Animal Friendly License Plates Help Promote Spay/Neuter

Shelter catsLike several states, Tennessee offers an "Animal Friendly" license plate.  Tenn. Code Ann. §55-4-290  The proceeds from the sale of these plates go into a fund "to be used exclusively for grants to non-profit organizations or governmental agencies to provide low-cost spaying and neutering of unsterilized animals to prevent and/or reduce animal overpopulation".

The fund receives about $15 per license plate.

Currently, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for grants for spay/neuter.

In 2007 46 non-profit organizations and state agencies received $190,000. The same amount is expected to be available this year.

Click here for grant applications for non-profit organizations and government agencies.  Applications are due by June 2.

Support spay/neuter. Have a 501c3 organization you know apply for a grant to perform low cost spay/neuters in Tennessee.

New York implemented its provision allowing the public to buy animal friendly license plates in 1996. The proceeds support its animal population control program.  NY CLS Veh & Tr § 404-p. Other states with animal or pet friendly license plates are Georgia, O.C.G.A. § 40-2-49.3; Illinois, 625 ILCS 5/3-653; Kentucky, KRS §258.119; Missouri, RSMo §301.3087; North Carolina, N.C. Gen. Stat. §19A-62; Ohio, ORC. 955.202; Oklahoma, 47 Okl. St. §1135.5 (31); South Carolina, S.C. Code §56-3-9600, Utah, Utah Code §41-1a-418;  and Washington, RCW §§46.04.705, 46.16.30914.

Colorado Joins Other States in Mandating Spay/Neuter for Dogs, Cats Adopted from Shelters

Cat in shelter

A similar bill in Kentucky is pending.  

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter now has on his desk for signature H.B. 1185 which would require dogs and cats adopted from animal shelters or rescues to be spayed/neutered. The bill has passed the state legislature!

Colorado’s scheme is typical of several other states: Dogs and cats must be spay/neutered prior to their release to a new owner unless the adopter pays a deposit and signs an agreement to have the animal sterilized within a certain period of time. Once a veterinarian has issued a statement that the surgery has been performed, the deposit is refunded to the adopter.

If the adopter fails to have the animal spayed/neutered, the deposit is forfeited to the state’s Pet Overpopulation Fund and the animal can be reclaimed.  The surgery can be delayed or not performed at all, however, if a veterinarian finds the animal’s health would be jeopardized.      

The requirement does not apply to shelters or rescues that already have programs requiring the spay/neuter of dogs and cats adopted from their facilities.

Other states with similar schemes are Arizona, A.R.S. § 11-1022; California, Cal Food & Agr Code § 30503; District of Columbia, D.C. Code § 8-1807; Florida, Fla. Stat. § 823.15; Kansas, K.S.A. § 47-1731; Maine, 7 M.R.S. § 3939-A; Massachusetts, ALM GL ch. 140, § 139A Michigan, MCL § 287.338a; Missouri, §§ 273.403, 405 R.S.Mo; Montana, Mont. Code § 7-23-4202; Nevada, §574.600 et seq.; New Mexico, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 77-1-20; New York Agric. & Mkts. Law § 377-a, North Dakota, N.D. Cent. Code, § 40-05-19; Oklahoma, 4 Okl. St. § 499.2; Pennsylvania, 3 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§459-901-A, 459-908-A; Rhode Island, R.I. Gen. Laws § 4-19-16; and Utah Code §§ 10-17-102-10-17-107.

Still other states don’t require the deposit, just the agreement that the adopter will have the animal spayed/neutered within a certain period of time. Those states are  Alabama, Code of Ala. § 3-9-2; Arkansas, A.C.A. § 20-19-103; Georgia, O.C.G.A. § 4-14-3; Iowa, Iowa Code § 162.20; Louisiana, La. R.S. 3:2472 ; Missouri, §§ 273.403, 405 R.S. Mo; Nebraska, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 54-638; South Carolina, S.C. Code Ann. § 47-3-480; Tennessee, Tenn. Code § 44-17-502; Texas, Tex. Health & Safety Code § 828.001 et seq.; Virginia, Va. Code Ann. § 3.1-796.126:1; and West Virginia, W. Va. Code § 19-20B-2.    

