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1997 Update:
Do Spay/Neuter Vouchers Work?

By Karen Johnson
May, 1998

This is an update on a report made in April, 1997 chronicling the changes in the shelter population at the Humane Society of Santa Clara Valley since the free spay/neuter voucher program for San Jose was instituted in October, 1994.

The vouchers are no longer free, participants must pay $5 to have an owned or stray cat fixed. The City of San Jose reimburses veterinarians for the balance of the surgery. Currently, the reimbursement to the veterinarians is $20 for females, and $10 for males (plus the $5 from the client). Pregnancy, in heat and other abnormalities of both male and female cats are reimbursed at a higher rate.

Participation in the program fell dramatically when the fee changed to $5, and at the same time the cats which were owned were required to have a license to receive the voucher. Caretakers of stray, unowned cats are not required to obtain a license to receive a voucher. Instead of handing our 1,000 vouchers per month, the program dropped to only several thousand vouchers per year. 5600 cats were altered in the first 16 months of the program, but only 1802 were altered in Calendar Year 1997.

Of the 1802 cats which were altered in CY97, 40% were feral and 61% were female. The following are the comparisons for the first 18 months of the program vs. CY97.

April 1996 CY97
Ferals 19.5% 40%
Females 60.4% 61%
Pregnant 4.4% 16%
In heat 4.0% 19%

The percentage of ferals being altered has doubled. Pregnant and in heat females quadrupled. Spaying 438 pregnant females, meant 1,861 kittens were not born on that one cycle.

>From 1984 until 1991 the average annual increase in incoming stray cats at HSSCV was 5.9% per year. The 1995 kitten season could not have been affected by the voucher program, as minimal vouchers were disbursed prior to March, 1995. Once the voucher program was implemented, and after another 11% increase in stray cats from San Jose for CY95, the City of San Jose stray cat intakes at the shelter dropped from 9394 to 8741 in CY 1997. This is a 10% drop over only 2 years. Over the same time period the stray cats for the other cities serviced by HSSCV decreased by only 1.1%. The overall number of surrendered cats has also decreased 14.8% from 1994 to 1997. This sheltered handled over 17,000 cats in CY97.

If the number of stray cats had continued to increase at 5.9%, the stray cat intakes for San Jose would have been 10,535 for CY 1997, as opposed to the actual 8741 received at HSSCV in 1997. Currently it costs the shelter $55.86 per cat to house the strays. The anticipated cost to the City for shelter expenses of stray cats would have been $100,212.84 more in CY97 without the voucher program.

The costs for the voucher program are as follows:

Fiscal Year
1994/95 $ 91,422
1995/96 $120,959
1996/97 $ 41,169
1997/2-98 $ 20,379

The $30,000 spent in FY97/98 saved the City over $100,000 for just one year.

The anticipated budget for FY98/99 is expected to be $65,000. This will allow the program to promote the spaying and neutering of ferals and strays to a wider audience.

No other programs or service changes have been implemented which explain the decrease in both surrendered and stray cats at HSSCV since 1994. Using the carrot, rather than the stick, approach has allowed local citizens to help decrease the incredible number of wild and stray kittens which end up in the shelter every summer.

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