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Los Angeles discontinues spay-neuter vouchers

March 17, 2009|Carla Hall

Nearly six months after Los Angeles officials decreed that most pets must be spayed or neutered, city shelters have eliminated a voucher system that provided free spaying and neutering services to low-income owners.

The Department of Animal Services also has stopped distributing $30 coupons for sterilization procedures.

Budget pressures prompted the move, said department General Manager Ed Boks. The city required the agency to cover a budget shortfall of $414,000, Boks said. By eliminating the voucher program for the rest of the fiscal year, the agency will eliminate $150,000 in spending.

"With an alarming increase in the number of dogs and cats entering the city's system in 2008, we need to maintain staffing levels to ensure the health, safety and welfare of animals and people in the city of Los Angeles," Boks wrote in a bulletin posted on the department's website.

Cutting the voucher program was "our only recourse," he wrote.

The department will continue to fund the Amanda Foundation's mobile spay-neuter clinic, Boks said. The foundation's van offers free spay-neuter services to low-income pet owners.

Animal welfare advocates were angered by the elimination of the voucher program. "Penny-wise and pound-foolish," said Daniel Guss, who operates a small charity that helps fund some spaying and neutering procedures for low-income pet owners. (Information is available by e-mailing info@standfoundation.org.)

The City Council passed the mandatory spay-neuter law last year -- it went into effect Oct. 1 -- in hopes of lowering the euthanasia rates at animal shelters.

At least one council member appears dismayed by the loss of the vouchers.

Councilman Dennis Zine "strongly opposes the recent decision made by the department to halt the voucher program" and will move later this week for the council to reinstate it, according to an e-mail that Zine's policy director, Christopher Olsen, sent to animal welfare advocates.

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carla.hall@latimes.com

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