 147,263 dogs and cats were killed in county shelters that year.

The board ordered the Department of Animal Services to draft a final proposal by December. If the board approves the draft, it will go to City Council for a vote.

Currently, dog owners pay $10 to license spayed or neutered dogs and $40 for intact dogs. The license for sterilized pets would remain the same under the new proposal. The proposal also covers cats, which are not currently required to be licensed.

Some dog owners would be exempt from the $500 tax. Those who participate in dog obedience classes, dog shows, or other activities can buy a $35 license for intact dogs because they would be considered owners. Those who fail to pay the tax would be subject to an additional $500 if caught.


Support for the Proposal

The proposal was supported by Animal Issues Movement, a local animal rights group. Director Phyllis Daugherty told the Times: "This is a good step in the right direction, but it lacks any specific prohibition on breeding. We are also concerned that the (responsible owner license) excludes too many people."

Daugherty also said that those who want to keep intact animals "are breeding and creating the pet-overpopulation problem that results in the euthanizing of (tens) of thousands of animals in this county alone each year. However, I believe that it would be more appropriate to have a $100 license fee . . . rather than starting out at $500, thinking that it will get lowered in the legislative process. . . . This (ordinance) will be impossible to enforce."

Barrett told the Times that she hoped they never had to collect a $500 fee. "I want everyone to either neuter their dogs or get involved in programs that prove they are responsible," she said.


We believe the people of will be sold a high-priced ticket to the back of a bus to failure unless the "Provide Spay or Pay" proposal is trashed," wrote Sharon Coleman of The Animal Council to the Los Angeles Daily News. "The proposal is based on false assumptions that intact pets so negatively impact public resources that only a favored class of persons may own them and avoid a criminalized $500 tax."

The Animal Council is a nonprofit working on reasonable solutions to animal issues. Coleman is president of the organization.

Coleman categorized the exemptions as elitist. "No small amount of money, time, physical and emotional stamina are necessary to participate in a social milieu that is European-American, selectively competitive, and at its worst boring and trivial," she wrote. "These activities are valued communities of meaning to their voluntary participants but an improper qualification for inclusion in a legally favored class."

In closing, Coleman urged Los Angeles residents to demand programs similar to those proven successful in San Francisco, including easily-available low-cost spay and neuter services and non-judgmental treatment of all citizens.

Other Provisions

Outdoor cats are not eligible for an intact animal license; current law already requires that all outdoor cats be sterilized. Initially, the intact animal permit for cats would be administered only upon complaint. The board has also approved a proposal to require that cats be identified by microchip and registered with the city; when the identification program is in place, the spay and neuter ordinance will be enforced for cats as well.

License fee money will be deposited in the Animal Welfare Trust Fund for educational and spay and neuter programs.

Owners qualifying for exemption from the $500 fee are those involved with professional service dogs, police dogs, therapy dog or cat programs, performing animals, obedience and related trials and events, working dog events, and sporting dog events. In lieu of participation, owners may complete 100 hours of community service to the LA Animal Services department. The department will maintain and update the list of approved activities, and owners must provide documentation that certifies their involvement.

If the ordinance is approved by City Council, it will have a six-month waiting period before implementation tog give pet owners the opportunity to have their dogs and cats sterilized. As soon as the ordinance is approved, the city will repeal the breeder license fee amend the definition of kennels in the municipal code to include catteries and review the zoning code provisions affecting dog number limits.

About The Author

Norma Bennett Woolf's photo
Norma Bennett Woolf -

Editor and Writer for the National Animal Interest Alliance.

All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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