Our View: Feral animal problem: Pay now or pay later
It's been estimated that some 19,000 feral cats already wander Sutter County. About half would be females, each of which is capable of having four to five litters per year, averaging maybe five kittens per litter.
Unwanted cats and dogs. Unfortunately, business is booming at local animal shelters. The wrong kind of business.
Yuba-Sutter needs to address a stray cat and dog problem and the issues of how to improve spay/neuter programs.
With overpopulated shelters, feral animals roaming communities and a glaring lack of community organization and collaboration on both sides of the Feather River, populations will continue to explode. It's a pay now or pay later sort of deal; and the longer we wait, the bigger the problem and the more painful the solution. There are two parts to the solution:
• Pet owners and would-be owners need to accept responsibility. Why wouldn't you have your animals spayed/neutered? If you can't afford it, how can you afford the pet? If you can't handle the trouble of getting your pet to the veterinarian for a procedure, how can you handle the trouble of an unwanted litter? (Other than dumping them irresponsibly.)
• Community responsibility. Unfortunately, not all citizens feel an obligation to the community; not enough, anyway, to not foist pet problems off on taxpayers. So cities and counties have to budget for humane action. There's no avoiding it.
Some complain that the procedures are too expensive; it prevents families with limited budgets from having their pets fixed. We agree that it's an issue that should be addressed; but we think it's a waste of time to squawk about how veterinarians should lower their prices. Vet clinics are businesses, and it's entirely their business what they charge.
There are other, more community-centric and proactive options to consider.
Yuba-Sutter can and should look south to Sacramento for examples of practical solutions.
In addition to the Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals performing thousands of low-cost surgeries each year (which Yuba-Sutter's SPCA also does), a community network called the Sacramento Area Animal Coalition brings advocates and veterinarians together to alter pets. An event last February saw 630 animals treated. The charge was $15 per cat and $20 per dog. That's quite a bargain.
It's a great community cause, and one that should be eyed locally to keep more services, people and business in Yuba-Sutter. Several locals seem enthusiastic about the idea; but some detect a disconnect amongst rescue groups, veterinarians and others.
About 400 animals are operated on at the Yuba-Sutter SPCA Spay-Neuter Clinic each month. A bigger event would surely help the cause, bring in big numbers and grow relationships. Some funding needs to be developed to pay the rates for the procedures, whatever those rates are.
In the meantime
Our animal shelters are overpopulated. Letting the problem continue to grow doesn't make sense.
In Yuba County, shelter officials contract with a local vet for a pre-adoption spay/neuter program with low-cost services. Sutter County, even with its new $5 million shelter under construction, won't be required to fix animals before they are adopted out, but will have to when the county's human population reaches 100,000 (that mark is just a few years out).
Why wait? Kate Hurley, director of the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, acknowledges the need and is helping the Sutter Animal Services Authority develop policies and procedures for the new shelter.
And a final appeal
If you want an animal friend to share your home and life with, why not consider rescuing an animal from your local shelter? There's nothing wrong with wanting a pure breed; but if you're not competing and papers aren't important to you, and if you're looking more for a friend than special looks or skills, why not adopt?
You're not only improving the lot of a neglected animal, but opening up room at the shelter to help another. That makes you a big part of the solution.