LA Animal Services would add four more animal control officers to deal with enforcement as well as clerical staff for a cost of roughly $400,000, Boks estimated. He added that the shelter system spends about $2 million a year on animals that are euthanized.
Last year, although the city saw a drop in euthanasia, the shelter system still killed 8,960 cats and 6,049 dogs -- healthy animals neither retrieved by owners nor adopted by new ones.
The cost of a spaying or neutering operation for a cat or a dog at a veterinary clinic or office can range from $50 to $400, said Jeff Smith, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association.
The city of Los Angeles offers free and low-cost spaying and neutering vouchers to people who qualify. They can be redeemed at two mobile facilities or veterinary offices that partner with LA Animal Services. Critics of the city proposal argue, variously, that mandatory spaying and neutering for 4-month-old animals is unhealthy, medically risky, punitive and, ultimately, ineffective in helping the problem-ridden shelter system.
The American Kennel Club's website posted an "urgent advisory" to its members about the bill and drew up a sample letter of opposition they could send to council members.
Krokover, who contends that dogs should mature before being sterilized, said he would prefer the age cutoff be one year rather than four months. "It means 'leave my family pet alone and come knock on my door at 1 year of age.' "
He says dogs owned by members of his organization "aren't the ones in the dog shelters. The purebred dog owners are the ones taking the brunt of the problems with the inner city. Our dogs are not the ones running in the streets attacking people."
Smith, the veterinarian, said he supports mandatory spay/neuter legislation. "It's worked in our county," he said, referring to Lake County in Northern California.
However, his organization switched from supporting the state measure to maintaining a neutral position "because of some amendments we wanted that didn't make it in." It takes no position on the Los Angeles ordinance.
"But I think most veterinarians are pro-spaying and neutering to alleviate the problem of about half a million [dogs and cats] killed in California each year," he said.
Smith echoed the proponents of the measure who say that unsterilized dogs are often more aggressive. "Typically, intact animals, especially males, are going to be more aggressive," Smith said.
Some animal welfare groups oppose such legislation. The No-Kill Advocacy Center argues that punitive legislation hurts people who care for homeless animals (people who don't exactly own a wandering cat, for instance, but help feed it) and says the problem is management of the shelters, not the animal birthrate.