It's estimated that more than 20,000 homeless pets are euthanized in the Pittsburgh region every year. In an effort to reduce the pet population, the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Animal Care and Control will offer free spay and neuter services for the pets of eligible city residents.
"Some people might say, 'Well, how can you say this is going to be a savings to the taxpayer when you're spending $100,000 or $150,000 on the program?' Well, that's because what we anticipate in the future is a significant savings in the number of euthanizations we don't have to do through animal control," said Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
The city estimates about 3,000 pets will be spayed or neutered under the program this year. Currently the city pays for all domestic animals that are impounded at the Animal Rescue League. The average cost is $300,000 a year. Ravenstahl said with a lower pet population, the cost would go down.
Area Animal Groups Applauded the Announcement
"Across America, it's estimated 8 million animals make it into shelters a year and only 3.5 million make it out. As many shelters know, there just aren't enough loving homes. The only answer is to spay and neuter," said Dan Rossi, executive director of the Animal Rescue League of Western PA.
Pittsburgh Animal Control Supervisor Gerald Akrie also applauded the announcement and said it's a first-of-its-kind program in the U.S. He said in the long-term it will benefit both animal lovers and those who don't care for animals, by cutting down on the amount of strays on the streets.
City Council President Darlene Harris has been pushing for this program for about five years. She said the ultimate long-term goal is to lower costs and save the lives of animals.
"My dream is within the next five to ten years the amount that we're paying for animals to go to the pound will decrease and we will start getting lower on the amount of animals that we need to spay and neuter," she said.
The $170,000 for the program has been allocated over three years in past capital budgets. Ravenstahl said the program will be evaluated after a year and added that future funding could come from the city as well as outside sources.