EMANCIPE+ Blog


City Budget Cuts Threaten Animals by Amy

The City of Austin is facing a budget shortfall, and City leaders have asked the community for input on some proposed budget cuts released this week.  There are several proposed budget cuts for animal services, but the one of most concern to me is the proposed cut to Emancipet’s free sterilization program.

The program is a highly successful partnership with the City that provides 4,000 free pet sterilizations and more than 3,500 free rabies vaccinations each year via our mobile spay/neuter clinic, primarily to pets living in low-income neighborhoods.  This program is currently funded by the City at $195,000 per year.   We estimate that it saves the City far more than that in reduced intake and sheltering costs.  A 2005 LBJ School of Public Affairs study of five years of data conclusively determined that the free sterilization program has dramatically reduced the intake of both dogs and cats at the shelter. To put it in perspective, one surgery costs about $33, while the City’s average cost to shelter one animal is $141.95.

There are two proposals for reducing the city outlay for this important spay/neuter program. One calls for a reduction of 50% of the program funding out of the City’s general fund, and funding that portion instead through unsolicited – and unguaranteed – citizen donations to the City’s donation fund (currently used to treat sick and injured animals and provide additional sterilization services). The second proposal will cut the entire $195,000 from the general fund budget, wiping out support for the free sterilization and vaccination program completely, and requiring us to rely solely on the City’s unreliable donation fund.

These proposals could reduce the number of free surgeries we can offer by 2,000, and even more as the donation fund dwindles.  And, if the City cuts the program in half to save $97,000 this year, if shelter intake increases by just 683 animals (a low estimate), the cost of housing those additional animals would theoretically be equal to the savings gained by reducing the program funding. In short, the reduction would mean zero savings, and most likely a higher cost on all fronts.

The worst of those higher costs, of course, is the cost of innocent animal lives. Without adequate funding for spay/neuter and vaccination services, there will be more stray animals, causing a higher intake at Austin shelters, and more animals will be euthanized.  This would be especially heartbreaking if it happened now, right as we are making such progress.  Just two years ago, our city was killing half the animals that came into the shelter – now less than 30% are killed.

I urge you to speak out against this budget reduction.  Please sign our online petition, join the Save the Free Days Facebook Group, and e-mail City Manager Marc Ott (marc.ott@ci.austin.tx.us) and tell him the free sterilization program should be fully funded as a part of the general fund.  And, please come out to the Town Hall meetings on Monday and Tuesday evening to show your support for animals.

If we speak up now, we can get this proposed budget cut off the table before it ever goes to Council.  Please participate and make your voice heard to save animal lives.

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