A Statewide Spay/Neuter Program for Washington

Update February 20, 2012:  Efforts are underway to incorporate H.B. 1226/S.B. 5151 into the state budget. 

For more on this bill and how you can help pass it, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.

Original report: A Washington state bill, H.B. 1226, and the Senate version, S.B. 5151, would establish a program to subsidize spay/neuter of dogs and cats for low income residents and animal shelters, and also provide financial assistance for trap neuter return and other feral or free roaming homeless cat programs.  Under trap neuter return or similar programs, these cats are humanely trapped, spayed/neutered and provided with vaccinations and veterinary care, and then returned to feral cat colonies under the care of a volunteer caregiver. Kittens are typically not returned to the colonies and instead are adopted. 

The spay/neuter and feral cat assistance programs would be administered by the state department of social and health services. 

Private veterinarians, animal control agencies and non-profits would be able to apply for funds to perform spay/neuter surgeries and vaccinations. The department would administer the program and:

(a) Establish criteria and procedures for screening companion animal owners and caretakers of feral and free-roaming cats for eligibility to participate in the program. 
(b) Enroll surgery providers and publicize the program and the names and locations of participating spay/neuter surgery providers;
(c) Screen companion animal owners and caretakers of feral and free-roaming cats for eligibility or contract for screening to promote the ease and convenience of applying for services under the program;
(d) Obtain the greatest number of spay/neuter surgeries that can be accomplished efficiently, consistent with the program’s purpose and availability of funds;
(e) To the extent practical, maximize the ease and convenience for eligible owners and caretakers of companion animals to apply for and receive spay/neuter, and other authorized veterinary medical services, and minimize administrative burdens, procedures, and costs; and
(f) Actively promote the program to inform low-income individuals about the assistance offered by the program and the public about companion animal overpopulation issues and surgical sterilization.

The department would also  determine (1) eligibility of these surgery providers, (2) rates of reimbursement, (3) co-payments to be paid by low income persons elgibile for assistance, and (4) allocation of funds though no more than ten percent can be used for administration. The deparmtent must report to the leigslature and governon once a year about the program and to that end, would obtain from shelters (animal control, humane socieities, and nonprofits) information about the intake, the source and fate of animals they house, though smaller shelters may be exempt. Private veterinarians that participate in the program would not be required to do the screening to make sure individuals qualify as "low income", but the department may require shelters providing spay/neuter surgeries to take on that task.

The department would have the authority to contract with public or private agencies or nonprofits to carry out the purposes of this bill.  

If funding is available, the department could provide spay/neuter assistance to animal shelters. 

The bill would establish a companion animal spay/neuter assistance account that would accept donations, grants and the like to fund the program though the principal source of funding would come from a fee of $50 per ton that would be assessed against initial distributors or buyers of pet food. There is no fee for distributors or buyers of less than a ton or on specialty pet foods.


S.B. 5151 is the senate version of the bill. Find your Washington state legislators here and urge them to support H.B. 1226/S.B. 5151 and incorporate its provisions into the state budget.

Go here to Save Washington Pets for more information!