Spay and neuter ordinances are being enforced in many Oklahoma communities to combat pet overpopulation problems.

From cities with large populations, such as Tulsa, to communities similar in size to Muskogee, like Bartlesville, laws require residents to spay and neuter their pets.

More than 100,000 dogs and cats are euthanized each year in Oklahoma, according to the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association. It isn’t hard to understand why the numbers are high after calculating the reproduction rates of cats and dogs.

Two unaltered cats and their offspring can produce 420,000 more cats in seven years. Two unaltered dogs and their offspring can produce 67,000 more dogs in six years.

In Muskogee, 4,625 dogs and cats were euthanized from 2009 to 2013 at a cost of more than $48,000.

In Bartlesville, the Washington County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is contracted by the city to facilitate its animal shelter, which works to encourage spaying and neutering through regulations.

The society’s interim director, Dawnette Brady, said the costs of regulating pet owners will eventually be reimbursed.

“The theory behind it is that it should pay for itself,” Brady said.

The cost for extra staff and enforcement can be expensive. By enforcing regulations on pet owners to spay and neuter their animals, the total amount of pet care, housing, and euthanization will slowly decrease.

According to the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association’s website, if the number of animals euthanized could be reduced by 50 percent, it would save county and municipal governments approximately $2,500,000 per year.

The website explains that this means fewer medical expenses incurred for animal bites from strays, and fewer insurance claims from accidents caused by the unaltered animal’s desire to roam and fight.

The same trend has been seen consistently in those communities with spay and neuter ordinances. In Claremore, animal control supervisor Jean Hurst said she has witnessed the decrease.

“The number of strays taken in goes down every year,” Hurst said.

To enforce the regulations in Claremore, it took the assistance of community officials and residents.

“We were very fortunate that our council, mayor, and all the city were very supportive,” Hurst said.

With numbers of animals coming into the shelter dropping off, more time is made available for adoption programs, Hurst said.

Claremore Animal Control is operated by the police department, and animal control officers are allowed to write citations.

The citation fine in Claremore is $152. Once officers have found that an animal is unaltered, the pet owner has 30 days to comply with the animal ordinances, Hurst said.

“We give them the opportunity to either use us or their own vet,” Hurst said.

Claremore and Bartlesville offer a permit for those who chose not to spay or neuter their pet. The cost of a permit in Claremore is $100 for the first year and $75 each following year.

In Bartlesville, the permit cost is $40 each year. The annual fees are meant to encourage people to spay or neuter pets.

“It’s cheaper than an annual permit,” Brady said.

A veterinarian bill to spay or neuter varies for size and sex of the animal. The price ranges from $60 for a male cat to $125 for a dog that weighs more than 40 pounds. Most communities have low-income programs that can start at $20.

In Bartlesville, residents are required to obtain a license for dogs, cats, or ferrets that are more than 6 months old. Dogs and cats must wear the license tag, and those more than 6 months old must be spayed or neutered. The fine for the violation could be up to $200.

Brady said the three elements that are key in the success of animal ordinances are “making services available, increasing awareness, and enforcement.”

“You have to enforce it,” Brady said. “That’s probably where the biggest downfall is with those types of ordinances.”

Reach E.I. Hillin at (918) 684-2926 or ehillin@muskogeephoenix.com.

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