A Las Vegas spay-and-neuter ordinance is credited for reducing the city's unwanted animal population, but officials from nonprofit veterinarian clinics say they will need more city support for the success to continue.
Michele Freeman, the city's detention and enforcement chief, praised the ordinance at a recent council meeting, saying it had prompted thousands of people to sterilize pets, which reduces animal overpopulation.
But several local nonprofit leaders said the new ordinance-driven demand isn't coming with any city money.
"Without the funding, we can't continue to provide the low-cost spay and neuters," Heaven Can Wait board member Holly Stoberski said. She noted that Clark County and Henderson have similar ordinances and support the nonprofit with cash and land grants.
The city's spay-and-neuter ordinance, which went into effect in 2010, requires animal owners to spay or neuter their dogs and cats or face a $250 fine.
By all accounts, the ordinance appears to be driving down the unwanted animal population. Freeman said the percentage of spayed or neutered animals picked up by animal control increased from 29 percent to 37 percent.
"There are less animals being turned in at the shelter, which results in less animals being euthanized and less money being spent by the city of Las Vegas on housing and caring for the impound of animals," she said. "We do believe that a significant reason for the decline is because of ... the spay-and-neuter ordinance."
While animal welfare advocates joined officials praising the ordinance's success, they also noted the city is not providing any more help despite the increased workload.
Christine Robinson of the Animal Foundation said the number of people opting to sterilize animals when they recovered pets from its shelter jumped from about 300 in 2009 to more than 1,300 in 2010.
The foundation runs Lied Animal Shelter, which has a contract with the city and other local governments to provide shelter services. Las Vegas' contract, which is based on the number of animals sheltered, will cost $1.69 million this year.
Robinson said the number of animals coming into the shelter is decreasing, an unusual trend for which she credited the Las Vegas ordinance.
"For the first time in the history of our organization, our intake numbers are starting to go down," she said. "Certainly the numbers speak for themselves, and we are trending in the right direction."
Representatives from Heaven Can Wait and the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society also reported increased public interest in animal sterilization, which they partly attribute to the ordinance.
They said some city funding to nonprofits that provide sterilization surgery could keep the animal numbers heading in the right direction.
"We would like the city of Las Vegas to also step up to the plate and assist us," Stoberski said.
She said the city could provide more sterilization money by increasing animal license fees.
City officials seemed open to that possibility, but neither council members nor City Manager Betsy Fretwell made any promises.
"It is something we can work on with spay and neuter organizations," Fretwell said.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285 .