Along with its requirement of spay/neuter for dogs and cats adopted from shelters, Connecticut provides a voucher at a cost to adopters that is valid for a period of time for a low cost spay/neuter. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-380f

Illinois simply requires animals must be spayed/neutered before the adoptions are finalized.  8 Ill. Adm. Code 25.140 Likewise, Delaware requires dogs and cats must be spayed/neutered before they are released to adopters. The only exceptions are for animals that are too young or for health reasons. Even then, the state requires a deposit that is refunded once the animal that was too young is spayed/neutered. 3 Del. C. § 8220

New Hampshire, NH RSA 437-A:2, :3, allows adopters to participate in its low cost spay/neuter program but does not specifically require animals adopted from shelters or rescues to be spayed/neutered.

Surprisingly, a bill, H.B. 1293, has passed the New Hampshire House that would eliminate the eligibility of these adopters to receive state subsidized low cost spay/neuter.

Click here to contact New Hampshire senators and urge them to vote no on this bill.

Maryland’s legislature failed to pass a bill that would have mandated spay/neuter of dogs and cats adopted out by animal shelters or rescues. But a bill in Kentucky that would do just that is still pending. Help Kentucky join the many states that have moved to spay/neuter dogs and cats adopted from animal shelters and rescues. Click here to contact Kentucky legislators and urge them to support H.B. 39.

It makes sense to require spay/neuter of animals adopted from shelters.

But it is not clear how effective, if at all, are the laws that allow adopters simply to sign an agreement to have the animal spayed/neutered, at least without government subsidy of the surgery.

Texas law, for example, allows shelters or rescues to enter into a sterilization agreement with the adopter. but there is no requirement. Under the agreement the adopter must agree to have the animal sterilized within 30 days or 30 days after a baby female becomes six months old or a baby male becomes eight months old. Tex. Health & Safety Code §828.003. The adopter is required to send a letter confirming the sterilization or face a misdemeanor charge; the shelter or rescue can also then take back the animal.  Tex. Health & Safety Code §§ 828.005, .009, .010  There is no requirement the shelter or rescue obtain a deposit from the adopter to insure the surgery takes place. (It should be noted also this law does not apply to animals reclaimed from the shelter by their owners or to counties with less than 20,000 people or municipalities with a population of less than 10,000.)

It is widely reported that enforcement is non-existent. The law seems to have done little to reduce shelter intake and euthanasia rates in North Texas cities, for example, like Dallas, Irving, Garland and Fort Worth.

In New Hampshire there is no particular mandate to sterilize dogs and cats adopted from shelters but spay/neuter is available to adopters for the low cost of $40. The population control fund offers low cost spay/neuter for more animals than just those adopted from shelters or rescues, but, regardless, the state’s euthanasia rate has dropped state wide by 70% since 1994.  

James D. Couch, city manager for Oklahoma City, pointedly told the city, "[A]ny dramatic improvements to decreasing [shelter] intake and euthanasia rates will have to come in the form of a government-funded spay program, either alone or in concert with assistance offered by community animal groups, targeting low-income owners, low-compliance neighborhoods and individual chronic violators. " 

Tacoma has an ordinance that states no animal can be released for adoption unless it has been spayed/neutered. Sec. 17.010.120. There is a municipal spay-neuter fund. Owners can use their vet at their own expense for the spay/neuter, with the shelter making the appointment and transporting the animal to the clinic. If the owner is low-income qualified, the shelter will transport the animal to a participating vet and will pay the cost for the spay/neuter from the municipal fund.  The program which also applies to owners other than those who have adopted animals from shelters,  has been successful in reducing intake and euthanasia rates.   

To ensure the success of laws that require spay/neuter of dogs and cats adopted from shelters or rescues, some enforcement is likely essential, whether through a mandate the animal cannot be released without the surgery or the payment of a deposit by the adopter to be used for the spay/neuter or to be refunded upon proof of sterilization. Alternatively, state or local governments must provide readily available free or low or moderate cost spay/neuter such as with a voucher at the time of adoption.

