$5M sought for spay-neuter statewide

State rep.: Bill will save taxpayers in long run

INDIANAPOLIS - Animal advocates are confident spay and neuter legislation will pass the state legislature this year after five years of failure, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.

Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, has filed House Bill 1175 which would require dogs and cats at an animal care facility at animal shelters, humane societies and other facilities be spayed or neutered before they can be adopted.

Exceptions would be made in certain circumstances; such as if the animal has a health condition that would make surgery dangerous.

Indianapolis Animal Care and Control, the Humane Society of Indianapolis and many other shelters already practice this, but not all animal care facilities statewide spay and neuter before adopting animals out.

The bill would also establish the Indiana companion animal sterilization fund and program to provide spay and neuter services to disadvantaged families at a reduced cost.

It would require the legislature appropriate $5 million through July 2017, but Karickhoff said he believes the legislation will end up saving taxpayers money on the cost of controlling, housing and caring for unwanted animals in government facilities.

“It’s an appropriation that given time will zero itself out,” said Karickhoff.  “A lot of people believe that to adopt an animal it has to be spayed or neutered, and that’s not the case. This bill would put that into law and provides funding for people who are 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and want to get their animal spayed or neutered.”

Eligible applicants would include individuals whose annual income does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

The executive director at the FACE low-cost spay/neuter clinic on Massachusetts Avenue said it’s clear that affordable services are not available statewide.

“We see clients coming to us from outside of Indy, Lafayette, Kokomo and Evansville,” said Ellen Robinson, executive director at the FACE low-cost spay/neuter clinic. “I think the conversation has been elevated and people understand the benefits of spay and neuter.”

Animal advocates have been trying unsuccessfully for five years to improve spay and neuter access through legislation.

Last year’s bill was aimed at breeders and pet stores, and failed to get a hearing.

Cheri Storms, president of Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana, said they’ve had no resistance to House Bill 1175 so far.

“We’re on a roll this year and we have a really good opportunity to get legislation passed,” said Storms. “We’ve had so many groups and individuals come to us, and we don’t have the funding to meet the demand that’s out there.”

The fund and program would be administered by Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana, a nonprofit known for its license plate program.

The bill requires animal care facilities to report their intake, adoption and euthanasia statistics for dogs and cats, as well as the number of spay-neuter surgeries performed.

"There are some groups that don't spay and neuter before adoption and a lot of times it’s because they don't have the resources to do so,” said Storms. “We would like to help them get over that hump."

The legislation has already passed the Agriculture and Rural Development committee, and animal advocates say the next step is Ways and Means.

Tory Flynn, spokeswoman for Speaker Brian Bosma, said the Speaker will either put the bill on the calendar or reassign it to a committee.

The spay and neuter legislation has not yet been assigned to Ways and Means, according to the Indiana General Assembly website.

"We're certainly more hopeful than we've been that something could get through, so it's exciting," said Robinson.

The new director for Indianapolis Animal Care and Control is also supportive of the legislation.

“While IACC is required by ordinance to spay and neuter all animals that are adopted from out shelter, we know that is not the case in other areas of the state,” said IACC Director Dennis Papenmeier. “Also, since we have seen the value of such requirements, we support the ideas implicit in this legislation. We note that there is a reporting mechanism for the numbers of sprays and neuters which we want to examine more closely to ensure we fully vet that, but are confident that we can work with the bill's authors and proponents to ensure that is not too much of an onerous part of this bill.”

As Kenney has reported, Indiana ships thousands of unwanted animals to New England, where the spay/neuter laws are much more stringent.

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