Free spay and neuter programs, low-income vet care may be cut from Sacramento County budget

See the cute pooches in the SPCA Doggy Dash

People walk their dogs in the Doggy Dash 2k/5k through William Land Park on Saturday, April 27, 2019. The dash and the Bark in the Park festival raised funds for the Sacramento SPCA.
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People walk their dogs in the Doggy Dash 2k/5k through William Land Park on Saturday, April 27, 2019. The dash and the Bark in the Park festival raised funds for the Sacramento SPCA.

As Sacramento County reviews next year’s $4.4 billion budget, proposed cuts to community spay and neuter programs, low-income veterinarian services and several vacant positions are being met with public outcry.

All told, the staff’s recommended budget for 2019-20 proposes about $588,000 in cuts to the animal services department. It’s among $43 million in reductions proposed, in part to pay for more than $21 million in new spending toward improving county jail conditions stemming from a lawsuit last year.

The budget recommends $110,000 in cuts to contracts between the Community Spay and Neuter Clinic and the Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Those cuts would end free spay and neuter opportunities “for feral cat trappers, colony caregivers and neighborhood residents who take an active role in preventing unwanted litters from being born every year,” according to the proposed budget.

“You can’t just put a pause on this program. ... The cats don’t take a break,” Sacramento SPCA CEO Kenn Altine told the board Tuesday, adding that 70 to 100 cats are spayed or neutered every Sunday. Cuts “will cost you more in the long run” between animal control calls and disease prevention, he said.

The number of stray cats in Sacramento could grow exponentially if spay and neuter programs are cut, said Maria Naumann, executive director of Community Spay and Neuter Clinic.

A female cat can produce an average of four and a half kittens per year, and through the county funding the clinic spay and neuter about a thousand of those kittens each year. About half of those kittens are female.

“So we’re looking at 2,000 kittens in a year, but that’s only if they don’t get pregnant more than once,” Naumann said.

The budget would stop funding drug and pharmaceutical supplies for the Bradshaw Animal Assistance Team (BAAT) Mobile and related printing cots – about $80,000 total.

Those cuts would mean the BAAT Mobile “would no longer be deployed to at-risk neighborhoods offering free veterinarian care and basic vaccinations to low-income families,” according to the recommended budget.

“The BAAT Clinic is a crucial resource for underserved communities and their pets,” Michelle Atwood, a volunteer at the shelter since 2013, wrote to Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna. “Cutting these crucial veterinary and spay/neuter services will only result in increased suffering and death.”

Funding for two seasonal animal care attendants, one full-time animal control officer and an on-call veterinarian would also be cut as proposed in the budget.

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors are reviewing the staff recommended budget this week, and must approve a recommended budget by June 30. The budget will be finalized by Oct. 2.

“If we stop now, all our work will have been for nothing,” said Tera Kolvenbach, a volunteer with Whisker Warriors, a group focused on reducing animal overpopulation. “We have not turned a corner yet, we have some much work to do. ... Do not cut our funding until we can get there.”

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.
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