Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mandatory Spay/Neuter Success? Not Remotely

One of the methods proposed to reduce shelter killing in Austin is a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance. As you may already know, the nation's leading shelter expert, Nathan Winograd, has repeatedly written that such ordinances do not work. See, e.g.,

Nonetheless, a very vocal supporter of mandatory spay/neuter ordinances in Austin has touted King County, Washington, as proof that mandatory spay/neuter ordinances work. Specifically, he reports that King County has a 0% kill rate, and provides this website as evidence: . I decided to take a look to judge for myself.

What I found is that the actual statistics from King County's website reveal not success, but instead a common shelter-management lie: by labeling all killed animals "unadoptable," King County is able to report a 0% kill rate of adoptable animals. Meanwhile, its shelter continues to kill 40-50% of the animals it takes in each and every year. If we use that standard, then basically every shelter in the country is successful and wonderful because they are able to define away their killing by calling all animals they kill "unadoptable."

In fact, if we use King County's formula for calculating a kill rate--- that the relevant figure is the percentage of "unadoptable" animals killed, then Town Lake Animal Center too has a 0% kill rate because TLAC (like King County) defines all animals it kills as "unadoptable." Thus, using the same logic, TLAC is a shining example of perfection in animal care WITHOUT a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance-- even though it too kills roughly half of the animals it takes in each and every year.

In truth, neither King County nor Austin is an example of success. They both kill about 50% of homeless pets each year. That's because neither a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance nor TLAC's management has succeeded in ending the killing. On the other hand, every shelter that has fully adopted Nathan Winograd's methods HAS ended the killing. Here is a link to his method: .

In Winograd-led Charlottesville, Reno, Ithaca, Ivans County (UT), and Orange County (VA), open-admission municipal pounds are killing less than 10% of ALL animals. And in Winograd-led Philadelphia, where the kill rate was 90% just three years ago, they are expecting a 20% kill rate in 2008.

In King County, on the other hand, they are generally killing 40-50% of all animals. That puts King County in the same category as Austin. Here are King County's kill figures:

2006: Total Killed (4331) / (Total Disposition (11259) - Dead on Arrival (381)) = 40%

2005: 4666 / (11990 - 392) = 40%

2004: 5436 / (12413 - 437) = 45%

2003: 5935 / (12701 - 493) = 49%

2002: 6142 / (13649 - 660) = 47%

2001: 6300 / (14588 - 983) = 46%

2000: 6069 / (14735 - 1336) = 45%

1999: 6061 / (14640 - 1378) = 46%

1998: 6432 / (14743 - 1318) = 48%

These figures clearly demonstrate that a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance is not the answer to Austin's animal-killing problem. The real solution is to adopt the methods of the cities that have ended shelter killing--- not those who have failed to end shelter killing. If we are serious about saving animals, we have but one choice: adopt the Nathan Winograd method in full.