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Sterilization of pets linked to income, shelter availability

Low income, lack of shelters mean many Oklahoma pets don’t get sterilized, according to a study released Thursday by a nonprofit organization.
by Rick Green Modified: May 15, 2014 at 10:12 pm •  Published: May 16, 2014

A low-income population, a lack of animal shelters and poor practices at some of those shelters mean that too many dogs and cats do not get spayed or neutered in Oklahoma, according to a study released Thursday by a nonprofit group.

Less than one-half of Oklahoma residents have convenient access to an animal shelter at which to release an unwanted dog or cat, said the Kirkpatrick Foundation-funded study by Spay First, a nonprofit group that educates about pet overpopulation.

People in households with low-income levels are less likely to spay or neuter their pets, particularly if the procedure is costly and the trip to an animal shelter is long, said Ruth Steinberger, founder of Spay First.

The study found that in 19 Oklahoma counties, mostly in southwest and southeast Oklahoma, between 17 and 24 percent of households have incomes lower than $10,000.

“We know from looking at these parameters that if 24 percent of households are under $10,000 a year, they have minimal to no access to a spay/neuter program and very limited animal sheltering, we know that a lot of animals become at risk,” Steinberger said.

A lack of law enforcement staffing compounds the problem in these areas.

“Which means they cannot devote time and resource to enforcing abandonment, animal cruelty laws,” she said. “It’s really a catch-as-catch-can situation.”

The study also found:

•Unwanted animals are uncounted in much of Oklahoma. It is not known how many enter shelters, how many leave alive and what happens to those that don’t.

•Less than one-half of Oklahoma shelters keep any records of intakes and uses of euthanasia.

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by Rick Green
Capitol Bureau Chief
Rick Green is the Capitol Bureau Chief of The Oklahoman. A graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., he worked as news editor for The Associated Press in Oklahoma City before joining The Oklahoman.
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