Why I Proposed a Spay and Neuter Ordinance
By Keith Bohr
Mayor Pro-Tem, Huntington Beach, California
I have had a few former elected officials over the past few months advise me that one should not meddle when it comes to people’s children or their animals. Definitely information I could have used a year or more ago!
So why did I propose the City of Huntington Beach adopt a “Mandatory Spay Neuter Chip” Ordinance?
A quick look at the numbers:
Six million cats and dogs in the United States are euthanized each year. In California approximately 800,000 dogs and cats end up in taxpayer-funded shelters every year and more than half are euthanized at a cost of more than a quarter of a billion dollars.
Orange County Animal Care Services, contracting with 21 cities, including Huntington Beach, picked up 29,690 stray animals in 2006. Despite commendable efforts by the county to reunite these animals with their owners, or to adopt them out to new owners, the county still had to euthanize more that 12,000 dogs and cats that year. Huntington Beach, which pays the County approximately $400,000 annually for animal control, accounted for more than 1,500 dogs and cats that were picked up, and 40 percent of those were euthanized.
We are killing too many of our pets!
Most of the opponents of “Mandatory Spay and Neuter” (MSN) are from the “breeder” community. They are unrelenting and usually less than honest in their stated rationale against such a proposal. They implore the “kitchen sink” strategy of throwing anything and everything up against the wall, hoping something will stick. The bottom-line is, although most of them agree we do kill too many of our pets, they argue against any form of a MSN ordinance and are content with the status quo.
Their “kitchen sink” approach goes something like this:
- MSN is a bad policy because it is unenforceable and irresponsible owners will continue to be irresponsible (unless you make it illegal to be irresponsible);
- service dogs, police dogs and show dogs will vanish (completely false since they are all legally exempt from MSN);
- the only dogs in shelters are old dogs turned in by their owners and the rest are pit bulls (currently there are 50 dogs at the County’s shelter of which 27 are two years old or younger and only 11 are pit bull or pit bull mix);
- this is just more “nanny government” proposal (we are a community of laws for the better good);
- and “My pet is my property, nobody should be able to tell me what I can and cannot do with my property.” (Hello Mr. Vick?).
Other potential solutions? Huntington Beach and other cities could build their own “no kill” shelters. But analysis indicates that to serve a population of approximately 200,000 people, 3.5 – 4.5 acres of land would be required. Studies state that the net cost to operate such a facility would be in the range of $7.00 per capita or $1.4 million paid by the city’s 200,000 residents.
The study I read did not address the cost of construction of the shelter itself. I estimate that for a 10,000 square foot facility at $200 per square foot it would cost at least $2 million.
In addition to building and operating costs, we need to address the cost of purchaseing the land for a city owned shelter, which at market rate would be in the range of $6-8 million.
All said and done the City of Huntington Beach would need approximately $8-10 million to build a new facility and another $1.4 million annually to operate it. That makes the $400,000 Huntington Beach pays the county each year seem like a bargain in comparison.
One enthusiastic proponent of having Huntington Beach build and operate its own local shelter suggested that we could get the land for free! Huh? Sure, just use some of the land the city owns in Central Park. Say what?!? Did you not see what we all suffered through in order to narrowly get voter approval for building a new senior center in an undeveloped portion of Central Park? No thank you!
As usual with complicated issues there are no easy solutions, only difficult and expensive ones.
In any case, please seriously consider spaying or neutering as well as micro chipping your pets. And if you want to add a pet to your family, please visit one of the many local shelters and/or rescue groups before considering making a purchase from a pet store or breeder. Go to www.ocpetinfo.com for more information.