New Way to Pay for Spay

[Web exclusive] Can Washington State alter 70,000 more cats and dogs
By Lisa Wogan, February 2009, Updated February 2015

It’s Spay Day, and all around the country, animal welfare organizations are offering discounted spay/neuter surgeries and spreading the word about the importance of altering pets to reduce unwanted litters, overpopulation, abandoned and neglected pets, crowded shelters and high euthanasia rates.

In Washington State, legislators are considering an unusual bill to increase funding for low-cost spay/neuter surgery. As proposed, Senate Bill 5329/House Bill 1406 will reimburse private and nonprofit veterinary clinics that perform the surgeries for the pets of low-income guardians, as well as feral and free-roaming cats, keeping the out-of-pocket cost (like a co-payment) to no more than $10 for cats and $20 for dogs.

While funding low-cost surgeries has long been an important tool in the spay/neuter effort, the Washington bill tackles the problem during tight financial times and relies on a unique funding mechanism—fees on pet food distribution.

Tomorrow, February 25, the Senate Committee on Agriculture & Rural Economic Development decides whether to vote the bill on to the Ways and Means Committee, and, eventually to the floor for a vote of the full senate. It’s an important hurdle for the legislation.


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Helping to spearhead the bill is Andrea Logan, co-founder and president of the board of Pawsitive Alliance in North Bend, dedicated to ending the killing of adoptable dogs and cats in Washington. While Alliance efforts are most frequently focused on providing adoption events to help rural shelters, Logan says, “I’m a spay/neuter girl at heart; this is the only way to solve the problem.”

While she waits to hear the fate of the spay/neuter assisance program and drum up last minute support, she answered a few questions for What makes you sure that reducing the cost of these surgeries will increase the number of animals spayed and neutered?

Andrea Logan: There are a lot of studies that cite cost as the reason most people give when they say their animal isn’t altered. We know that people want but just can’t afford the surgery. In the first few years after New Hampshire passed similar legislation, the state saw a significant decrease in shelter admissions [34 percent] and euthanasia rates [75 percent].

Bark: How likely is it that legislators will agree to additional spending when the State faces an $8 billion shortfall?

Logan: The good news we have gotten so much support from legislators. But it’s hard and very challenging. We’re offering a program that’s going to ultimately save money (for example, New Hampshire reported savings from animal impoundment costs due to its program), and we’re not taking money from the general fund. We’re saying here’s our best option, specifically pet owners helping other pet owners. It doesn’t take away from other people. We’ve given them a way to pay for it. We think that most pet owners would pay a small fee to save other dogs and cats.

Bark: Funding would come from an increase on the fee pet-food distributors pay for inspection of food distributed in Washington by 3 cents per pound (with distributors of less than one ton every six months exempt); won’t this be passed along to consumers, making pet food more expensive during a recession?

Logan: If the fee is passed along, which we expect, we think the impact would be pretty modest. We estimate that someone living with one cat and a medium-size dog is looking at an additional 9 dollars a year, less than 1 dollar each month.

Bark: Have other states used a fee like this to pay for spay/neuter?

Logan: Yes including Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont. But other states rely on fees from sources like statewide licensing, which Washington does not have. Maine is the most similar with a fee on pet food registration.

Bark: According to your column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the funding will help pay for at least 70,000 additional spay and neuter surgeries each year. If there are more than 1.66 million unaltered dogs and cats in the state, what difference will 70,000 make?

Logan: Basically, what we’re tying to do is strike a balance between the number of surgeries we could hope to accomplish and a fee that we could pass, based on the examples of the other states. Still it’s a large sum of money even with the modest fee. Importantly, the bill requires the Department of Agriculture to evaluate the program’s impact.

Bark: How can supporters, especially in Washington, help?

Logan: Contact your legislators and urge them to support the bill’s passage and spread the word to others.


Learn more about taking action and also about other Spay Day activities and activism in your neighborhood.