After years of opinion letters addressing the plight of unwanted, neglected and abused area animals, the city must act. There are now four area resources offering low cost spay/neuter and vaccinations to low-income city residents: Coins4Critters, Happy Paws Checotah and SpayOK (Tulsa and Bixby). By law, all state residents must have their dogs, cats, and ferrets vaccinated annually for rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Rabies is rapidly rising statewide and is a significant public health risk.
Mandatory, enforced spay/neuter and vaccinations needs to become effective January 1, 2014. Relinquishment to avoid compliance should not be an option. Only a licensed vet should be able to exclude an animal (for a medical condition or advanced age given some inherent risks associated with anesthesia). “Backyard Breeders” should have to apply for an expensive city license and be subject to the standards set by the State Commercial Pet Breeders Program. Anticipatory lawsuits are a weak excuse not to act. Cities nationwide have such requirements. Progressive cities in Oklahoma such as Lawton, have enforced requirements, anti-chaining regulations, and restricted sale of live animals. “No birth” is the only approach in changing the long-standing mentality that unwanted pets are disposable or “someone else’s problem.”
Shelter positions should not be jeopardized by spay/neuter requirements. Employees could further reduce the euthanization of healthy, adoptable animals. Greater emphasis on criminalizing neglect/abuse cases, and monies saved on collecting, housing and disposing of unwanted animals, could fund additional Animal Control Officers. Law enforcement/courts should adopt a “zero tolerance” policy for neglect/abuse cases. The city should re-establish the failed licensing program that lacked the suitable software to sustain it. Mandates come from “above” and should support the efforts of the shelter to assist animals.
Publishing the city shelter statistics for intakes, adoptions, reclaims, transports and euthanizations each month, would raise awareness. The City Manager’s office could routinely fax this to the paper. No municipalities, in the absence of spay/neuter laws, can adopt or transport their way out of overpopulation. People sometimes have to be forced to do the right thing.
CAROLE ANNE CLELAND