Let us know what your experience has been in your state or community with laws mandating spay/neuter of animals adopted from shelters or rescues.

In a follow up article, Animal Law Coalition will examine state and local spay/neuter funding and the effect on shelter intake and euthanasia rates.   

Mandatory Spay/Neuter for Dallas

Update June 25, 2008: After sometimes emotional and at other times contentious testimony Wednesday, the Dallas City Council passed a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance. 

Animal welfare advocates decorated the council chamber with 512 balloons, representing the number of dogs and cats killed each week at the city shelter.

Breeders and some dog owners complained the restrictions interfered with their rights and punished responsible dog owners.  They complained the city cannot enforce existing animal-related laws let alone something like this.

The vote, though, was 10-3 in favor of the new law.

With this ordinance proponents hope to reduce not only intake and kill rates at the shelter but also decrease the number of stray animals said to be roaming the city.

Under the new ordinance, if an animal is not spayed/neutered, the owner must obtain a $70 breeder’s license, pay a $30 registration fee and attend an education class. This ordinance is called the "pay or spay" requirement.

The ordinance does have a number of exceptions: dogs and cats younger than 6 months old, service animals, animals a veterinarian has certified should not be spayed/neutered for health reasons and animals belonging to a licensed breeder.

The new ordinance made no provision for funding for free or low or moderate cost spay/neuter.

Read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier report below for information about the importance of free or low or moderate cost spay/neuter in reducing intake and euthanasia rates and where such services are available in the Dallas area. 

Another provision passed by the city council today restricts tethering or chaining of dogs. Click here for more on that new law.

The city also restricted owners to no more than 6 cats and dogs in a single family home under half an acre. Animals already part of the family can be grandfathered in under the new law.  People with more than one half acre can have up to 8 cats and dogs. 

Original report: Dallas continues to have high euthanasia rates despite efforts to improve spay/neuter and adoptions including the building of a new shelter facility this past year.

A September 24, 2007 report by Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center Operations reported the city impounded "more than 35,000 this year….Euthanasia rate is high and the adoption rate is low."

Indeed, in 2007, Dallas euthanized 28,479 of these animals, a 14% increase over 2006. 

What to do?

Dallas is considering mandatory spay/neuter among other proposals. These proposals:

Require all dogs and cats over 4 months of age to be spayed/neutered unless the owner has a breeder permit;

Require $500 breeder permits (unobtainable for residentially zoned property);

Mandate pet limits of 6 dogs, cats or combination in a single family home;

Require rescuer and foster home permits to be able to keep more than pet;

Allow the city to seize immediately animals deemed dangerous (which is defined as animals that have attacked a person without provocation).

The city may join other Texas cities and ban unsupervised tethering or chaining of dogs. (Click here for more on the movement in Texas to ban tethering or chaining.)

Dallas is the largest but certainly not the only North Texas city with high euthanasia rates.

Some are trying in other ways to lower these high intake and euthanasia rates. Irving and Garland have added a veterinarian to the staff to spay/neuter animals. The Irving shelter works with a group that runs  trap neuter return programs for feral cats. The city has solicited feedback from the public on other improvements.

Both shelters along with Plano have worked to make the shelters more of a draw to the public  and increase adoptions. Plano’s shelter, for example, is now friendly and comfortable with lots of natural light. The location is accessible.  

Fort Worth has increased enforcement of animal neglect laws. Fort Worth dismisses citations for animal neglect  if the violator attends a course, which includes a tour of the shelter.  That is one way to impress on people what happens to their animals if they end up in the shelter.

What is Needed

Surely, Dallas and other North Texas cities must focus on funding free or low or moderate cost spay/neuter to reduce intake and euthanasia rates. It is unlikely Dallas’ proposed mandatory spay/neuter law will work without such funding or enforcement. It is not clear at this point what funding, if any, Dallas will commit to increasing free or low or moderate cost spay/neuter services or enforcement for its proposed mandate.  

Texas law does already mandate spay/neuter for any animal adopted from a public shelter or humane organization.  Tex. Health & Safety Code §§828.001, .2.

