Cost Savings from Publicly Funded Spay/Neuter Programs
A key to getting funding for spay/neuter programs from sources such as city councils, county general funds, health departments, and other government entities is meeting these agencies' needs and speaking their "language." By this we mean addressing issues that concern these public organizations, such as:
Cost savings to departments and taxpayers
Reducing animal-related complaint calls to police and animal control
Public safety and health
As animal welfare organizations, we may want to focus on how a spay/neuter program will be more humane or help more animals. Public officials may see these outcomes only as nice benefits and not as motivating or deciding factors in allocating funds to the program.
Luckily, good documentation already exists showing how spay/neuter programs do address the issues that concern public officials. Following are some questions frequently asked by public officials and helpful answers that support your case to receive funding.
Here are some questions you are likely to face when you speak with public officials:
Q: How will this spay/neuter program save us money?
A: Substantial cost savings typically come from reduction in the cost of services to deal with stray, abandoned, and feral animals and their offspring. To pick up, house for three days, and destroy an animal costs between $100-125. To spay/neuter an animal costs between $35-55.* Depending on the cost of services in their area, public agencies (and taxpayers) might save half to two thirds of their current animal-control costs after funding a spay/neuter program.
* Costs are based on SNAP estimate of $125 for Harris County, TX in 2000; Orange County, FL Animal Services estimate of $105 in 1995; Peter Marsh estimate of $105 in New Hampshire in 1994.
Q: Where will the money come from to fund this program?
A: According to Peter Marsh, public funding expert and founder of New Hampshire's Solutions to Overpopulation of Pets (STOP), it shouldn't be hard to find this money. Communities already spend much more on reactive programs that won't reduce pet overpopulation. Animal control, impoundment, and sheltering expenses cost taxpayers about $3 a person every year. A targeted neutering program could be established by:
Increasing the local animal control budget about ten percent
Reallocating a small fraction of the money now spent to impound and shelter the victims of overpopulation. Adding a modest surcharge to dog licensing fees or the cost of rabies vaccines (New Hampshire's program was funded by a $2 license surcharge.)
The full cost of a low-income program could also be paid for by a $10 increase in the differential license fee for intact pets. That way, those who won't have their companion animals neutered at least help those who can't afford to. Anna's Law, broad animal welfare and control legislation enacted in Illinois, uses this approach as one source of funding for its spay/neuter subsidy program.
Marsh believes targeted neuter subsidy programs offer assistance to such a limited group of pet caretakers that every community can afford them. The total yearly cost of the New Hampshire low-income program has been less than 15 cents per resident, including all administrative costs. Taking into account the low poverty rate in New Hampshire and the modest cost of living, comparable programs could be established in any part of the country, even with a higher poverty rate, for a maximum of about 30 cents per person each year.
Q: What is the benefit to our taxpayers?
A: One key benefit is lower animal-control costs, which benefits all taxpayers. According to Peter Marsh, on average, each intact dog cared for by animal control costs taxpayers about $35 in animal-control expenses, compared to about $12 for a sterilized dog.
All citizens can benefit from the reduction in risks to public health and safety that is associated with reducing animal overpopulation. For example:
Altered dogs are less likely to bite than intact dogs.
Stray cats and dogs are more likely than owned animals to contract diseases such as rabies that also threaten human health.
TNR and other spay/neuter initiatives for feral cats reduce the spread of disease among cats. In addition, by reducing the size of feral colonies over time, nuisance issues, such as ferals roaming in neighborhoods and yards, fighting, and spraying.
Q: How can animal-welfare organizations and public agencies work together to combat public-health issues related to stray cats?
A: According to Michael J. Pompili RS.MSE, Clinical Assistant Professor, Program for Excellence in Environmental Health, The Ohio State University:
"Animal safety, protection and health organizations can bring much needed resources, both of the information and manpower types that are desperately needed [to address these issues]. They also bring a different approach to the issue that traditionally health agencies haven't recognized namely, looking at the issue from the animals' and pet owners' perspective, as health agencies look at the issue from the community's health perspective. A meshing of these two approaches could actually benefit both parties."