INDIANAPOLIS - A bill aimed at addressing the state’s unwanted animal population will not get a hearing this year, disappointing animal advocates who’ve been trying for more than four years to get it passed.
House Bill 1400 was assigned the House Ways and Means Committee and would establish the Indiana companion animal sterilization fund.
The fund would allow Medicaid recipients to receive spay and neuter services at no charge.
It would also impose a fee of $50 on the retail sale of any unsterilized cat or dog and increase the fee collected from pet food distributors for inspections.
Friday morning, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney spoke with committee chairman, Rep. Tim Brown (R- Crawfordsville) , who said he would not give the bill a hearing.
Brown said he considers the fee a “specifically targeted tax” against breeders and pet stores.
“One of my philosophies is that taxes should be broad based so all citizens are impacted in a smaller, similar way,” said Brown. “This fee would be a specialty tax.”
Brown said he had 85 bills assigned to his committee and only about 20 would get a hearing.
Time is running out, as committee reports are due by Tuesday at 2 p.m.
Supporters of the legislation say the spay/neuter services would not be charged to the taxpayers.
"We need to address the stray and unwanted cat and dog overpopulation problem in the Indiana," said Rep. Linda Lawson, author of the legislation. "If we mirror legislation that has been done in other states that have a proven outcome, then we will be able to resolve our problem."
As Kenney has reported, Indiana ships thousands of unwanted animals to New England, where the spay/neuter laws are much more stringent.
"This legislation will reduce the overpopulation of unwanted pets, reduce euthanasia, and reduce dog bites, which is a public safety concern," said Lawson.
Last year, 5,216 animals were euthanized in the city of Indianapolis shelter, not counting the hundreds of animals euthanized at their owners' request.
The city's live-save rate was 64 percent in 2013, meaning roughly 64 percent of the animals coming into the shelter made it out alive.
In 2012, the save rate was 56 percent, and the year before it was only 49 percent.
In 2011, Kenney exposed the city's animal overpopulation problem, showing it leads to public health problems like dog bites and euthanized animals dumped in the dumpster behind the shelter.
Records show of the animals euthanized, 66 were considered healthy and 3,102 animals had conditions deemed manageable or re-habitable.
Similar bills have been introduced three times, but all have failed.
Brown said animal advocates should not give up.
“I’ve had bills that have taken 17 years to get through the process,” said Brown.