March 22, 2014

Neuter program may need fiscal surgery

Rachel Snyder
The Express-Star


Funding for Chickasha's spay and neuter program may be running out at the end of March, but the city is discussing ways to keep the program going until June.

The city contributed a total of $10,700 to fund the spay and neuter program for a fiscal year in September, which was spent by December. The city added $5,500 in donations and a rescue group, Friends for Change, began donating $30 for each adopted animal. The donations will run out at the end of March.

Chickasha City Manager Stewart Fairburn said the city is debating whether to go back to a deposit program, in which adopters promise to get their pet fixed and get it back when they show proof, look at alternate funding or see if the city can simply contribute a smaller percentage for spaying and neutering.

"The need has outstripped donations," Fairburn said. "It is important to have the animals fixed, so that they do not exacerbate the problem by having more unwanted puppies and kittens…The city will be looking at this program to see if tax payer dollars should be used to pay for spaying and neutering or a portion thereof. It has been a very successful program that most municipalities do not have."

He said the spay and neuter program isn't the only one suffering from lack of funds.

"For the last several years, the city has had to eliminate city positions, which has impacted police, parks and public works services," Fairburn said. "Based on the current year, $30,000 a year is needed to fully fund a free spay and neuter program.

Discussion of starting a new spay and neuter program began in fall 2012 when Fairburn convened a group to discuss citizens not spaying and neutering their pets. At the time, Fairburn said the adopters would pay a deposit upon adoption and get it back after the pet was spayed or neutered, but some deposits weren't getting picked up. 

Last year, he said community development took control of the animal shelter and began work to prevent euthanization of excess animals. Friends For Change also offered the city help in providing money, care for the animals and hosting adoption fairs.

The City and Friends for Change decided to contract with local Cimarron Veterinary Hospital to provide spay and neuter surgeries at $110 per dog and $90 per cat.

"In order to encourage adoptions, the adopting family would not be charged for the spay/neuter services," Fairburn said "The city council decided to use the donations of money to the city for the animal shelter."

Now, the city is asking for increased donations to fund the program and continues to encourage adopters to spay and neuter their pets.

"Current pet owners are urged to get their pets fixed and to keep them from running around the neighborhoods," Fairburn said. "The city and [Friends for Change] would not be struggling with these adoption funding issues if there were more responsible pet owners."

The funding issue will be discussed at the April 7 city council meeting.