Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Taxpayers should foot the bill for low-cost spay neuter program

There appear to be exactly two things that Kern County residents can agree on when it comes to companion animals:

1) There are far too many companion animals being abandoned and euthanized.

2) A low-cost spay/neuter program could greatly alleviate item #1.

That seems to be as far as we get. Everyone gets that there is a problem, and no one can agree on a way to solve it. My plan is simple --- have homeowners fund a low-cost spay/neuter clinic.

Now before all the anti-tax-for-anything-at-all group gets their knickers in a twist, hear me out. Why shouldn’t we fund a spay/neuter clinic? After all, it’s our tax dollars that are being spent on every reactionary act that results from there being far too many homeless animals.

Our tax dollars fund Animal Control, although not nearly enough of them are used in proportion to the scope of the problem. Our tax dollars are used every time one of their trucks has to go out and round up a dangerous stray, or pick up a carcass on the side of the road. They are used for the costs involved in housing and feeding the animals that come through their doors, and to purchase the needles and euthanasia solution. And a few more are used to haul off the dead bodies to the rendering plant (or the crematory --- I never could get a straight answer out of Animal Control on that one).

It’s the money from hard-working taxpayers that is used for donations to the various nonprofit animal groups in the area, without which they would be ill-equipped to operate. Same goes for the host of rescue groups in the area. Without public funding in the way of donations, their ability to even begin to make a dent in the homeless pet population would come to a standstill. And where do those donations come from? Working, taxpaying people.

Even people who choose to take money from their own household budgets to alter the pets left behind when a neighbor moves out are using their after-tax money to try and make a difference (myself included).

And let’s not forget who picks up the tab when an uninsured individual is bitten by a stray animal. That would be us, the taxpayer, covering the emergency room costs for treating the wound.

So why not try something radically different? Why not decide that each home gets assessed $5 per year as part of their property taxes to fund a low-cost spay/neuter clinic?

Animals could be altered for a very low fee, thus reducing shelter intake rates, homeless pet rates and euthanasia rates. Fewer stray dog calls to Animal Control gives them more time to hold the animals that do come into the shelter and to work on proactive, rather than reactive, programs. Fewer strays mean safer streets for people to walk and children to play without the fear of encountering a loose animal. There would be fewer cats roaming around disturbing the carefully planted gardens of people who aren’t cat fans anyway.

Where’s the downside? The fact that it might be construed as a (gasp!) tax? Call it something different, then. Call it the Kern County Humane Pet Stewardship Act, if that helps. It’s $5 per year. The cost of one cup of designer coffee. Per household. And everyone wins.

Pets who need to be altered can get altered for a small fee. The veterinary staffs that perform the procedures are paid for their services, as they rightly should be. The number of homeless pets is greatly reduced, and stays reduced over time. Animal-related nonprofits can spend their time doing what they love, rather than feeling perpetually overwhelmed at the scope of the problem. And we become a community who finds a way to solve our own problems. All we have to do is decide that really want to do something, then do it.

1 comment:

Abagale said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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