No one is sure how many dogs would have to be spayed or neutered to dramatically reduce the number of animals coming to the Oklahoma City animal shelter. Thanks to a $10,000 grant from PetSmart Charities to sterilize dogs in Del City, the answer may be coming soon. Del City has one animal control officer and no shelter, so it has contracted with Oklahoma City since 1972 to house strays. Catherine English, superintendent of Oklahoma City’s animal shelter, said the relationship is giving Oklahoma City the chance to learn the answer to a burning question as it tries to become a "no-kill” shelter, meaning no adoptable animals would be euthanized. "We’re trying to figure out how many animals you have to sterilize to see a measurable decrease in the number of animals coming into the shelter,” she said. English said the city looked to PetSmart Charities, which often awards grants for sterilizing specific problem areas. The $10,000 grant will pay for spaying or neutering 571 dogs, about 12 percent of Del City’s entire estimated dog population. Del City Manager Mark Edwards said he’s hopeful the effort will make a big difference in stray totals. "We only cover eight square miles, and we spend well over $100,000 a year in animal control,” he said. "That is way too much. People want animal control, but they don’t want to control their animals.” The program will be open to any low-income dog owners in Del City who can prove they are eligible for state or federal aid. Owners will pay $17.50, or half the procedure’s cost, while the grant pays for the other half.
Why Del City?English said Del City was picked for the program because the number of animals brought in from Del City is independently tracked, about 750 to 800 a year, and because such a large chunk of the city’s dog population can be included in the program. Animal welfare officials can compare the number of dogs brought in to the number of dogs sterilized to get an idea of what will make a difference. "If you sterilize 12 percent of the dog population, and it doesn’t change the intake, then what is the magic number?” English said. "Is it 25 percent? Is it 50 percent? We don’t know, and we have to find that out.” Once animal welfare workers have their answer, they can go back to PetSmart charities and ask to expand the program. "Del City is kind of a microcosm for pet ownership in the metro area,” English said. "If we can show that sterilizing 12 percent of a canine population reduces intake by, for example, 5 percent or 10 percent, we can go back to them and say we need this amount of money.”
HOT TO GET HELPThe spay/neutering program will be open to Del City dog owners who can show they qualify for state or federal public aid of any kind. To make an appointment to have your dog spayed or neutered, call Best Friends of Shelter Pets at 629-6795 or Volunteers for Animal Welfare at 606-8476.