But state law also allows the shelter or rescue to enter into a sterilization agreement with the adopter. Under the agreement the adopter must agree to have the animal sterilized within 30 days or 30 days after a baby female becomes six months old or a baby male becomes eight months old. Tex. Health & Safety Code §828.003. The adopter is required to send a letter confirming the sterilization or face a misdemeanor charge; the shelter or rescue can also then take back the animal.  Tex. Health & Safety Code §§ 828.005, .009, .010  

Cat up for adoptionEnforcement is reportedly non-existent. Also, this law does not apply to animals reclaimed from the shelter by their owners or to counties with less than 20,000 people or municipalities with a population of less than 10,000.

The Animal Friendly Account authorized by Tex. Health & Safety Code Tex. Health & Safety Code §828.014 and 25 TAC § 169.102 allows money to be given to organizations that provide free or low cost spay/neuter. The Account is funded by fees from a specialty license plate. Contact the Fund for Animals 713-862-3863 for more information.

Contact these clinics for information about free or low cost spay/neuter in the North Texas area.

SPCA of Texas
Martin Spay/Neuter Clinic
Dallas, TX

Humane Society of North Texas
1840 East Lancaster
Fort Worth, TX 76103

North Texas Spay Neuter Coalition
Decatur, TX

Denton Low Cost Pet Sterilization and Vaccination Program
Denton, TX

Click here for information about other North Texas humane societies and organizations offering free or low cost spay/neuter.


Gertrude Maxwell Finds a Creative Solution to Encourage Spay/Neuter

Update May 5, 2008:  Gertrude Maxwell’s dream has come true. Her bill has passed the Florida state legislature, and Governor Charlie Crist is expected to sign it.

The bill creates a non-profit agency within the state Department of Agriculture to raise money that will be funneled to shelters and animal welfare organizations for spay/neuter and other programs to reduce the need for euthanasia.

For more on this bill, read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier report below. 

Original report: Gertrude Maxwell, 96, has persisted with a plan, a dream really, to reduce numbers of unwanted pets and euthanasia rates.

Her plan is now a bill before the Florida legislature. H.B. 219/S.B. 1994, the Gertrude Maxwell Save a Pet Act.

In fact, today the House bill has passed the Agribusiness Committee and is now before the Environment & Natural Resources Council. Under this bill the state Department of Agriculture will create a non-profit called the Gertrude Maxwell Save A Pet Direct Support Organization.

The non-profit will be under contract to the Dept. The Dept. will appoint the Board of Directors for the non-profit which can include Dept. employees and will also likely include representatives of humane societies and other animal welfare organizations, animal control and other officials. The Dept will manage the contract and approve the non-profit’s articles of incorporation and bylaws and its budget. The Dept. will audit the non-profit annually.

The non-profit, though, will receive funding only through fundraising from businesses, foundations and other organizations, individuals and estates. Ms. Maxwell will provide the funding herself for the first year.

Basically, the non-profit will provide money for "preventing animal cruelty, assisting pet overpopulation management, providing grants to animal shelters for spaying and neutering, and reducing the need for euthanasia of animals."

The non-profit will be able to use the facilities, property and personnel services of the Dept.

It’s a way to bring animal welfare advocates, public shelters, animal control and state officials together to solve this problem, to stop the killing. Citizens donating funds to a state managed non-profit that is required to send the money to shelters for spay/neuter and for programs to reduce overpopulation, euthanasia and cruelty. A community effort.

The Gertrude Maxwell Save a Pet Act is sponsored by Rep. Carl Domino. Sen. Jeff Atwater is co-sponsor.

Ms. Maxwell goal is to reduce the high euthanasia rate in Florida. 800,000 dogs and cats are euthanized in Florida each year.

She also makes the point spay/neuter costs between $20 and $70 per animal. It costs $100 to impound, shelter, care for and euthanize an animal.

It is hoped with funds available for spay/neuter program at Florida shelters, there will be fewer animals, less euthanasia and cruelty, and thus less animal control cost.

Click here for a copy of the bill.